Jerome John "Jerry" Garcia (August 1, 1942 – August 9, 1995) was an American musician who was best known for his lead guitar work, singing and songwriting with the band the Grateful Dead, which came to prominence during the counterculture era. Though he disavowed the role, Garcia was viewed by many as the leader or "spokesman" of the group.
One of its founders, Garcia performed with the Grateful Dead for their entire thirty-year career (1965–1995). Garcia also founded and participated in a variety of side projects, including the Saunders-Garcia Band (with longtime friend Merl Saunders), the Jerry Garcia Band, Old and in the Way, the Garcia/Grisman acoustic duo, Legion of Mary, and the New Riders of the Purple Sage (which Garcia co-founded with John Dawson and David Nelson). He also released several solo albums, and contributed to a number of albums by other artists over the years as a session musician. He was well known by many for his distinctive guitar playing and was ranked 13th in Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" cover story.
Later in life, Garcia was sometimes ill because of his diabetes, and in 1986 went into a diabetic coma that nearly cost him his life. Although his overall health improved somewhat after that, he also struggled with heroin and cocaine addictions, and was staying in a California drug rehabilitation facility when he died of a heart attack in August 1995.
Childhood And Early Life
Jerry Garcia's ancestry was Galician (Spanish) on his father's side, and Irish and Swedish on his mother's. He was born in San Francisco, California, on August 1, 1942, to Jose Ramon "Joe" Garcia and Ruth Marie "Bobbie" (née Clifford) Garcia. His parents named him after composer Jerome Kern. Jerome John was their second child, preceded by Clifford Ramon "Tiff", who was born in 1937. Shortly before Clifford's birth, their father and a partner leased a building in downtown San Francisco and turned it into a bar, partly in response to Jose being blackballed from a musician's union for moonlighting.
Garcia was influenced by music at an early age, taking piano lessons for much of his childhood. His father was a retired professional musician and his mother enjoyed playing the piano. His father's extended family—who had emigrated from Spain in 1919—would often sing during reunions.
At age four, while the family was vacationing in the Santa Cruz Mountains, two-thirds of Garcia's right middle finger was accidentally cut off. Garcia and his brother Tiff were chopping wood. As Tiff began to swing, Jerry put his finger on the wood and would remove it just before the axe chopped the block of wood. A hair-second too late Jerry’s brother Tiff chops his finger. After his mother wrapped his hand in a towel, Garcia's father drove him over thirty miles to the nearest hospital. A few weeks later, Garcia—who hadn't looked at the finger since the accident—was surprised to discover most of it missing when the bandage he was wearing came off during a bath. Garcia later confided that he often used it to his advantage in his youth, showing it off to other children in his neighborhood.
Garcia experienced several tragic events during his youth. Less than a year after losing the segment of his finger, his father died. While on vacation with his family near Arcata in Northern California in 1947, his father went fly-fishing in the Trinity River, part of the Six Rivers National Forest. Not long after entering he slipped on a rock underfoot, plunging into the deep rapids of the river. The incident was witnessed by a group of boys who immediately sought help, beckoning a pair of nearby fishermen. By the time he was pulled from the water, he had already drowned. Garcia later claimed to have seen his father fall into the river, but Dennis McNally, author of the book A Long Strange Trip: The Inside Story of the Grateful Dead, asserts that he did not, instead forming the memory from hearing the story repeated many times. Blair Jackson, who wrote the biography Garcia: An American Life, lends weight to McNally's claim, citing that the newspaper article describing Jose's death made no mention of Garcia being at the scene—even misidentifying him as his parents' daughter.
Following the accident, Garcia's mother took over her husband's bar, buying out his partner for full ownership. As a result, Ruth Garcia began working full-time, sending Jerry and his brother to live just down the road with their maternal grandparents, Tillie and William Clifford. During the five-year period in which he lived with his grandparents, Garcia enjoyed a large amount of autonomy and attended Monroe School, the local elementary school. At the school, Garcia was greatly encouraged in his artistic abilities by his third grade teacher: through her, he discovered that "being a creative person was a viable possibility in life." According to Garcia, it was around this time that he was opened up to country and to bluegrass by his grandmother, whom he recalled enjoyed listening to the Grand Ole Opry. His elder brother, Clifford, however, staunchly believed the contrary, insisting that Garcia was "fantasizing all [that] ... she'd been to Opry, but she didn't listen to it on the radio." It was at this point that Garcia started playing the banjo, his first stringed instrument.
In 1953, Garcia's mother married Wally Matusiewicz. Subsequently, Garcia and his brother moved back home with their mother and new stepfather. However, due to the roughneck reputation of their neighborhood at the time, the Excelsior District, Garcia's mother moved their family to Menlo Park. During their stay in Menlo Park, Garcia became acquainted with racism and antisemitism, things he disliked intensely. The same year, Garcia was also introduced to rock and roll and rhythm and blues by his brother, and enjoyed listening to the likes of Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker, B. B. King, Hank Ballard, and, later, Chuck Berry. Clifford often memorized the vocals for his favorite songs, and would then make Garcia learn the harmony parts, a move to which Garcia later attributed much of his early ear training.
