Steamboat Springs When the television program Northern Exposure was interrupted on Aug. 9, 1995, to announce, "Rock icon dies at 53," Rick Starkey was hit hard: He'd never see a Grateful Dead show again.
The death of Jerry Garcia was upsetting to all Dead fans, but instead of losing his inspiration, Starkey continued to play Dead covers and the band's popularity heightened.
"The shows were just packed. It really was a makeshift memorial everyone was crying and there were candles and flowers everywhere," Starkey said of his shows after Garcia died. "Ted played just about every slow Jerry ballad he could think of."
With the loss and gain of many members of Shakedown Street in the last 14 years, Starkey, on bass and vocals, said he and Ted Galloway, on lead guitar and vocals, are the only two original members.
"It's been a long, wild and crazy 14 years," Starkey said.
Adding young blood to the band keeps them on the rest of the 40-somethings on their toes, Starkey said.
Recent addition Jake Wolf, on drums and percussion, dropped in on the jam sessions over three years ago and will continue to fuel the fire for the band's 14th golden anniversary on Feb. 14.
Out of Manitou Springs, Shakedown Street has toured all over Colorado with plans to tour in Europe and San Francisco, home of the Grateful Dead, sometime this year.
"It's a great weekend job and we do it (a show) every weekend," Wolf said. "Nobody has real jobs."
While showing their support for local and global organizations around the world, such as the Guatemalan Medical Relief Project and the Rain Forest Benefit, Shakedown Street considers itself a "mobile road carnival."
In 1987, a group of die-hard Dead heads that were jamming just for fun, decided to make some money performing the covers for others. Shakedown Street's first two shows were Friday, Feb. 13 and Feb. 14. Starkey said he thought the two shows were good ying-yang for a Grateful Dead cover band.
"When I met Ted, I told him I had been to about 15-20 (Grateful Dead) shows," Starkey said. "He looked at me and said, 'I've been to over 200."
With its expertise and experience with over 400 songs of a variety of sounds bluegrass, reggae, rock, jazz and country Shakedown Street has traveled over 50,000 west coast miles and played over 3,000 shows.
Opening for Jerry Garcia Band and playing with long-time Dead friend Merl Saunders and Tom Constanten, Shakedown Street has been said to be "riding the Dead's coattails." Who said that was bad?
"Before the Dead's resurgence, our crowd had already started picking up," Starkey said.
There is no discussion of what songs will be played and a set list has never been produced. The energy and the flow of a show leads Shakedown Street to play the best ballad that comes to mind.
Wolf said the variety of covers played range, but they are a Dead cover band: 60 percent Grateful Dead, 20 percent Jerry Garcia Band, 20 percent other. Tunes from Bob Dylan and Neil Young are considered the other 20 percent.
"You won't see the same songs twice in a three-night show," Wolf said, adding the band has just added new material to the vault. "We like throwing in random stuff and curve balls to the audience."
The five-piece band's Jerryesque appearance and sound confuses those who think they may have seen the band in another town at another time. Wolf said people always are confused because the east coast also has a similar band, Shakedown.
Raised in Washington, D.C., Wolf said he played with Shakedown for awhile, but met the members of Shakedown Street a few years ago when he moved to Colorado.
"I've seen some fantastic places with all these mountainous Colorado tours," Wolf said.
Starkey said he agreed that he's never done so much skiing since the band began.
Since the band has had distribution problems in the past, most of their albums sell at the shows or in the mom and pop shops around towns, Wolf said.
Now with the possibility of releasing Dead sounds with a new Shakedown Street twist, Starkey said he's very encouraged by the group and the performance of the new members.
"It's the best than it's ever sounded," Starkey said. "It's constantly ever-changing. We foster a lot of good feelings in the Rocky Mountains."