1968 Grateful Dead show at Bellarmine seems much more interesting 50 years later

Bellarmine celebrates 50 years since Grateful Dead performance

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It was a culture clash, that believe it or not, almost went unnoticed.

In December of 1968, the Grateful Dead performed at Bellarmine University, creating a strange rock and roll moment similar to when Elvis went to the White House to meet Nixon.

The university plans to remember that night with a 50th anniversary celebration on Wednesday, Feb. 27.

“Louisville and Bellarmine in that era surprised me a little bit,” Kyle Barnett, Associate Professor of Media Studies, said. “To me, it’s what possibilities are there, kind of where we’ve been but also where we’re headed.”

Very few photographs exist from that night, but an audio recording of the show is available on line. (Story continues below)

Listeners can hear what sounded like a very laid back night at Knights Hall, not the tone one might expect during those turbulent times when a counterculture band performs at a conservative, Catholic university.

Lonnie Griesbaum, of Louisville, was just 16 the night he saw the show.

“It’s sort of like San Francisco meets Shively. It was, you know. It was odd,” he said. “We didn’t really realize it was going to be a big deal. Otherwise we would have paid better attention.”

Griesbaum, a co-host for the program Back Tracks on WCHQ-FM.com, said the crowd was small and many did not seem impressed.

Local radio DJ reminisces on 1968 Grateful Dead performance at Bellarmine

“There was probably a thousand people here when the local bands were playing at the beginning,” Griesbaum said. “But once the Grateful Dead started playing, in about a half an hour it was down to 2-300 people.”

“I don’t think people at the university knew that 50 years down the line, this is something we’d actually care about,” Ashlie Stevens, WFPL Arts and Cultural reporter, said. “That we would look back and say, ‘Oh my gosh, the Grateful Dead actually played at Bellarmine University.’”

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