Ron McKernan

Birth Name:
Ronald Charles McKernan
Birth Date:
September 8, 1945
Birth Place:
San Bruno, California
Death Date:
March 8, 1973
Place of Death:
Corte Madera, California
Cause of Death:
Gastrointestinal hemorrhage
Cemetery Name:
Alta Mesa Memorial Park
Claim to Fame:
At the height of the Grateful Dead's breakout success in the early 1970s, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan served as a driving force behind the jam band's legendary acclaim. The vocalist and keyboardist proved responsible for the band's blues-based tone, even taking over singing duties on tunes such as "Turn on Your Lovelight," "Alligator," "Big Boss Man," and "Mr. Charlie." Using his trusty Hammond organ, the musician helped the Dead attract mass attention. Pigpen also made a name for himself by speaking directly to the audience during live shows, sizing up to be much more of a traditional frontman than Jerry Garcia. In declining health, Pigpen played in March '72 the Academy of Music shows, one of them featuring the Dead serving as a backup band for the legendary rocker Bo Diddley. And he made it to Europe the next month, against his doc’s advice. Alas he played his last gig with the Dead in June ’72 at the Hollywood Bowl. After that, there were few excuses the band could make of his absence. Although he had seemed well enough on the European tour in the spring, Pigpen McKernan was losing his grip in life. The doctors told him what he needed wasn’t good lovin’ but a lot of rest, no booze and lots of protein to put his decaying liver back together. Despite his dedication to getting healthy again and working on a solo album, he lost his battle in March ’73 and died alone at the age of 27.

Good to Know

Many initially believed McKernan to have passed away due to cirrhosis of the liver caused by excessive drinking, however, this is not true as it has been confirmed he actually succumbed to Crohn’s disease, an inflammation of the small intestine, which also claimed the life of his brother, Kevin. Pigpen was found dead at his home in Corte Madera, California of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage on March 8, 1973.

Cemetery Information:

Final Resting Place:

Alta Mesa Memorial Park

695 Arastradero Road

Palo Alto, California, 94306


North America


Map of Alta Mesa Memorial Park in Palo Alto, California
Map of Alta Mesa Memorial Park in Palo Alto, California

Grave Location:

Hillview Section, Block 16, Lot 311

Grave Location Description

As you enter the cemetery look for Almond Drive. Pigpen’s grave is in the Hillview Section, Section 16 on the right side of Almond Drive. Look for the plots along the road is labeled “Ramirez” and “Lien” and count two rows in and one of the original founders of the Grateful Dead can be found there.

Grave Location GPS

37.39835903586924, -122.12776643076451

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