Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart celebrates his 78th birthday today. Mickey was born Michael Steven Hartman on September 11, 1943 in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. Mickey hailed from a musical family and began playing the drums at 10 and would go on to win first chair in the All State Band while a student at Lawrence High School in Cedarhurst, New York under the tutelage of Arthur Jones. Mickey also worked as a soda jerk at a jazz club in Atlantic City, New York where he would catch percussion greats like Tito Puente.
A stint in the United States Air Force in the early 1960s saw Mickey playing in the Airmen Of Note big band. His time in the service saw him stationed in Africa and Europe where his music education continued. The Air Force also familiarized Mickey with California where he was stationed. After his service, Hart would move to the Bay Area in the mid-’60s where, as the legend goes, he introduced Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann, at Bill’s request, to Count Basie drummer Sonny Payne. Impressed, Billy began hanging out with Mickey and Hart joined the Grateful Dead in 1967.
Mickey would play with GD until February 1971, and after a hiatus, rejoined the band in 1974. Collectively known as The Rhythm Devils, Hart and Kreutzmann’s “Drums” section of Grateful Dead shows developed into a regular fixture in the late 1970s and continued for the rest of the Grateful Dead’s tenure and beyond.
The Bay Area’s Shoreline Amphitheatre was certainly no stranger to “Drums” as the Grateful Dead played there nearly 40 times between 1987 and 1995, as per The Setlist Program. GD would deliver one of those shows on May 11, 1991 during a three-night run at the storied venue. The concert kicked off with “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo” and the first set also boasted a pretty “Peggy-O” and “Bird Song” ahead of set closer, “The Promised Land.”
The second set got underway with “One More Saturday Night” followed by “Iko Iko” before GD went seamless for a pair of “band” songs in “Playing In The Band and “Uncle John’s Band” ahead of “Drums” and “Space” in all their primal and psychedelic glory. “I Need A Miracle” would emerge from “Space” ahead of “Morning Dew” and set closer, “Around & Around” (sidenote: GD closed both sets with Chuck Berry songs). The Grateful Dead returned to encore with Bob Dylan’s “The Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo).”
To celebrate Mickey Hart’s birthday, watch him perform with the Grateful Dead from Shoreline in 1991 below via the JamBase Live Video Archive:
Setlist (via Jerry Garcia.com)
Set One: Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo, Wang Dang Doodle, Peggy-O, Queen Jane Approximately, Bird Song > The Promised Land
Set Two: One More Saturday Night, Iko Iko, Playing In The Band > Uncle John’s Band > Drums > Space > I Need A Miracle > Morning Dew > Around & Around
Encore: The Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo)