Bill Kreutzmann (born May 7, 1946 in Palo Alto, California) is an American drummer who played with the rock band the Grateful Dead for their entire thirty-year career. Recently he has been playing shows with his own band BK3 as well as guitarist Papa Mali.
Bill Kreutzmann, playing a djembe. Grateful Dead band members Brent Mydland, Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia (from left to right) are in the background. Denver, Co.Kreutzmann started playing drums at the age of 13, despite having been told by his sixth grade music teacher that he couldn't keep a beat. As a teenager, he met Aldous Huxley at his high school, who encouraged him in his drumming. At the end of 1964 he co-founded the band The Warlocks, along with Phil Lesh, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, and Ron "Pigpen" McKernan. Their first real gig was May 5, 1965, two days before Kreutzmann's nineteenth birthday. During the band's early days, Kreutzmann sometimes used a fake draft card with the name "Bill Sommers" to be admitted to bars where the band was playing, since he was underage. In November 1965, the Warlocks became the Grateful Dead. Meeting fellow percussionist Mickey Hart in the fall of 1967 would have a big impact on Kreutzmann's career. Hart soon joined the Dead, making it one of the first (and few) rock bands to feature two drummers. The two percussionists' remarkable cohesion, synchronicity, and driving power became a hallmark of the Grateful Dead sound, and earned them the nickname "the Rhythm Devils". Their lengthy drum duets were a feature of nearly every show from 1978–1995, and are documented in a number of recordings by the band. Kreutzmann remained with the Grateful Dead until its dissolution following the passing of Garcia in 1995, making him one of four members to play at every one of the band's 2,300 shows, along with Garcia, Weir and Lesh.
In 1995, Kreutzmann produced a video called Ocean Spirit. The video is a documentary about the ocean ecosystem, and has a strong environmental message.
Kreutzmann's first post Grateful Dead musical project was Backbone, a trio with guitarist Rick Barnett and bassist Edd Cook. They released one album, Backbone, in 1998.
In 1998, former Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and Mickey Hart formed a band called The Other Ones, which played a number of shows as part of the Furthur Festival. The band did not play live in 1999. Then, in 2000, Kreutzmann joined The Other Ones. The band, with Kreutzmann, toured in 2000 and 2002. In 2003, they changed their name to The Dead. The Dead played a number of live concerts in 2003, 2004 and 2009.
Kreutzmann collaborated with Journey guitarist Neal Schon, Sy Klopps, Ira Walker, and Ralph Woodson to form the Trichromes in 2002. They released an EP, Dice with the Universe, and an album, Trichromes.
On December 17, 2005, Kreutzmann participated in the 17th Annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam as the drummer for SerialPod, a group which also included Phish members Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon.
During 2006, Kreutzmann teamed up with fellow Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, former Phish bassist Mike Gordon, and former The Other Ones guitarist Steve Kimock to form the Rhythm Devils. The band features songs from their respective former bands as well as new songs written by Jerry Garcia's songwriting companion Robert Hunter. The Rhythm Devils played their first tour in 2006, which ended at the popular Vegoose festival in Las Vegas, Nevada over the Halloween weekend. In 2008 they released a DVD called The Rhythm Devils Concert Experience.
In 2008, continuing through to the present day, Bill Kreutzmann toured the eastern United States with bassist Oteil Burbridge of the Allman Brothers Band and guitarist Scott Murawski of Max Creek as BK3. In 2009 Oteil Burbridge was replaced by James Hutchinson.
In 1994, Kreutzmann and the other members of the Grateful Dead were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2007, they won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Kreutzmann also does work as a visual artist and, in 2001, began releasing limited edition reproductions of his digital artwork. His work can be found at Walnut Street Gallery.
On August 2, 2009, Kreutzmann played with Phish during most of the 2nd set at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.