Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Tom Constanten, best known for playing with the Grateful Dead from 1968 to 1970, was in Frankfort Friday.
He was visiting longtime friend, Don Aters, a rock and roll historian and photographer, who first photographed T.C. when he played with the Grateful Dead at Woodstock in 1969.
“It was so hot and humid,” T.C. remembers. “When I watched video, I was like, ‘Someone needs to get those guys a towel.’”
It was hot and humid Friday, too, as T.C. and Aters ate Cajun fare on the patio at Cornerstone Gallery, where Aters is showing his portraits from nearly 50 years of documenting musicians.
Cornerstone owner Bianca Wall would have spread the word about T.C. being in town, but Aters wanted to keep it quiet.
“T.C. is cool about it, but he’s really here as my friend,” Aters explained. The two were on their way to the Grateful Fest in Cleveland, Ohio, where T.C., who now lives in Charlotte, N.C., was slated to play with a band Saturday.
“You know, these days, I don’t really know how many bands I’m in,” said T.C., who left the Grateful Dead to pursue a more classical approach to keyboard.
T.C. says that with sound technology in the 60s, a keyboardist with the Grateful Dead was inaudible.
“I certainly could never hear myself, and I thought, ‘Maybe there is someone out there who can hear me,’ but I wasn’t sure,” he said. “I couldn’t get any punches into the mix.”
When another offer came after recording three albums with the band, T.C. decided it was time to “be a bigger fish in a smaller pond.”
But his claim to fame is still his two years with the Grateful Dead, which ran 30 years together.
“There are worse things to be known for,” he said, smiling. A few fellow diners recognized him, and he was more than happy to give autographs and talk.
He plays closer to Frankfort Monday evening at Mom’s Music in Louisville.