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The Dead Heads to Oval Office

Phil Lesh and Bob Weir in New York City last month. (Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

"No ties ... and no tie-dyes."

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how the Dead dressed for a meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office, according to a source who witnessed the band's long strange trip through the White House on Monday evening.

The meeting, which was not on the president's official schedule, was a surprise for the band, arranged by a plugged-in friend. The current lineup (surviving founding Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, along with fill-ins Warren Haynes and Jeff Chimenti), some joined by their wives, met with Obama for about 15 minutes, chatting amiably about the history of the Oval Office and the president's desk.

Then it was on to a much longer visit with senior staff. While the president has never been to a Dead show, the officials they met with next -- senior advisers David Axelrod and Pete Rouse and Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina -- are said to be big fans who had plans to attend last night's Verizon Center show. "They talked about a lot of different issues," said our source, "the environment, climate change." (And, maybe, like, who's got the best collection of bootlegs?)

Another source tells our colleague Mary Ann Akers that outside the Oval Office, Lesh's wife, Jill, spotted a vase of, get this, scarlet begonias! ("Scarlet Begonias" is one of Jerry Garcia's most beloved tunes.) And then the band went across the street to dine on oysters, clams, shrimp and soft-shell crabs at Old Ebbitt Grill.

A rep for the band said it was a profound meeting for them, since Obamania prompted their reunion. Weir, Lesh and Hart set aside years of differences to play a February 2008 fundraiser; Kreutzmann later signed for October's "Change Rocks" concert at Penn State.

Alas, despite our begging and pleading for a photo of POTUS with the countercultural icons -- no return call or comment from the White House.

By The Reliable Source  |  April 15, 2009; 1:04 AM ET
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Was at the show last night and have to say that it lacked energy...maybe it was the oysters. Although we were privy to three sets (1 acoustical 2nd set), and a great version of Ripple to end the evening, it lacked a lot. And I am not referring to the absence of Jerry...I have seen many shows post-Jerry that provided the experience I was looking for last night. I think Verizon holds some of the blame as the acoustics were horrible (I was in 103 and could barely hear any of the lyrics, or feel the bass from Phil - Micky's drums were nice though). Enough rambling...I had fun, but I wanted more...

Posted by: 2010_NeverAgain | April 15, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Actually, The President sort of attended a Dead concert, as they were the band playing the main stage at the Mid-Atlantic Inaugural Ball. I can't remember if they played the music that the Obamas danced to, but it's possible. Can someone help on this?

Posted by: carolineC1 | April 17, 2009 8:01 AM | Report abuse

We may have to wait until the Archives releases the pics, which I am sure were taken, or someone from the staff leaks some cell phone shots to Flickr or some blog.

My National Archives photo of Elvis and Nixon stops them all the time here in my office in Jerusalem, Israel. Some know who Nixon is, most know who Elvis is. I have had Arab furniture movers ask me if these are my cousins or if one of the people in the picture is me.

I have had Israeli Ph.D.'s also try to puzzle out the two of them. The story of Elvis at the Nixon WH has been told in story and movie. When will the Obama-Dead story be told? Where is Bob Woodward when we REALLY need him?

Posted by: aabbey1 | April 20, 2009 6:04 AM | Report abuse

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