In mid-1957, Garcia began smoking cigarettes and was introduced to marijuana. Garcia would later reminisce about the first time he smoked marijuana: "Me and a friend of mine went up into the hills with two joints, the San Francisco foothills, and smoked these joints and just got so high and laughed and roared and went skipping down the streets doing funny things and just having a helluva time". During this time, Garcia also took up an art program at the San Francisco Art Institute to further his burgeoning interest in the visual arts. The teacher there was Wally Hedrick, an artist who came to prominence during the 1960s. During the classes, he often encouraged Garcia in his drawing and painting skills.
In June of the same year, Garcia graduated from the local Menlo Oaks school. He then moved with his family back to San Francisco, where they lived in an apartment above the newly built bar, the old one having previously been torn down to make way for a freeway entrance. Two months later, on Garcia's fifteenth birthday, his mother purchased him an accordion, to his great disappointment. Garcia had long been captivated by many rhythm and blues artists, especially Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley: his one wish at this point was to have an electric guitar. After some pleading, his mother exchanged the accordion for a Danelectro with a small amplifier at a local pawnshop. Garcia's stepfather, who was somewhat proficient with instruments, helped tune his guitar to an unusual open tuning.
After a short stint at Denman Junior High School, Garcia attended tenth grade at Balboa High School in 1958, where he often got into trouble for skipping classes and fighting. Consequently, in 1959, Garcia's mother again moved the family to get Garcia to stay out of trouble, this time to Cazadero, a small town in Sonoma County, 90 miles north of San Francisco. This turn of events did not sit well with Garcia. To get to Analy High School, the nearest school, he had to travel by bus thirty miles to Sebastopol, a move which only made him more unhappy. Garcia did, however, join a band at his school known as the Chords. After performing and winning a contest, the band's reward was recording a song—they chose "Raunchy" by Bill Justis.
Relocation and band beginnings
Garcia stole his mother's car in 1960. As punishment he was forced to join the United States Army. He received basic training at Fort Ord. After training, he was transferred to Fort Winfield Scott in the Presidio of San Francisco. Garcia spent most of his time in the army at his leisure, missing roll call and accruing many counts of AWOL. As a result, Garcia was given a general discharge on December 14, 1960.
In January 1961, Garcia drove down to East Palo Alto to see Laird Grant, an old friend from middle school. He had bought a 1950 Cadillac sedan from a cook in the army, which barely made it to Grant's residence before it broke down. Garcia spent the next few weeks sleeping where friends would allow, eventually using his car as a home. Through Grant, Garcia met Dave McQueen in February, who, after hearing Garcia perform some blues, introduced him to local people and to the Chateau, a rooming house located near Stanford University which was then a popular hangout.
On February 20, 1961, Garcia got into a car with Paul Speegle, a 16-year-old artist and acquaintance of Garcia; Lee Adams, the house manager of the Chateau and driver of the car; and Alan Trist, a companion of theirs. After speeding past the Palo Alto Veterans Hospital, the car encountered a curve and, traveling around ninety miles per hour, collided with the guard rail, sending the car rolling turbulently. Garcia was hurled through the windshield of the car into a nearby field with such force he was literally thrown out of his shoes and would later be unable to recall the ejection. Lee Adams, the driver, and Alan Trist, who was seated in the back, were thrown from the car as well, suffering from abdominal injuries and a spine fracture, respectively. Garcia escaped with a broken collarbone, while Speegle, still in the car, was fatally injured.
The accident served as an awakening for Garcia, who later commented: "That's where my life began. Before then I was always living at less than capacity. I was idling. That was the slingshot for the rest of my life. It was like a second chance. Then I got serious". It was at this time that Garcia began to realize that he needed to begin playing the guitar in earnest—a move which meant giving up his love of drawing and painting.
In April 1961, Garcia first met Robert Hunter, who would become a long-time friend of and lyricist for the Grateful Dead, collaborating principally with Garcia. The two involved themselves in the South Bay and San Francisco art and music scenes, sometimes playing at Menlo Park's Kepler's Books. Garcia performed his first concert with Hunter, each earning five dollars. Garcia and Hunter also played in a band called the Wildwood Boys with David Nelson, who would later play with Garcia in the New Riders of the Purple Sage and contribute to several Grateful Dead album cuts.
In 1962, Garcia met Phil Lesh, the eventual bassist of the Grateful Dead, during a party in Menlo Park's bohemian Perry Lane neighborhood (where Ken Kesey lived). Lesh would later write in his autobiography that Garcia reminded him of pictures he had seen of the composer Claude Debussy, with his "dark, curly hair, goatee, Impressionist eyes". While attending another party in Palo Alto, Lesh approached Garcia to suggest they record Garcia on Lesh's tape recorder and produce a radio show for the progressive, community-supported Berkeley radio station KPFA. Using an old Wollensak tape recorder, they recorded "Matty Groves" and "The Long Black Veil", among several other tunes. Their efforts were not in vain. These recordings became a central feature of a 90-minute KPFA special broadcast, "The Long Black Veil and Other Ballads: An Evening with Jerry Garcia". The link between KPFA and the Grateful Dead continues to this day, having included many fundraisers, interviews, live concert broadcasts, taped band performances and all-day or all-weekend "Dead-only" marathons. KPFA would also give birth to the Dead Radio Hour by David Gans
Garcia soon began playing and teaching acoustic guitar and banjo. One of Garcia's students was Bob Matthews, who later engineered many of the Grateful Dead's albums. Matthews was in Atherton high school and was friends with Bob Weir, and on New Year's Eve 1963, he introduced Weir and Garcia.
