Living in the Haight before and during the Summer of Love, Scully first saw the Grateful Dead play at one of Ken Kesey's Acid Tests, and signed on as the band's manager almost immediately. He started to book the band at local venues, like the Fillmore Auditorium and the Avalon Ballroom, where other bands such as Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Quicksilver Messenger Service got their start. Within a few years, the Dead became more successful, and Scully helped negotiate their first record contract, with Warner Bros. He also got them booked into larger concerts like the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock.
Although he developed an opiate addiction alongside several others in the Grateful Dead's social network in the late 1970s, Scully was employed by the group in various capacities (including stints as "advance man," road manager and publicist) until 1984, when he was fired by the group, in part for enabling Jerry Garcia's cocaine and heroin addictions. For several years, he had also served as manager of the Jerry Garcia Band and Garcia's housemate; alleged embezzlement from the Garcia Band played a role in the group's decision. Following rehabilitation, he returned briefly in 1985.
Scully was the author of a 1995 memoir, Living with the Dead: Twenty Years on the Bus with Garcia and the Grateful Dead (written with David Dalton).
Rock Scully was born on August 1, 1941 in Seattle, Washington. His stepfather was journalist and academic Milton Mayer. Due to Mayer's multifarious career, Scully was raised in Carmel, California (where he cultivated a close friendship with Sam Farr) and various locales in Europe; ultimately, he finished his secondary education at a Swiss boarding school. After studying under Kurt Adler at the University of Vienna, Scully graduated with a degree in history and literature from Earlham College in 1963. Although he provisionally accepted an administrative post with Farr's father (a member of the California State Senate), Scully refused to remit the required loyalty oath and was unable to assume his duties. Thereafter, he completed graduate work in history at San Francisco State University, where he first coordinated student dances.
Following a monthlong jail sentence for participating in a civil rights demonstration in 1965, Scully determined that aiding the incipient 1960s counterculture would provide "musical relief" to the civil rights movement. He dropped out of graduate school to manage The Charlatans and worked with other groups as a member of Chet Helms's Family Dog collective before joining the Grateful Dead's organization.
Although they never formally married, Scully was in a relationship with Nicki Scully from 1969 to 1984; they had a daughter, Sage. He also raised her daughter from a previous relationship (Acacia, also known as Spirit) and fathered a son (Luke) in a previous relationship. Luke died in the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami while vacationing in Thailand. During the Grateful Dead's 1974 European tour, he engaged in a brief liaison with and may have married Lady Carolyne Christie, the niece of Lawrence Dundas, 3rd Marquess of Zetland. Scully's brother has subsequently expressed doubts about the legality of the union (which Scully misrepresented to his common-law wife as a green card marriage), while Christie later married Roger Waters of Pink Floyd after separating from Scully in 1975.
In 1989, Scully moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where he operated an automotive paint shop for three years with his longtime companion, former Grateful Dead associate Amy Moore. Shortly after relapsing, he broke up with Moore and returned to California in 1992. While he attempted to reclaim his old position, Scully found that his job "had been usurped by others." Nevertheless, he remained on amicable terms with the group, as evinced by a 2010 group interview with Scully, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir.
Scully died of lung cancer on December 16, 2014, in Monterey, California, where he spent his final years serving as caregiver to his ailing mother and participating in local civic life after regaining his sobriety. In a series of Tweets, Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow eulogized his friend, culminating in the following observation: "Though occasionally fraudulent, you were always the real thing."
- Kreps, Daniel (December 21, 2014). "Original Grateful Dead Manager Rock Scully Dead at 73", Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 21, 2014.
- Martin, Douglas (December 20, 2014). "Rock Scully, Grateful Dead's Manager Who Put the Band on Records, Dies at 73", New York Times. Retrieved December 21, 2014.
- Vaziri, Aidin (December 19, 2014). "Rock Scully, the Grateful Dead's First Manager, Dies at 73", San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 21, 2014.
- Joseph, Adam (December 16, 2014). "Former Grateful Dead Manager and Local Rock Icon Rock Scully Has Died", Monterey County Weekly. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
- Gleason, Ralph J. (December 5, 1969). "Bad Vibes for Rolling Stones", San Francisco Chronicle via dead.net. Retrieved December 25, 2014.
- Mabbett, Andy (2010). Pink Floyd: The Music and the Mystery. London: Omnibus. ISBN 978-1-84938-370-7.
- Reuters (December 17, 2014). "First Grateful Dead Manager Rock Scully Dies at Age 73", Reuters. Retrieved December 18, 2014.