Guitarist John Mayer was a featured guest DJ on the dedicated Grateful Dead SiriusXM channel on Friday, where the Dead & Company guitarist spun nine of his favorite live Dead cuts.

The radio spot came on what would have been Jerry Garcia‘s 78th birthday and marked the first day of the “Days Between” celebration. The Deadhead holiday celebrates the days between Garcia’s birthday on August 1st, 1942 and the day he died on August 9th, 1995.

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Whatever you may think of John Mayer, Dead & Company, or any of the post-Jerry iterations of Grateful Dead members, one thing is clear from this radio spot: John did his homework. Throughout the nine live selections, as well as roughly six minutes of personal anecdotes and song introductions, the part-time pop star showed wealth of Dead knowledge as deep as some of the most-seasoned 42-year-olds.

“I would say, by definition, there is nothing more bittersweet than the Days Between as it is observed every year in August,” Mayer began his spot. “These songs are songs that have moved me behind the wheel of a car, and behind the neck of a guitar, both as a listener and someone who has the unique opportunity to play the music. These are the songs that have blown me away and continue to instruct me on how to approach the instrument and the tunes of the Grateful Dead.”

First up was the “China Cat Sunflower” from May 19th, 1974 at the Portland Memorial Coliseum in Oregon.

“This is what I would play to someone if they ever asked me ‘what’s the Grateful Dead all about?’ Mayer said. “I would play this track and I would say ‘listen to how each band member is a puzzle piece creating this unbelievable tapestry of a groove.'”

Grateful Dead — “China Cat Sunflower” — 5/19/1974 — Portland, OR

While not every song featured its own commentary from Mayer, the next one that did get the notation treatment was “Sugaree” from May 19th, 1977 at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, GA.

The ultimate document of guitar playing, songwriting, singing, band interplay: all of it. It is “Sugaree” from my favorite album, quote unquote, it’s Dick’s Picks 29. This is the one I just hand to people. This is the mix people, the playlist has already been assembled people: it’s Dick’s Picks 29.

If you go back and listen to some of my performances with Dead and Company I’m sure each performance of “Sugaree” has a little bit of a quote, one way or another, from this performance of “Sugaree”.

Grateful Dead — “Sugaree” — 5/19/1977 — Atlanta, GA

Mayer made the last selection a personal one by choosing not just the song that got him into the Dead, but the exact version. He will be the first to admit that he only had the Dead’s Pandora station on, but when this version of “Althea” came on, it began a path that has led him to playing stadiums alongside Bob WeirBill Kreutzmann, and Mickey Hart.

“The very version of Althea that would turn me onto the Grateful Dead, playing all their songs on guitar, get me in a room with Bobby and Mickey and Don Was, and get me in a room with the guys and our instruments, and get us on a stage in front of crowds,” Mayer said.

Grateful Dead — “Althea” — 5/16/1980 — Uniondale, NY

Listen to Mayer’s full commentary from his guest spot on SiriusXM’s Grateful Dead channel below.

The Days Between – John Mayer Guest DJ