Bill Kreutzmann Biography

Drummer (1946–)
Bill Kreutzmann was the drummer for the Grateful Dead, along with Mickey Hart. Together, they were known as the band's "rhythm devils." Kreutzmann toured with the band for 30 years.


Bill Kreutzmann was born in Palo Alto, California in 1946. In sixth grade, he was kicked out of band class by a teacher who said he couldn't keep a beat, but took drum lessons and helped form the Grateful Dead in 1964. Kreutzmann and fellow drummer Mickey Hart became known as the "rhythm devils" of the Grateful Dead, and Kreutzmann toured with the band for 30 years. He now lives in Hawaii and plays with the band 7 Walkers, surfs, and makes digital art.

Early Life

William Kreutzmann was born in Palo Alto, California on May 7, 1946. In the sixth grade, he was kicked out of band class by a teacher who told him he couldn’t keep a beat. He loved to drum, however, and began to take lessons and keep time for his mother, a dance teacher at Stanford University, while she choreographed routines.

The Grateful Dead

Kreutzmann met Jerry Garcia in 1964, when Kreutzmann's dad sold a banjo at the music store where Garcia worked. Kreutzmann was playing in The Legends, a local band, and was impressed with Garcia. Shortly after their meeting, he joined him, along with Bob Weir, Phil Lesh and Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, in the Warlocks, which would evolve to become the Grateful Dead. They played their first gig in 1965, two days before Kreutzmann's 19th birthday. Only a teenager at the time, Kreutzmann sometimes used a fake ID to get into bars near the band's concert venues.

In 1967 Mickey Hart joined the Grateful Dead, and the band became the first to have two full-time drummers. Hart and Kreutzmann earned the nickname "the rhythm devils" for their ability to play off of each other and remain in sync, and from 1978 to 1995 (the year of Garcia's death), most shows featured long drum duets. Kreutzmann was one of four members to play at every one of the Grateful Dead's 3,500 shows.

In 1994, Kreutzmann and other members of the Grateful Dead were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Nearly 13 years later, he and his bandmates received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Other Musical Projects

After Jerry Garcia died (August 1995), Kreutzmann moved to Kauai, an island in Hawaii. He and Garcia had agreed to move to Hawaii if the band ever broke up, and Kreutzmann moved to honor his friend and to physically and emotionally heal.

Kreutzmann's first post-Dead band was Backbone, a trio formed with guitarist Rick Barnett and bassist Edd Cook. In 2000, he rejoined former bandmates who had established a group called The Other Ones, and they toured periodically from 2000 to 2009. In 2002, they renamed themselves the Dead.

In 2008, Kreutzmann began BK3, a collaboration with bassist Oteil Burbridge of the Allman Brothers Band and guitarist Scott Murawski of Max Creek. Later that year, he teamed up with some former Grateful Dead members to play a benefit for Barack Obama's presidential campaign, "Change Rocks." They played again in 2009, at one of President Obama's inaugural balls.

Kreutzmann began his most passionate project in 2009, the band 7 Walkers, with bluesman Papa Mali, bassist George Porter Jr. and keyboardist Matt Hubbard. They've toured each year since 2010.

Personal Life

Kreutzmann has two children, Stacy and Justin. He currently lives in Kauai, Hawaii with his wife, and has become very involved in island life. He spends his leisure time surfing and kayaking, and is involved with several ocean conservation charities. He is also an artist, primarily using technology to make digital, giclee prints.

Many have questioned Kreutzmann's religious affiliation; contrary to rumors, he has never been Jewish.

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