Between 1962 and 1964, Garcia sang and performed mainly bluegrass, old-time, and folk music. One of the bands Garcia performed with was the Sleepy Hollow Hog Stompers, a bluegrass act. The group consisted of Jerry Garcia on guitar, banjo, vocals, and harmonica, Marshall Leicester on banjo, guitar, and vocals, and Dick Arnold on fiddle and vocals. Soon after this, Garcia joined a local bluegrass and folk band called Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, whose membership included Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, a rhythm and blues fan. Around this time, the psychedelic LSD was gaining popularity. Garcia first began using LSD in 1964; later, when asked how it changed his life, he remarked: "Well, it changed everything [...] the effect was that it freed me because I suddenly realized that my little attempt at having a straight life and doing that was really a fiction and just wasn't going to work out. Luckily I wasn't far enough into it for it to be shattering or anything; it was like a realization that just made me feel immensely relieved".
In 1965, Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions evolved into the Warlocks, with the addition of Phil Lesh on bass guitar and Bill Kreutzmann on percussion. However, the band discovered that another group (which would later become the Velvet Underground) was performing under their newly selected name, prompting another name change. Garcia came up with "Grateful Dead" by opening a Funk & Wagnalls dictionary to an entry for "Grateful dead". The definition for "Grateful Dead" was "a dead person, or his angel, showing gratitude to someone who, as an act of charity, arranged their burial". The band's first reaction was disapproval. Garcia later explained the group's reaction: "I didn't like it really, I just found it to be really powerful. [Bob] Weir didn't like it, [Bill] Kreutzmann didn't like it and nobody really wanted to hear about it. [...]" Despite their dislike of the name, it quickly spread by word of mouth, and soon became their official title.
Career with the Grateful Dead
Garcia served as lead guitarist, as well as one of the principal vocalists and songwriters of the Grateful Dead for their entire career. Garcia composed such songs as "Dark Star", "Franklin's Tower", and "Scarlet Begonias", among many others. Robert Hunter, an ardent collaborator with the band, wrote the lyrics to all but a few of Garcia's songs.
Garcia was well-noted for his "soulful extended guitar improvisations", which would frequently feature interplay between him and his fellow band members. His fame, as well as the band's, arguably rested on their ability to never play a song the same way twice. Often, Garcia would take cues from rhythm guitarist Bob Weir, remarking that "there are some [...] kinds of ideas that would really throw me if I had to create a harmonic bridge between all the things going on rhythmically with two drums and Phil [Lesh's] innovative bass playing. Weir's ability to solve that sort of problem is extraordinary. [...] Harmonically, I take a lot of my solo cues from Bob."
When asked to describe his approach to soloing, Garcia commented: "It keeps on changing. I still basically revolve around the melody and the way it’s broken up into phrases as I perceive them. With most solos, I tend to play something that phrases the way the melody does; my phrases may be more dense or have different value, but they’ll occur in the same places in the song. [...]"
Garcia and the band toured almost constantly from their formation in 1965 until Garcia's death in 1995, a stint which gave credit to the name "endless tour". Periodically, there were breaks due to exhaustion or health problems, often due to unstable health and/or Garcia's drug use. During their three decade span, the Grateful Dead played 2,314 shows.
Garcia's mature guitar-playing melded elements from the various kinds of music that had enthralled him. Echoes of bluegrass playing (such as Arthur Smith and Doc Watson) could be heard. But the "roots music" behind bluegrass had its influence, too, and melodic riffs from Celtic fiddle jigs can be distinguished. There was also early rock (like Lonnie Mack, James Burton, and Chuck Berry), contemporary blues (Freddie King and Lowell Fulsom), country and western (Roy Nichols and Don Rich), and jazz (Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt) to be heard in Jerry's style. Don Rich was the sparkling country guitar player in Buck Owens's "the Buckaroos" band of the 1960s, but besides Rich's style, both Garcia's pedal steel guitar playing (on Grateful Dead records and others) and his standard electric guitar work, were influenced by another of Owens's Buckaroos of that time, pedal steel player Tom Brumley. And as an improvisational soloist, John Coltrane was one of his greatest personal and musical influences.
Garcia later described his playing style as having "descended from barroom rock and roll, country guitar. Just 'cause that's where all my stuff comes from. It's like that blues instrumental stuff that was happening in the late Fifties and early Sixties, like Freddie King." Garcia's style could vary with the song being played and the instrument he was using. But his playing had a number of so-called "signatures". Among these were lead lines based on rhythmic triplets (examples include the songs "Good Morning Little School Girl", "New Speedway Boogie", "Brokedown Palace", "Deal", "Loser", "Truckin'", "That's It for the Other One", "U.S. Blues", "Sugaree", and "Don't Ease Me In").
In addition to the Grateful Dead, Garcia had numerous side projects, the most notable being the Jerry Garcia Band. He was also involved with various acoustic projects such as Old and in the Way and other bluegrass bands, including collaborations with noted bluegrass mandolinist David Grisman. The documentary film Grateful Dawg chronicles the deep, long-term friendship between Garcia and Grisman.
