Historic Dead was produced as a vinyl LP on the Sunflower label and distributed by MGM Records. Together Records had purchased the rights to a number of concert recordings from the Avalon, including some by the Grateful Dead, for a planned anthology of Bay Area bands. When the label collapsed, MGM paid the debt owed to the studio and assumed the tapes, releasing two original albums of live Dead material.Historic Dead is therefore not a bootleg album, but the band did not participate in its production. It reached number 154 on the Billboard 200. It has long been out of print, and has never been issued on compact disc.
Historic Dead was preceded by another Sunflower Records album recorded at the Avalon in 1966, Vintage Dead. Both are believed to have been recorded on September 16, 1966.
In 1972 MGM released the compilation The History of the Grateful Dead on their archival imprint Pride. The album (also long out of print) combined all of Vintage Dead with two tracks ("Lindy" and "Stealin'") from Historic Dead and featured a new album cover. It is not to be confused with History of the Grateful Dead, Volume One, an album also known as Bear's Choice.
Cover of The History of the Grateful Dead compilation