13 Incredible Bands Similar To Grateful Dead

Written by Dan Farrant

If you appreciate Grateful Dead’s fusion of rock, folk, blues, and psychedelia, there is a wealth of music out there that captures their unique and trailblazing spirit—a multitude of artists echoing the band’s style in their own way.

The result is a rich tapestry of music that vibrates with the same energy and passion that the Grateful Dead are renowned for.

In this post, immerse yourself in the world of rock as we delve into 13 incredible bands similar to Grateful Dead. Ready? Let’s dive in!

1. Allman Brothers Band

First on our list is the Allman Brothers Band. Formed in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1969, they became known for their blend of southern rock and blues, incorporating as well elements of jazz into their improvisational style, just like the Grateful Dead.

The Allman Brothers Band gained international fame with their highly acclaimed 1971 double album At Fillmore East. This masterpiece is often considered one of rock’s greatest live releases due to its exceptional musicianship.

In recent years, the band officially retired in 2014 after playing a final show at the Beacon Theatre in New York City. However, the legacy of The Allman Brothers Band lives on; their music continues to inspire new generations of musicians.

2. The Jimi Hendrix Experience

English-American rock band The Jimi Hendrix Experience was formed by the legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix, along with drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding, in 1966.

Their debut album, Are You Experienced, in 1967, was a game-changer for rock music, featuring innovative guitar work by Hendrix. The album included smash hits like “Purple Haze,” “Hey Joe,” and “The Wind Cries Mary.”

The band’s meteoric rise continued with their subsequent albums—Axis: Bold as Love (1967) and Electric Ladyland (1968). Sadly, the band separated in 1969 after a mere three years of intense creativity and success.

Despite their short lifespan, The Jimi Hendrix Experience made a lasting impact on the music world. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005.

3. Big Brother And The Holding Company

A band that came out of the same psychedelic scene as Grateful Dead is Big Brother and the Holding Company. The band’s lineup consisted of Janis Joplin on vocals, James Gurley and Sam Andrew on guitar, Peter Albin on bass, and Dave Getz on drums.

It was their association with Joplin, who joined the band in 1966, that catapulted them to fame. Their 1968 album Cheap Thrills was a massive hit, largely due to Joplin’s powerful vocals. Other notable songs of the band are “Piece of My Heart,” “Summertime,” and “Ball and Chain.”

Over the years, Big Brother and the Holding Company had several breaks and reformations, but since 1987, they have continued to perform and tour consistently. Despite the changing lineup and the loss of key members, the band has remained committed to psychedelic rock and blues sound.

4. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Folk rock supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young rose to prominence in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The band was composed of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and Neil Young.

Some of their most famous songs include “Teach Your Children,” “Ohio,” and “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” The song “Ohio,” written by Young, was a reaction to the Kent State shootings in 1970 and became an anthem for the anti-war movement.

Over the years, the band has gone through multiple breakups and reunions, with various combinations of the members continuing to make music both as a group and as solo artists. Despite personal tensions and disagreements, their music continues to be celebrated for its lyrical depth and beautiful harmonies.

5. The Doors

Another band from the psychedelic rock scene and countercultural movement of the 1960s, like Grateful Dead, is The Doors. Formed in Los Angeles in 1965, they were known for their blend of rock, blues, and psychedelia.

The Doors debuted with a self-titled album in 1967. With the help of the chart-topping single “Light My Fire” and the epic track “The End,” the band captured listeners worldwide.

However successful, following the untimely death of frontman Jim Morrison in 1971, the band eventually disbanded. Despite the brevity of their career, The Doors’ impact on rock music is undeniable.

They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, and their music continues to inspire artists across genres, cementing their legacy as one of rock’s most iconic bands.

6. Jefferson Airplane

American rock band Jefferson Airplane emerged from the San Francisco music scene in the mid-60s. They quickly became synonymous with the counterculture movement and are now known as one of the pioneering bands of psychedelic rock.

One of Jefferson Airplane’s defining moments came in 1969 when they performed at the Woodstock Festival. The event helped to solidify their place in music history.

While not as popular today, many of their classics, like “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit,” have hundreds of millions of plays across streaming platforms. 

Today, former members of Jefferson Airplane continue to perform together under various guises, such as Jefferson Starship and Hot Tuna.

7. Phish

Often name-dropped in reference to modern bands that sound like The Grateful Dead is Phish, an American rock band formed in the 1980s. Both bands have a focus on improvisational music and extensive live performances.

Phish has a vast and varied discography that spans over three decades, with their live performances often considered their most popular works due to the band’s improvisational style.