Other groups of which Garcia was a member at one time or another include the Black Mountain Boys, Legion of Mary, Reconstruction, and the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band. Jerry Garcia was also an appreciative fan of jazz artists and improvisation: he played with jazz keyboardists Merl Saunders and Howard Wales for many years in various groups and jam sessions, and he appeared on saxophonist Ornette Coleman's 1988 album, Virgin Beauty. His collaboration with Merl Saunders and Muruga Booker on the Grammy-nominated world music album Blues From the Rainforest launched the Rainforest Band.
Garcia also spent a lot of time in the recording studio helping out fellow musician friends in session work, often adding guitar, vocals, pedal steel, sometimes banjo and piano and even producing. He played on over 50 studio albums the styles of which were eclectic and varied, including bluegrass, rock, folk, blues, country, jazz, electronic music, gospel, funk, and reggae. Artists who sought Garcia's help included the likes of Jefferson Airplane (most notably Surrealistic Pillow, Garcia being listed as their "spiritual advisor"), Tom Fogerty, David Bromberg, Robert Hunter (Liberty, on Relix Records), Paul Pena, Peter Rowan, Warren Zevon, Country Joe McDonald, Pete Sears, Ken Nordine, Ornette Coleman, Bruce Hornsby, Bob Dylan, It's a Beautiful Day, and many more. In 1995 Garcia played on three tracks for the CD Blue Incantation by guitarist Sanjay Mishra, making it his last studio collaboration.
Throughout the early 1970s, Garcia, Lesh, Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, and David Crosby collaborated intermittently with MIT-educated composer and biologist Ned Lagin on several projects in the realm of early ambient music; these include the album Seastones (released by the Dead on their Round Records subsidiary) and L, an unfinished dance work.
Garcia also lent pedal steel guitar to fellow-San Francisco musicians New Riders of the Purple Sage from their initial dates in 1969 to October 1971, when increased commitments with the Dead forced him to opt out of the group. He appears as a band member on their debut EP album New Riders of the Purple Sage, and produced Home, Home On The Road, a 1974 live album by the band. He also contributed pedal steel guitar to the enduring hit "Teach Your Children" by Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young. Garcia also played steel guitar licks on Brewer & Shipley's 1970 album Tarkio. Despite considering himself a novice on the pedal steel, Garcia routinely ranked high in player polls. After a long lapse from playing the pedal steel, he played it once more during several of the Dead's concerts with Bob Dylan during the summer of 1987.
In 1988, Garcia agreed to perform at several major benefits including the "Soviet American Peace Walk" concert at the Band Shell, in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, that drew 25,000 people. He was asked to play by long time friend and fellow musician, Pete Sears, who played piano with all the bands that day, and also procured all the other musicians. Garcia, Mickey Hart and Steve Parish played the show, then were given a police escort to a Grateful Dead show across the bay later that night. Garcia also played with Nick Gravenites and Pete Sears at a benefit given for Vietnam Veteran, peace activist, Brian Willson who lost both legs when a train carrying weapons to military dictatorships in El Salvador ran over him at Concord Navel Base in California.
Having studied art at the San Francisco Art Institute, Garcia embarked on a second career in the visual arts in the late 1980s. He offered for sale and auction to the public a number of illustrations, lithographs, and water colors. Some of those pieces became the basis of a line of men's neckties characterized by bright colors and abstract patterns. Years after Garcia's death, new styles and designs continue to be produced and sold. Some ties that were produced began as etchings, other designs came from his drawings, paintings, and digital art.
From 1989 to 1995 Jerry Garcia’s artistic endeavors were represented by the Weir Gallery in Berkeley, California. Roberta Weir undertook to provide Jerry with new art techniques to use, giving him his first solo show in 1990 and preparing blank etching plates for him to draw on. These would then be processed and printed by gallery staff and brought back to Jerry for approval and signature, usually with a passing of stacks of paper backstage at a Dead show. His annual shows at the Weir Gallery attracted much attention, soon there were more exhibits, in New York and other cities. Jerry was an early adopter of digital art media; his artistic style was as varied as his musical output, and he carried small notebooks for pen and ink sketches wherever he toured. Roberta Weir continues to maintain an archive of the artwork of Jerry Garcia.
Garcia met his first wife, Sara Ruppenthal Garcia, in 1963. She was working at the coffee house in the back of Kepler's Bookstore where Garcia, Hunter, and Nelson performed. They married on April 23, 1963, and on December 8 of that year the only child they had together, their daughter Heather, was born.
During August 1970, Garcia's mother Ruth was involved in a car accident near Twin Peaks in San Francisco. Garcia, who was recording the album American Beauty at the time, often left the sessions to visit his mother with his brother Clifford. She died on September 28, 1970. That same year, Garcia participated in the soundtrack for the film Zabriskie Point.
Carolyn Adams, also known as 'Mountain Girl' or 'M.G.' moved into 710 Ashbury with Jerry in 1966. In 1967 Sara and Jerry divorced. Carolyn Adams gave birth to Garcia's second and third daughters, Annabelle Walker Garcia (February 2, 1970) and Theresa Adams "Trixie" Garcia (September 21, 1974) while she was still officially married to prankster George Walker. Adams and Walker divorced in 1978. Adams and Garcia married in 1981.
