Keith and Donna Godchaux met Jerry Garcia at a critical turning point in the Grateful Dead's history. The group's original front man, lead vocalist and keyboardist, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, had taken seriously ill in 1971 and the band had months of tour dates planned. At the time, Keith Godchaux had been appearing with ex-Traffic guitarist Dave Mason, who was promoting his landmark Alone Together album, a huge underground radio hit in San Francisco. Donna Jean Godchaux had a wealth of experience and would be the only woman to ever be recruited into the Grateful Dead.
Born in Sheffield, Alabama, Donna had worked as a Muscle Shoals session singer, appearing on recordings by Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin and even Elvis Presley. Her voice sweet and pure would go on to grace Bob Weir's first solo album, Ace, as well as landmark Dead albums like Wake Of The Flood, Mars Hotel, and Blues For Allah. Keith Godchaux added provocative, jazz-influenced piano to the Dead's core sound, spurring renewed interest in group improvisations. The match was initially made in heaven, with Keith's relentlessly creative acoustic piano work matching Garcia's own knack for spontaneous improvisation.
When the Grateful Dead officially retired from the road in late 1974, all the musicians were free to pursue outside projects. The Dead's organization also ran their own label, Round Records, so the musicians could essentially produce and release solo project albums, free of record industry interference.
It became a lot more complicated as this in-house record company experiment progressed, but all the musicians eagerly pursued new projects, including Keith and Donna, who began recording an album at their Stinson Beach home. The resulting album, Keith & Donna emphasized their soulful roots, with a big nod toward the music of Motown, Memphis, and Muscle Shoals.