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Ronald Charles McKernan (September 8, 1945 – March 8, 1973), known as Pigpen, was an American singer and musician. He was a founding member of the San Francisco band the Grateful Dead and played in the group from 1965 to 1972.

McKernan grew up heavily influenced by African-American music, particularly the blues, and enjoyed listening to his father's collection of records and taught himself how to play harmonica and piano. He began socializing around the San Francisco Bay Area, becoming friends with Jerry Garcia. After the pair had played in various folk and jug bands, McKernan suggested they form an electric group, which became the Grateful Dead. He was the band's original frontman as well as playing harmonica and electric organ, but Garcia and bassist Phil Lesh's influences on the band became increasingly stronger as they embraced psychedelic rock. McKernan struggled to keep up, causing the group to hire keyboardist Tom Constanten, with McKernan's contributions essentially limited to vocals, harmonica and percussion from November 1968 to January 1970. He continued to be a frontman in concert for some numbers, including covers of Bobby Bland's "Turn On Your Love Light" and the Rascals' "Good Lovin'".

Unlike the other members of the Grateful Dead, McKernan avoided psychedelic drugs, preferring to drink alcohol (namely whiskey and wine). By 1971, his health had been affected by alcoholism and liver damage and doctors advised him to stop touring. Following a four-month hiatus, he resumed touring with the group in December 1971 but was forced to retire from touring altogether in June 1972. McKernan was found dead of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage on March 8, 1973, aged 27 and is buried at Alta Mesa Memorial Park in Palo Alto.

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Discography

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Year Title RatingReleases
1966 - Pigpen Apartment Demos 1

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