In 1974, around the time Blues for Allah was being created, Garcia met Deborah Koons, the woman who would much later become his third wife and widow. Garcia actually first began seeing her in 1973 while he was still involved with Adams, with whom Koons had a less-than-perfect relationship.Garcia moved into a home with Koons in 1974. In 1978, Adams left California and moved to Oregon where she resided near author, Ken Kesey, who was the father of her firstborn daughter, Sunshine Kesey. Adams remained in Oregon for nine years while Garcia continued to live in California with band manager, Rock Scully and with a woman named Nora Sage. Garcia and Adams officially divorced in 1994. Sage would later become Jerry's art representative.
In Chicago during the autumn of 1978, Jerry Garcia began a long friendship with the artist Manasha Matheson. In August 1990, Jerry and Manasha married in San Anselmo, California in a spiritual ceremony, free of legal convention. They shared a family home together in California with their daughter, Keelin Noel Garcia. In 1992, Jerry dedicated his first art book (J. Garcia: Paintings, Drawings and Sketches) to Manasha: "For Manasha, with love, Jerry".
Garcia and girlfriend Barbara Meier, who had met in December of the previous year, separated at the beginning of the Dead's 1993 spring tour. In 1994, Garcia renewed acquaintances with Deborah Koons, with whom he had been involved sometime around 1975. They married on February 14, 1994, in Sausalito, California. The wedding was attended by family and friends.
Lifestyle and health
Garcia and his fellow musicians were subjected to a handful of drug busts during their lifetime. On October 2, 1967, 710 Ashbury Street in San Francisco (where the Grateful Dead had taken up residence the year before) was raided after a police tip-off. Grateful Dead members Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, and Ron "Pigpen" McKernan were apprehended on marijuana charges which were later dropped, although Garcia himself was not arrested. The following year, Garcia's picture was used in a campaign commercial for Richard Nixon.
Most of the Grateful Dead were arrested again in January 1970, after they flew to New Orleans from Hawaii. After returning to their hotel from a performance, the band checked into their rooms, only to be quickly raided by police. Around fifteen people were arrested on the spot, including many of the road crew, management, and nearly all of the Grateful Dead (except Garcia, who arrived later, and Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, who was not taking drugs at the time).
While touring in late 1973, the band began to use cocaine. During the band's hiatus in 1975, Garcia was introduced to a smokeable form of heroin. Influenced by the stresses of creating and releasing The Grateful Dead Movie in 1977, Garcia became increasingly dependent upon heroin and cocaine. This factor—combined with the alcohol and drug abuse of several other members of the Grateful Dead—produced turbulent times for the band: the band's chemistry began "cracking and crumbling", resulting in poor group cohesion. As a result, Keith and Donna Godchaux were asked to leave the band in February 1979. With the addition of keyboardist Brent Mydland, the band was reaching new heights. Though things seemed to be getting better for the band, Garcia's health was descending. By 1983, Garcia's demeanor onstage had appeared to change. Despite still playing the guitar with great passion and intensity, there were times that he would appear disengaged; as such, shows were often inconsistent. Years of heavy smoking had now greatly affected his voice, and he began to put on considerable weight. By 1984, he would often rest his chin on the microphone during performances. The so-called "endless tour"—the result of years of financial risks, drug use, and poor business decisions—had taken its toll.
Garcia's decade-long heroin addiction culminated in the rest of the Grateful Dead holding an intervention in January 1985. Given the choice between the band or the drugs, Garcia readily agreed to check into a rehabilitation center in Oakland, California. A few days later in January, before the start of his program in Oakland, Garcia was arrested for drug possession in Golden Gate Park; he subsequently attended a drug diversion program. Throughout 1985, he fought to kick his habit while on tour, and by 1986, was completely clean.
Precipitated by an unhealthy weight, bad eating habits, and recent drug use, Garcia collapsed into a diabetic coma in July 1986, waking up five days later. He later spoke about this period of unconsciousness as surreal: "Well, I had some very weird experiences. My main experience was one of furious activity and tremendous struggle in a sort of futuristic, space-ship vehicle with insectoid presences. After I came out of my coma, I had this image of myself as these little hunks of protoplasm that were stuck together kind of like stamps with perforations between them that you could snap off." Garcia's coma had a profound effect on him: it forced him to have to relearn how to play the guitar, as well as other, more basic skills. Within a handful of months, he quickly recovered, playing with the Jerry Garcia Band and the Grateful Dead again later that year. Garcia frequently saw a woman named Manasha Matheson during this period. Together they produced Garcia's fourth and final child, a girl named Keelin Noel Garcia, who was born December 20, 1987. (Jerry, Keelin, and Manasha toured and shared a home together as a family until 1993.) After Garcia's recovery, the band released a comeback album In the Dark in 1987, which became their best ever selling studio album. Inspired by Garcia's improved health and a successful album, the band's energy and chemistry peaked in the late 1980s and 1990.