However, they have also released several studio albums that have been particularly well received, like Billy Breathes, The Story of the Ghost, and Fuego—all of which landed in the top 10 of Billboard 200.

As of 2023, Phish continues to tour and record new music. Their influence is felt in the jam band scene and beyond, demonstrating their significant impact on contemporary rock music.

8. The String Cheese Incident

Noteworthy for playing at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre a staggering 45 times, Colorado band the String Cheese Incident (SCI) is known for their eclectic fusion of bluegrass, rock, electronica, country, funk, jazz, Latin, reggae, and psychedelia.

Formed in 1993, SCI has garnered a dedicated following due to their improvisational jam sessions, which often incorporate visually stunning light shows and other theatrical elements.

Some of their most popular songs include “Sirens,” “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody),” “Get Tight,” and “Rosie.” These songs show off the band’s musical style and unique sound.

To date, the String Cheese Incident continues to tour and release new music, maintaining their status as a staple of the jam band scene.

9. Widespread Panic

Another great jam band like Grateful Dead is Widespread Panic. Hailing from the vibrant college town of Athens, Georgia, the band was formed in 1986 by John Bell and Michael Houser.

Their journey began when Bell and Houser were inspired to create a unique blend of Southern rock, blues-rock, progressive rock, funk, and hard rock. This diverse style became the cornerstone of their sound.

Widespread Panic’s rise to fame was somewhat unconventional. Instead of relying solely on radio play or album sales, the band built their reputation through relentless touring and electrifying live performances. They became known for their improvisational skills and extended jams, earning a loyal following that would travel to see them perform.

10. The Band

Next up is a band simply called The Band. This rock-and-roll group formed in Toronto, Canada, in 1968. Like Grateful Dead, they incorporated elements of blues, country, and folk music into their rock-and-roll style.

The Band debuted in 1968 with the album Music from Big Pink, but it was their eponymous second album in 1969 that helped them into the mainstream. Landing at #2 on Canada’s chart and #9 on Billboard 200 (1968), the album is The Band’s biggest commercial hit.

Though The Band officially separated in 1976, various members would reform in different configurations in subsequent years. Unfortunately, keyboardist Richard Manuel, bass guitarist Rick Danko, and drummer Levon Helm have since passed away, but their musical legacy continues to influence artists across the globe.

11. Railroad Earth

Formed in 2001 in Stillwater, New Jersey, Railroad Earth began as a group of musicians who were simply interested in playing acoustic instruments together. From these humble beginnings, they’ve masterfully combined bluegrass, rock and roll, jazz, and Celtic influences into their music.

What sets Railroad Earth apart is their dedication to live improvisation, just like Grateful Dead. Every performance is unique, a testament to their creativity and musical prowess.

In 2018, the band was dealt a significant blow when founding member Andy Goessling passed away from cancer. His departure cast a shadow over the band, but they continued on, honoring his legacy through their music.

Even after two decades, Railroad Earth remains true to their roots. They continue to tour, bringing their unique brand of Americana to stages all over the world.

12. The Jerry Garcia Band

The Jerry Garcia Band was a notable American rock band from the San Francisco Bay Area that formed in 1975. The band was led by Jerry Garcia, who is best known as the lead guitarist and vocalist of the Grateful Dead.

The band served as Garcia’s primary side project outside of the Grateful Dead. It became a platform for him to explore a diverse range of musical styles that extended beyond the psychedelic jam-band sound of the Grateful Dead. Their music encompassed a variety of genres, including rock, folk, blues, country, and reggae.

The Jerry Garcia Band continued to perform and record sporadically until Garcia’s death in 1995. Some of their most notable works include the live albums Jerry Garcia Band and How Sweet It Is, both released in the early ’90s.

13. The Blues Project

The rock band The Blues Project emerged from a New York City-based four-piece. Like the Grateful Dead, the band was known for their fusion of blues, folk, jazz, and rock, helping to pioneer the psychedelic rock genre.

With their debut in 1966, they quickly established themselves as a force within the burgeoning psychedelic rock scene. However, it was their second album, Projections, that truly solidified their status. This album featured the hit song “Flute Thing,” which showcased Andy Kulberg’s flute playing, a distinctive feature of the band’s sound.

Despite their initial success, the band split up in 1967 due to creative differences. Several members went on to have successful music careers, most notably Al Kooper, who formed Blood, Sweat & Tears.

Summing Up Our List Of Bands Like Grateful Dead

Thank you for taking this musical journey with us, exploring the rich history of bands like the Grateful Dead. We hope this article has piqued your interest and deepened your appreciation for these iconic groups and their lasting influence on music.

This list, however, is far from complete. Let us know bands we might have missed that should be on here, and we’ll add them for you!

Photo of author

Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.