Folk, Americana, bluegrass, and jazz composer and mandolin player. He founded an independent record label called Acoustic Disc.
He joined his first musical group, the Even Dozen Jug Band, in 1963.
He briefly performed with Peter Rowan in a psychedelic band called Earth Opera.
He was born in New Jersey to Jewish parents. His father was a professional trombone player.
He and Grateful Dead musician Jerry Garcia were musical collaborators and close friends; a 2001 documentary film, Grateful Dawg, discusses their relationship.