During the summer of 1990, keyboardist Brent Mydland died of a drug overdose. Mydland's death greatly affected Garcia, leading him to believe that the on and off stage chemistry would never be the same. Before beginning the fall tour, the band acquired keyboardists Vince Welnick and Bruce Hornsby. The power of Hornsby's keys musically drove Garcia to new heights on stage. As the band continued through 1991, Garcia became concerned with the band's future. He was burnt out from four straight years of high powered touring. Jerry thought a break was necessary, mainly so that the band could come back with fresh material. The idea was put off by the pressures of management, and the touring continued. Jerry's decrease in both his stamina and his interest to continue touring, may have caused him to use narcotics again. Though his relapse was relatively brief, lasting through the summer, the band was quick to react. Soon after the last show of the tour in Denver, Garcia was confronted by the Grateful Dead with another intervention. After a somewhat disastrous meeting, Garcia invited Phil Lesh over to his home in San Rafael, California, where he explained that after the meeting he would start attending a methadone clinic. Garcia said that he simply wanted to clean up in his own way, and get back to making music.
After returning from the Grateful Dead's 1992 summer tour, Garcia became extremely sick, evidently a throwback to his diabetic coma in 1986. Refusing to go to the hospital, he instead enlisted the aid of an acupuncturist named Yen Wei Choong and a licensed doctor to treat him personally at home. Garcia recovered over the following days, despite the Grateful Dead having to cancel their fall tour to allow him time to recuperate. Thereafter, Garcia reduced his cigarette smoking and began losing weight. In 1993 he became a vegetarian.
By the beginning of 1995, Garcia's physical and mental condition began a decline. His playing ability suffered to the point where he would turn down the volume of his guitar, and he often had to be reminded of what song he was performing. Due to his frail condition, he began to use narcotics again just to dull the pain.
In light of his second drug relapse and current condition, Garcia checked himself into the Betty Ford Center during July 1995. His stay was limited, lasting only two weeks. Motivated by the experience, he then checked into the Serenity Knolls treatment center in Forest Knolls, California.
On August 9, 1995, at 4:23 am, eight days after his 53rd birthday, Garcia was found dead in his room at the rehabilitation clinic. The cause of death was a heart attack. Garcia had long struggled with drug addiction, weight problems, sleep apnea, a long-standing cigarette habit, and diabetes—all of which contributed to his physical decline. Phil Lesh remarked in his autobiography that, upon hearing of Garcia's death, "I was struck numb; I had lost my oldest surviving friend, my brother." Garcia's funeral was held on August 12, at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Belvedere. It was attended by his family, the remaining Grateful Dead members, and their friends (including former basketball player Bill Walton and musician Bob Dylan) and his widow Deborah Koons, who barred Garcia's ex-wives from the ceremony.
On August 13, a municipally sanctioned public memorial took place in the Polo Fields of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, and was attended by about 25,000 people. The crowds produced hundreds of flowers, gifts, images, and even a bagpipe rendition of "Amazing Grace" in remembrance. In the Haight, a single white rose was reportedly tied to a tree near the Dead's former Ashbury house, where a group of followers gathered to mourn.
On April 4, 1996, Bob Weir and Deborah Koons spread half of Garcia's cremated ashes into the Ganges River at the holy city of Rishikesh, India, a site sacred to Hindus. Then, according to Garcia's last wishes, the other half of his ashes were poured into the San Francisco Bay. Deborah Koons did not allow one of Garcia's ex-wives, Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Garcia, to attend the spreading of the ashes.
Garcia played many guitars during his career, which ranged from Fender Stratocasters and Gibson SGs to custom-made instruments. During his thirty-odd years as a musician, Garcia used about 25 guitars.
In 1965, when Garcia was playing with the Warlocks, he used a Guild Starfire, which he also used on the début album of the Grateful Dead. Beginning in late 1967 and ending in 1968, Garcia played various colored Gibson Les Paul guitars. In 1969, he picked up the Gibson SG and used it for most of that year and 1970, except for a small period in between where he used a Sunburst Fender Stratocaster.
During Garcia's "pedal steel flirtation period" (as Bob Weir referred to it in Anthem to Beauty), from approximately 1969 to 1974, he initially played a Fender Pedal Steel, and then upgraded a ZB Custom D-10, especially in his earlier public performances. Although this was a double neck guitar, Garcia often would choose not to attach the last 5 pedal rods for the rear or Western Swing neck. Additionally, he was playing an Emmons D-10 at the time of the Grateful Dead's and New Riders of the Purple Sage's final appearances at the Fillmore East in late April 1971.
In 1969, Garcia played pedal steel on two notable outside recordings: the track "The Farm" on the Jefferson Airplane album Volunteers; and the hit single "Teach Your Children" by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young from their album Déjà Vu, released in 1970. Garcia played on the latter album in exchange for harmony lessons for the Grateful Dead, who were at the time recording Workingman's Dead.
In 1972, Garcia used a Fender Stratocaster nicknamed Alligator for its alligator sticker on the pickguard. The guitar was given to him by Graham Nash. This was in part, due to damage to his first custom-made guitar, made by Doug Irwin at Alembic. This guitar, nicknamed Wolf for a memorable sticker Garcia added below the tailpiece, cost $1500 – extremely high for the time.
