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Sleuth Week in Review: Deadheads Out of the Closet

Congressman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) chats backstage with drummer Bill Kreutzmann before the Dead's concert at the Verizon Center on April 14. (Photo courtesy of Rep. Nick Rahall's office)

This week certainly brought out the Dead fans in Washington.

Not only did President Obama and his top aides get face time with members of the legendary jam band, folks in the legislative branch of government did as well. Most notably, Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, who undoubtedly has witnessed his fair share of natural green resources floating around the various Dead shows he has attended over the years.

He hung out backstage with the band before Tuesday night's concert at the Verizon Center. (Tipper Gore, who wound up playing the drums and dancing on stage during the show, was back there, too.) The chairman went with his 32-year-old son, Nick J. Rahall III, who turned Dad onto the Dead years ago.

Rahall says he realized he was a Deadhead in April of 1994, when he declined an amazing offer from President Clinton to ride on Air Force One to see Rahall's beloved Duke Blue Devils (his alma mater) play the president's Arkansas Razorbacks in the NCAA national championship game.

"I told him I couldn't, 'cause I was going to see the Dead in Orlando," Rahall told us, chuckling at himself.

The congressman credits the Dead, which endorsed Obama for president and held fundraisers on his behalf, for "creating a new enthusiasm" for politics among the band's cultish followers "who otherwise had given up on our system."

Like his own son, for example.

"For 30 years I could never get him to come visit my congressional office, much less understand what I do," Rahall said. "Now he's coming to my office all the time."

Rahall says it was all because of his son and, thus, what remains of the Grateful Dead, that he made the politically dicey decision to endorse Obama for president.

The chairman says he doesn't plan on road tripping to any of the remaining shows on the Dead's Spring '09 tour, but he may be luring the band to Washington soon enough. Rahall turns 60 on May 20 and is having a party on Capitol Hill.

"I will invite them all," says Rahall, who is friendliest with drummer Bill Kreutzmann. He has already extended an invitation to the president.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  April 17, 2009; 5:40 AM ET
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My problem is just waking up dead.
That's my greatest fear.
Maybe as a DeadHead I'm just as we called it back then, an " early burn out."
I'm more of a Beatles fan anyway.

What a state of mind.
Chemical who?

While I still believe I have my own mind;
this could be dangerous.

dePaul Consiglio

Long may we run!

Posted by: depaulconsiglio | April 17, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

"Rahall says it was all because of his son and, thus, what remains of the Grateful Dead, that he made the politically dicey decision to endorse Obama for president."

Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.
- Scarlet Begonias

Posted by: gratefolks | April 18, 2009 7:07 AM | Report abuse

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