Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead


Jerome John Garcia was born in 1942, in San Francisco's Mission District.
His father, a spanish immigrant named Jose "Joe" Garcia, had been a jazz
clarinetist and Dixieland bandleader in the thirties, and he named his new son
after his favorite Broadway composer, Jerome Kern. In the spring of 1948, while
on a fishing trip, Garcia saw his father swept to his death by a California
river.

After his father's death, Garcia spent a few years living with his
mother's parents, in one of San Francisco's working-class districts. His
grandmother had the habit of listening to Nashville's Grand Ole Opry radio
broadcasts on Saturday nights, and it was in those hours, Garcia would later say,
that he developed his fondness for country-music forms-particularly the deft ,
blues-inflected mandolin playing and mournful, high-lonesome vocal style of
Bill Monroe, the principal founder of bluegrass. When Garcia was ten, his
mother, Ruth, brought him to live with her at a sailor's hotel and bar that she
ran near the city's waterfront. He spent much of his time there listening to
the drunks', fanciful stories; or sitting alone reading Disney and horror comics
and pouring through science-fiction novels.

When Garcia was fifteen, his older brother Tiff - who years earlier had
accidentally chopped off Jerry's right-hand middle finger while the two were
chopping wood - introduced him to early rock & roll and rhythm & blues music.
Garcia was quickly drawn to the music's funky rhythms and wild textures, but
what attracted him the most were the sounds that came from the guitar;
especially the bluesy "melifluousness" of players such as; T-bone Walker and
Chuck Berry. It was something he said that he had never heard before. Garcia
wanted to learn how to make those same sounds he went straight to his mother
and told her that he wanted an electric guitar for his next birthday.

During this same period, the beat period was going into full swing in
the Bay Area, and it held great predominance at the North Beach arts school
where Garcia attended and at the city's coffeehouses, where he had heard poets
like Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Kenneth Rexroth read their best works.

By the early Sixties, Garcia was living in Palo Alto, California,
hanging out and playing in the folk-music clubs around Stanford University. He
was also working part-time at Dana Morgan's Music Store, where he met several of
the musicians who would eventually dominate the San Francisco music scene. In
1963 Garcia formed a jug band, Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions. Its lineup
included a young folk guitarist named Bob Weir and a blues lover, Ron McKernan,
known to his friends as "Pigpen" for his often disorderly appearance. The
group played a mix of blues, country, and folk, and Pigpen became the frontman,
singing Jimmy Reed and Lightnin' Hopkins tunes.

Then in February 1964, the Beatles made their historic appearance on The
Ed Sullivan Show, and virtually overnight, youth culture was imbued with a new
spirit and sense of identity. Gracia understood the group's promise after
seeing its first film, A Hard Day's Night.

As a result, the folky purism of Mother McCree's all-acoustic form
began to seem rather limited and uninteresting to Garcia and many of the other
band members, and before long the ensemble was transformed into the Warlocks. A
few dropped out, but they were soon joined by two more; Bill Kreutzmann, and
Phil Lesh.

It was around this time that Garcia and some of the group's other
members also began an experiment with drugs that would change the nature of the
band's story. Certainly this wasn't the first time drugs had been used in
music for artistic expression or had found their way into an American cultural
movement. Many jazz and blues artists had been smoking marijuana and using
various narcotics to intensify their music making for several decades, and in
the Fifties the Beats had extolled marijuana as an assertion of their non-
conformism. But the drugs that began cropping up in the youth and music scenes
in the mid-Sixties were of a much different. more exotic type. Veterans
Hospital near Stanford University had been running experiments on LSD, a drug
that induced hallucinations in those who ingested it and that, for many, also
inspired something remarkably close to the patterns of a religious experience.
Among those taking these drugs was Garcia future songwriting partner Robert
Hunter. Another that later joined the band was Ken Kersey, author of One Flew
Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion. Kersey had been working on
an idea about group LSD experiments and had started a