Wolf was made with an ebony fingerboard and featured numerous embellishments like alternating grain designs in the headstock, ivory inlays, and fret marker dots made of sterling silver. The body was composed of western maple wood which had a core of purpleheart. Garcia later had former Alembic employee Doug Irwin replace the electronics inside the guitar, at which point he added his own logo to the headstock alongside the Alembic logo. The system included two interchangeable plates for configuring pickups: one was made for strictly single coils, while the other accommodated humbuckers. Shortly after receiving the modified instrument, Garcia requested another custom guitar from Irwin with the advice "don't hold back."
During the Grateful Dead's European Tour, Wolf was dropped on several occasions, one of which caused a minor crack in the headstock. Garcia returned it to Irwin to fix; during its two-year absence Garcia played predominantly Travis Bean guitars. On September 28, 1977, Irwin delivered the renovated Wolf back to Garcia. The wolf sticker which gave the guitar its name had now been inlaid into the instrument; it also featured an effects loop between the pick-ups and controls (so inline effects would "see" the same signal at all times) which was bypassable. Irwin also put a new face on the headstock with only his logo (he later claimed to have built the guitar himself, though pictures through time clearly show the progression of logos, from Alembic, to Alembic & Irwin, to only Irwin). In the "Grateful Dead Movie" Jerry is playing Wolf and this film provides excellent views of Wolf.
Nearly seven years after he first requested it, Garcia received his third custom guitar from Irwin in 1979 (the first Irwin was "Eagle", the second was "Wolf"). The first concert that Jerry played Tiger was August 4, 1979 at the Oakland Auditorium Arena. It was named Tiger from the inlay on the preamp cover. The body of Tiger was of rich quality: the top layer was cocobolo, with the preceding layers being maple stripe, vermilion, and flame maple, in that order. The neck was made of western maple with an ebony fingerboard. The pickups consisted of a single coil DiMarzio SDS-1 and two humbucker DiMarzio Super IIs which were easily removable due to Garcia's preference for replacing his pickups every year or two. The electronics were composed of an effects bypass loop, which allowed Garcia to control the sound of his effects through the tone and volume controls on the guitar, and a preamplifier/buffer which rested behind a plate in the back of the guitar. In terms of weight, everything included made Tiger tip the scales at 13½ pounds. This was Garcia's principal guitar for the next eleven years, and most played.
In the late eighties Garcia, Weir and CSN (along with many others) endorsed Alvarez Yairi acoustic guitars. There are many photographs circulating (mostly promotional) of Jerry playing a DY99 Virtuoso Custom with a Modulus Graphite neck. He opted to play with the less decorated model but the promotional photo from the Alvarez Yairi catalog has him holding the "tree of life" model. This hand-built guitar was notable for the collaboration between Japanese luthier Kazuo Yairi and Modulus Graphite of San Rafael. As with most things Garcia, with his passing, the DY99 model is rendered legend and valuable among collectors.
In 1990, Irwin completed Rosebud, Garcia's fourth custom guitar. It was similar to his previous guitar Tiger in many respects, but featured different inlays and electronics, tone and volume controls, and weight. Rosebud, unlike Tiger, was configured with three humbuckers; the neck and bridge pickups shared a tone control, while the middle had its own. Atop the guitar was a Roland GK-2 pickup which fed the controller set inside the guitar. The GK2 was used in junction with the Roland GR-50 rack mount synthesizer. The GR-50 synthesizer in turn drove a Korg M1R synthesizer producing the MIDI effects heard during live performances of this period as heard on the Grateful Dead recording 'Without a Net'. Sections of the guitar were hollowed out to bring the weight down to 11½ pounds. The inlay, a dancing skeleton holding a rose, covers a plate just below the bridge. The final cost of the instrument was $11,000.
In 1993, carpenter-turned-luthier Stephen Cripe tried his hand at making an instrument for Garcia. After researching Tiger through pictures and films, Cripe set out on what would soon become known as Lightning Bolt, again named for its inlay. The guitar used Brazilian rosewood for the fingerboard and East Indian rosewood for the body, which, with admitted irony from Cripe, was taken from a 19th-century bed used by opium smokers. Built purely from guesswork, Lightning Bolt was a hit with Garcia, who began using the guitar exclusively. Soon after, Garcia requested that Cripe build a backup of the guitar. Cripe, who had not measured or photographed the original, was told simply to "wing it."
Cripe later delivered the backup, which was known by the name Top Hat. Garcia bought it from him for the price of $6,500, making it the first guitar that Cripe had ever sold. However, infatuated with Lightning Bolt, Garcia rarely used the backup.
After Garcia's death, the ownership of his Wolf and Tiger came into question. According to Garcia's will, his guitars were to go to Doug Irwin, who had constructed them. The remaining Grateful Dead members disagreed—they considered his guitars to be property of the band, leading to a lawsuit between the two parties. In 2001, Irwin won the case. Irwin, being a victim of a hit-and-run accident in 1998, was left nearly penniless. He placed Garcia's guitars up for auction in hopes of being able to start another guitar workshop.
On May 8, 2002, Wolf and Tiger, among other memorabilia, were placed for auction at Studio 54 in New York City. Tiger was purchased for $957,500, while Wolf was bought for $789,500. Together, the instruments were bought for 1.74 million dollars, setting a new world record. Wolf is in a private collection kept in a secure climate controlled room in a private residence at Utica, N.Y., and Tiger is in the private collection of Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.
