While he may have been hidden behind a drum kit and the well-known frontmen of the Grateful Dead (perhaps only because they were stationed in front of him), Bill Kreutzmann spent 30 years stretching and surpassing the percussive limits of music as a drummer for the infamous jam band. Paired with drummer Mickey Hart, the two "Rhythm Devils" kept Deadheads spinning in time to the band's vast vault of tunes and their own creations. After the band's demise with Jerry Garcia's own in 1995, Kreutzmann has kept himself busy with plenty of projects.
Born April 7, 1946, in Palo Alto, CA, Kreutzmann began playing his instrument of choice early on and formed his own rock bands (the Wildwood Boys and the Legends). While working in Dana Morgan's music store in Palo Alto, he sold a banjo to one of the store's regulars -- Garcia. In 1965, Kreutzmann and bass player Phil Lesh joined Garcia, Bob Weir, and Ron "Pigpen" McKernan in the bluegrass band Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, which evolved into the Grateful Dead precursor the Warlocks. The Grateful Dead were soon off and running, and by 1967 had signed a contract with Warner Bros. The rest is a long and well-told history. While he had some song credits -- among them "The Faster We Go, the Rounder We Get," "Dark Star," and "The Other One" -- Kreutzmann spent most of his time in space stretching out his mallets and drumsticks on the extended jams he and Hart took in between concert sets. He also played drums on some of Garcia's outside projects (Garcia in 1972, Reflections in 1976), as well as David Crosby's 1971 release If I Could Only Remember My Name and the 1971 New Riders of the Purple Sage album Powerglide.
When the Grateful Dead journey came to an end, Kreutzmann took a break from the Dead scene in his adopted home of Hawaii. Kreutzmann, who also does work as a visual artist, has released a one-hour documentary, Ocean Spirit, detailing a 3,000 mile undersea trip from San Francisco to the remote Revillagigedos Islands. He eventually appeared again musically with blues-rock band Backbone's self-titled CD in 1998. In 2000, he hit the road again with some old friends in the Other Ones (Weir, Hart, Bruce Hornsby, Steve Kimock, Mark Karan, and Alphonso Johnson) for a summer 2000 tour. October 2001 saw the premiere of a new excursion for Kreutzmann, the Trichromes, featuring Sy Klopps (Herbie Herbert) on vocals, Ralph Woodson on guitar, Ira Walker on bass and vocals, and Neal Schon on guitar. In early 2002, the band released the EP single "Dice With the Universe," featuring lyrics by longtime Grateful Dead contributor Robert Hunter and music by Walker and Schon. The EP, released by Tower Records, also included bonus tracks of "Tore Up" and the Dead tune "New Speedway Boogie."