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Through the years on the Dead's long, strange trip

Dead for 50 years

Photo of The Grateful Dead when they started playing as the Warlocks in 1965.
Paul Ryan | Michael Ochs | Getty Images

They started out 50 years ago in California as the Warlocks but by the end of their first year they were known as the Grateful Dead. This July 4 weekend, the legendary band and its fanatical followers will celebrate a golden anniversary with three sold-out shows in Chicago at Soldier Field.

Love them or hate them, this band mattered—matters. Arguably one of the most important bands ever formed in the U.S., it is fitting that their fans—known, of course, as Deadheads—can reunite for for one final run of shows over the Independence Day weekend to wave their flag one last time.

Read MoreHow to avoid sky-high summer concert ticket prices

The band has not performed together as the Grateful Dead since 1995, when they last played live at Soldier Field. It was two months later that co-founder Jerry Garcia died of a heart attack.

At the reunion shows, the Core Fore, as they are known, will be joined by Phish frontman/guitarist Trey Anastasio, keyboardists Bruce Hornsby and Jeff Chimenti.

It promises to be one final chapter in what has most certainly been a "Long, Strange Trip." Check out of some of the highlights of playing together for half a century.

—By Justin Solomon, producer, CNBC
Posted
30 June 2015

Top grosser

Bob Weir of the The Grateful Dead in Eugene, OR, 1990.
Tim Mosenfelder | Getty Images

From 1985 to 1995, the Grateful Dead were listed in the top 10 of total grossing tours nine out of 10 years, according to Pollstar.

81 shows in 29 cities

Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead performs at Shoreline Amphitheatre on May 24, 1992 in Mountain View, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
Tim Mosenfelder | Getty Images

In 1992, the Grateful Dead topped the Pollstar list of Top 50 grossing tours with ticket sales of $45.6 million, playing 81 shows in only 29 cities. No. 2 on the list was Rod Stewart, who played 68 shows in 54 cities, grossing $30.5 million.

One more Sunday night

The Grateful Dead performing at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on June 19, 1995.
Ebet Roberts | Getty Images

The year 1995 was the final year the Grateful Dead toured as a complete band before Jerry Garcia's death. The band ranked No. 4 on the Pollstar top 50 grossing tours, playing only 45 shows in 20 cities. Their final show was on Sunday, July 9, 1995, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

50 years rocking Billboard

Drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart perform with The Grateful Dead at a free concert in Golden Gate Park in September 1975 in San Francisco, California.
Ed Perlstein | Redferns | Getty Images

The Grateful Dead has been a force on Billboard charts for nearly half a century. The band has placed 66 albums on the Billboard 200, beginning in 1967. Its 1987 release "In the Dark" rose highest, peaking at No. 6 in 1987.

Those concerts live on

Jorgen Angel | Redferns | Getty Images

In recent years, the band has been a chart regular, thanks to multiple concert recordings (packaged under the "Dave's Picks" banner). As recently as May 2015, the group charted in the Billboard 200's top 40, with a recording of a 1972 concert in New York.

The biggest hit

Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead performs in concert circa 1987.
L Busacca | WireImage | Getty Images

On the Billboard Hot 100 song list, the Grateful Dead has charted six entries, with its last, "Touch of Grey" (from "In the Dark"), easily becoming its biggest hit, reaching No. 9 in 1987.

That's a lot of Dead years

Phil Lesh (L) and Bob Weir (R) to reunite with Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann of the Grateful Dead for 5 shows this summer in Santa Clara and Chicago.
Tim Mosenfelder | Getty Images

The combined age of the remaining original members of the Grateful Dead: 282—Bob Weir, 67, bassist Phil Lesh, 75, drummers Bill Kreutzmann, 69, and Mickey Hart, 71

One of the greatest of all time

The Grateful Dead, circa 1980.
Michael Ochs Archives | Getty Images

In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the Grateful Dead No. 57 on their list of the 100 greatest artists of all time

Go live, or go home

Ed Perlstein | Redferns | Getty Images

It is estimated that the Grateful Dead played a total of 2,350 live shows between 1965 and 1995.

Guinness records, too

Atmosphere as the Grateful Dead perform at Cal Expo Amphitheatre on May 21, 1992 in Mountain View, California.
Tim Mosenfelder | Getty Images

In 1998, the Guinness Book of World Records awarded the band with the title of "most rock concerts performed," playing to an estimated 25 million people, according to the book "Perspectives on the Grateful Dead: Critical Writings" by Robert G. Weiner.

Welcome to the Hall

Bruce Hornsby, Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, Bob Weir, Tom Constanten (with cut-out standee of Jerry Garcia) and Vince Welnick of the Grateful Dead during the R&R Hall of Fame - 1994 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, New York.
Steve Eichner | Getty Images

The Grateful Dead were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.