"But I'm one of the more baby deadheads. I'm 43 and I saw them for the first time in 1991, but others saw them back in the 1970s."
The group was founded by John Kadlecik and Scott Larned. The original players were handpicked from area Grateful Dead tribute bands.
"The first show had, like 80 people [there]," English said. "The second show sold out and so did the next one."
Fans jumped on board, and DSO began to pick up momentum.
English said some of the original members of the group moved on or dropped out, but musicians from around the country quickly replaced them.
"It was kind of like all-star baseball," he said.
And it has led to some amazing moments, English added, both as a musician and a Grateful Dead fan.
"The first time we played with Bob Weir, I was on cloud nine," he said.
Weir, a guitarist and one of the singers for the Grateful Dead, has played with the band several times since. English said it's still pretty great.
There's also been some crossover between Grateful Dead projects and DSO. Kadlecik joined Furthur, a group formed by Grateful Dead alumnus Bob Weir and Phil Lesh. Keyboardist Rob Barraco played with Phil Lesh and Friends and The Dead, the band that followed immediately after Garcia's death. And guitarist Jeff Mattson plays in Grateful Dead vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux's band.
While Dark Star Orchestra sticks primarily with Grateful Dead songs, the band did write one song with Grateful Dead lyricist Robbie Hunter.
"We feel OK with pulling that one every once in a while."
English said the band is recording some original material, but it's more of a side project.
"With DSO, we really don't want to inject our egos into the music," he explained.
It's an approach that's paid off. DSO has thrived to become a regular act on the summer festival circuit and it maintains a demanding touring schedule.
"We play about 135 shows a year," English said. "With travel days, we're away from home about half the year."
A fun fact: According to English, The Grateful Dead played 3,350 shows over 30 years. Dark Star Orchestar has performed 2,086 shows.
"And it only took us 15 years."
Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.