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annotated from this 2001 great Grateful Dead page by Jen Gumert
Jerome John Garcia, named after broadway composer Jerome Kern, was bornin San Francisco in 1942 to Ruth and Jose Garcia. Jose, a jazz clarinetist
and dixieland band leader, was killed when swept away in a California River while on a fishing trip with then 5 year old Jerry.
After his father's death, Ruth, a registered nurse, took over the bar that Jerry's father had managed and was forced to send Jerry to live with his grandparents, where it's said that his fondness of country music grew from Saturday afternoon Grand Ole Opry radio broadcasts that his grandmother
faithfully listened to.
Jerry had an older brother, Tiff Garcia, who accidentally chopped off Jerry's right middle finger while chopping wood in 1946. It was Tiff who introduced him to early rock and roll and rhythm and blues music; his love of this music caused him to trade the accordion his mother gave him (for his 15th
birthday) for a Danelectro guitar and Fender amp. He was especially fascinated
by the style of Chuck Berry and T-Bone Walker.
In 1960, after dropping out of high school and spending nine months
in the Army, he studied painting at the Art Institute in San Francisco and
moved to Palo Alto, where he played in folk-music clubs. He also worked
part-time at a music store, where he met several up and coming local musicians. It was this year that he also met Robert Hunter, who later became the lyricist
for the Grateful Dead and Jerry's song writing partner. The following year
he survived a car accident in which a close friend died. It was this year
that he also met Phil Lesh and David Nelson.
The Hart Valley Drifters were formed after meeting Ron Pigpen McKernan, Bill
Kreutzmann and Tom Constanten in 1962. The following year they renamed themselves
the Wildwood Boys where they played at the Monterey Jazz Festival and then
renamed themselves the Black Mountain Boys http://web.archive.org/web/20021220015443/http://www.eyecandypromo.com/SR/bmb64.html. Jerry also married this year,
to Sarah Ruppenthal, and they had their first daughter, Heather.
In 1964 Garcia formed Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, with Bob Weir (whom he met in 1963), McKernan (Pigpen) and Nelson. Around this time Jerry and his many friends starting experimenting with LSD, (thanks to the prior appearance of the elusive "Captain Trips", which led to
performances (as the Warlocks) for the "Acid Tests", collective drug experiments
where Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters wanted to see how LSD users (link2) would
be affected with no regulations or external influences. Jerry met "Mountain
Girl" - Carolyn Adams and the group renamed themselves The Grateful Dead during this same time.
"We never decided to be the Grateful Dead. What happened was, the
Grateful Dead came up as a suggestion because we were at Phil's house one
day; he had a big Oxford dictionary. I opened it up, and the first thing
I saw was the 'grateful dead.' It said that on the page, and it was so astonishing."
This was Garcia's 1972 recollection of how the group's name was selected.
'Stealin' and 'Don't Ease Me In' were released on the Scorpio label
and the last Acid Test was held in San Francisco, just before LSD was declared
illegal on October 6, 1967. 710 Ashbury Street became Jerry's new home after
his first marriage broke up; he married Mountain Girl shortly thereafter.
The first Grateful Dead Album, 'Grateful Dead' was released in March
of 1967, just after Mickey Hart joined the band. For the next few years,
the group released several albums and performed at various festivals, including
Woodstock in 1969. In 1970, 18 members of the group were arrested for drugs;
charges were later dropped. Garcia's second daughter, Annabelle, was born
this year, the same year "American Beauty" was released. Robert
Hunter, in an interview in 1989, explained that "...the pathos in Jerry's
voice on those songs, I think, has a lot to do with that experience. When
the pathos is there, I've always thought Jerry was at his best. The man
can get inside some of those lines and turn them inside out, and he makes
those songs entirely his. There is no emotion more appealing than the bittersweet
when it's truly, truly spoken." Hunter was referring to the emotion,
particularly in "Brokedown Palace," on American Beauty, which
was released at the time of his mother's death in a car accident in 1970.
During the next few years, several of the band members left and rejoined
including keyboardist Keith Godchaux with his wife Donna (backup vocals)
who joined after Mickey Hart's departure, and Pigpen, who died of a liver
ailment. By the mid '70's, the band had released 12 albums. Jerry had produced
The Grateful Dead Movie, and 'Compliments,' (a solo album), and his marriage
to Mountain Girl had broken up just after their second daughter, Theresa,
In 1978 the first Jerry Garcia Band album "Cats Under the Stars
was released. During these years, Jerry performed with the Dead, the Jerry
Garcia Band, and other artists. In an interview Jerry commented on how the
Garcia Band "really reflects my personality. The people in the band
think - musically, conceptually - the way I do....The Grateful Dead has
more dissonance in it. It has more variables and more wild cards and more
A year following the Dead's performances at the pyramids in Egypt (1979),
Brent Myland joined as keyboardist, just after Keith and Donna Godchaux
left the group. A year later Godchaux was killed as a result of a car accident.
In 1985 Garcia was caught freebasing in Golden Gate Park. His penalty
(for possession of cocaine and heroine) was to enroll in a drug program
and perform a benefit concert. A year later he fell into diabetic coma for
five days and a year after recovery his fourth daughter, Keelin, was born
to Manasha Matheson.
In 1990 Brent Myland died of drug overdose, which the group took really
hard. Vince Welnick and Bruce Hornsby joined the band also this year, and
"Without a Net" was recorded live. The following year produced
"One From the Vault", "Infrared Roses", and live "Jerry
Garcia Band", the Garcia/Grisman album and Deadicated. In 1992 Bruce
Hornsby left the group and "Two From the Vault" was recorded live.
This years fall tour was cancelled due to Jerry's ill health.
In 1993, Stonehenge Ltd. introduced J. Garcia ties and Garcia joined
David Grisman to produce "Not for Kids Only," a collection of
children's tunes. Around this time, he ran into Deborah Koons, whom he had
been involved with eighteen years earlier. They had been involved with each
other for about four years, but because Jerry was so involved in his work,
they stopped seeing each other. When they met again later, there was an
instant attraction. They were married in 1994.
After the conclusion of the July tour in 1995 Garcia had entered the Betty
Ford Clinic, where, according to his Deborah, he had left two weeks shy of the
scheduled one month stay.
Garcia died in his sleep on August 9, 1995 two days after registering
at Serenity Knolls clinic just north of San Francisco. He was found dead
by a counselor, after which a staff nurse and paramedics administered CPR,
but attempts to revive Garcia failed.
A private funeral was held on August 11 at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
in Belvedere, a peninsula north of San Francisco. Mourning continued well
into weeks that followed by his many loyal fans, and two memorial services
were performed about eight months later, one in India where his ashes were
scattered in the Ganges river by his wife and Bob Weir, and one in San Francisco,
where the remaining ashes were scattered by friends and close family.
audio: brown-eyed woman
bio by Jen Gumert
hyperlinks by Josh.
A Fan Tribute
More about Jerry Garcia