Garcia appeared in the 1977 movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind as an extra during the scenes in India in a crowd shot. During the following year, the Grateful Dead would occasionally improvise the theme from Close Encounters in concert.
In 1987, ice cream manufacturer Ben & Jerry's came out with Cherry Garcia, which is named after the guitarist and consists of "cherry ice cream with cherries and fudge flakes".
Garcia was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Grateful Dead in 1994.
Famous guitar player and known Jerry fan Warren Haynes wrote the song "Patchwork Quilt" in memory of Jerry. Grammy award winning reggae artist Burning Spear paid homage by releasing the song "Play Jerry" in 1997.
In the episode titled "Halloween: The Final Chapter" on the show Roseanne, aired shortly after his death on October 31, 1995, a tribute to Jerry Garcia was made, and the character name of the baby was Jerry Garcia Conner.
In 2003, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Jerry Garcia 13th in their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
In 2005, rapper Proof from the group D12 released an album named after Garcia, Searching for Jerry Garcia. The album was released ten years to the day of Garcia's death.
Ween recorded the song, "So Long Jerry" during the sessions for their 12 Golden Country Greats album, but it was left off the album, eventually appearing on the "Piss Up a Rope" single.
According to fellow Bay Area guitar player Henry Kaiser, Garcia is "the most recorded guitarist in history. With more than 2,200 Grateful Dead concerts, and 1,000 Jerry Garcia Band concerts captured on tape – as well as numerous studio sessions – there are about 15,000 hours of his guitar work preserved for the ages."
On July 30, 2004, Melvin Seals was the first Jerry Garcia Band member to headline an outdoor music and camping festival called the Grateful Garcia Gathering, now celebrating its 10th Anniversary. The festival is a tribute to the Grateful Dead's guitarist Jerry Garcia. "Jerry Garcia Band" drummer David Kemper, joined Melvin Seals & JGB in 2007. To date, other musicians and friends of Jerry's have also included Donna Jean Godchaux, Mookie Siegel, Pete Sears, G.E. Smith, Chuck Hammer, Barry Sless, Jackie Greene, Brian Lesh, Sanjay Mishra, and Mark Karan, to name a few musicians.
On July 21, 2005, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission passed a resolution to name the amphitheater in McLaren Park "The Jerry Garcia Amphitheater." The amphitheater is located in the Excelsior District, where Garcia grew up. The first show to happen at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater was Jerry Day 2005 on August 7, 2005. Jerry's brother, Tiff Garcia, was the first person to welcome everybody to the "Jerry Garcia Amphitheater." Jerry Day is an annual celebration of Jerry in his childhood neighborhood. The dedication ceremony (Jerry Day 2) on October 29, 2005 was officiated by mayor Gavin Newsom.
On September 24, 2005, the Comes a Time: A Celebration of the Music & Spirit of Jerry Garcia tribute concert was held at the Hearst Greek Theatre in Berkeley, California. The concert featured Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, Bruce Hornsby, Trey Anastasio, Warren Haynes, Jimmy Herring, Michael Kang, Jay Lane, Jeff Chimenti, Mark Karan, Robin Sylvester, Kenny Brooks, Melvin Seals, Merl Saunders, Marty Holland, Stu Allen, Gloria Jones, and Jackie LaBranch.
Also in 2008, Georgia-based composer Lee Johnson released an orchestral tribute to the music of the Grateful Dead, recorded with the Russian National Orchestra, entitled "Dead Symphony: Lee Johnson Symphony No. 6." Johnson was interviewed on NPR on the July 26, 2008 broadcast of Weekend Edition, and gave much credit to the genius and craft of Garcia's songwriting. A live performance with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Johnson himself, was held Friday, August 1.
In 2010 the Santa Barbara Bowl in California opened Jerry Garcia Glen along the walk up to the venue. There is a statue of Jerry's right hand along the way.
Seattle rock band Soundgarden wrote and recorded the instrumental song "Jerry Garcia's Finger", dedicated to the singer, which was released as a b-side with their single "Pretty Noose".
The Argentinian band Massacre included a song called "A Jerry Garcia" (To Jerry Garcia) on their album Juguetes para olvidar.
Numerous music festivals across the United States and Uxbridge, Middlesex, UK hold annual events in memory of Jerry Garcia.
One of the tracks in NOFX's album Heavy Petting Zoo relates to the death of Jerry Garcia, albeit with a reference to the wrong date of death.
In 2013, in partnership with the family of Jerry Garcia, The Capitol Theatre christened its lobby bar as Garcia’s in honor of the late Grateful Dead guitarist and singer, who counted the Port Chester, New York, rock palace among his favorite venues in the country.
"On the historic corner of Haight and Ashbury, Madame Tussauds unveils Jerry Garcia’s wax figure with his daughter Keelin and wife Manasha. The family was filled with emotion and pride as the late legend remains an iconic representation of the city’s vibrant culture, which he was a major part of. Now his legacy lives on as an official wax figure at Madame Tussauds San Francisco, where Bay Area visitors will have the opportunity to view Jerry..."
“They’ve been doing this since the likes of Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin, and it’s an incredible honor to have Jerry included,” says Manasha Garcia.