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Jerry Garcia
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Background Information

Birth name

Jerome John Garcia

Born

August 1, 1942

Died

August 9, 1995 (aged 53)

Genres

Folk rock, jam, bluegrass, country rock, jazz, rock and roll, psychedelic rock, rhythm and blues

Occupations

Musician,Songwriter

Instruments

Guitar,Pedal Steel Guitar,Banjo,Vocals

Years active

1960–1995

Labels

Rhino, Arista, Warner Bros., Acoustic Disc, Grateful Dead

Associated acts

The Grateful Dead, Legion of Mary, Reconstruction, Jerry Garcia Band, Old and in the Way, Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band,

Jerry GarciaEdit

Jerome John "Jerry" Garcia (August 1, 1942 – August 9, 1995) was an American musician best known for his lead guitar work, singing and songwriting with the band the Grateful Dead. Though he vehemently 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 three-decade career (1965–1995). Garcia also founded and participated in a variety of side projects, including the Saunders-Garcia Band with longtime friend Merl Saunders, Jerry Garcia Band, Old and in the Way, the Garcia/Grisman acoustic duo, and Legion of Mary. Garcia co-founded the New Riders of the Purple Sage 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 unstable weight, 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 addiction,and was staying in a California drug rehabilitation facility when he died of a heart attack in August 1995.

Childhood and Early LifeEdit

Jerry Garcia's ancestry was Galician (Spanish), Irish, and Swedish. 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. Garcia was their second child, preceded by Clifford Ramon "Tiff" Garcia, 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, a move 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 vacationing in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Garcia underwent amputation of two-thirds of his right middle finger.. Garcia was given the chore of steadying wood while his elder brother chopped, when he inadvertently put his finger in the way of the falling axe. 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 never looked at the finger after 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 their late father'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, who 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 was remarried to a man named 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, in a few years, 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, 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, greatly to his 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 Doggett.


Recording CareerEdit

Relocation and Band Beginnings Garcia stole his mother's car in 1960, and as punishment, joined 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. Garcia, using his final paycheck from the army, purchased some gasoline and an old Chevrolet car, which barely made it to Grant's residence before it broke down. Garcia proceeded to spend 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, acquainted him with many people from the local area, as well as introduced him to the people at the Chateau, a rooming house located near Stanford University which was then a popular hangout. On February 20, 1961, Garcia entered 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 Menlo Park 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 discharged 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. Garcia met Robert Hunter in April 1960. Hunter would go on to become a long-time lyrical collaborator with the Grateful Dead. Living out of his car next to Robert Hunter on a lot in East Palo Alto, Garcia and Hunter began to participate in the local art and music scenes, sometimes playing at Kepler's Books. Garcia performed his first concert with Hunter, each earning five dollars. Garcia and Hunter would also play in a band with David Nelson, a contributor to a few Grateful Dead albums, labeled the Wildwood Boys. 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 resembled the "composer Claude Debussy: dark, curly hair, goatee, Impressionist eyes". While attending another party in Palo Alto, Lesh approached Garcia to suggest that he record some songs on Lesh's tape recorder (Phil was musically trained, though he did not start playing bass guitar until the formation of the Grateful Dead in 1965) with the intention of getting them played on the 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, and they later landed a spot on the show, where a ninety-minute special was done specifically on Garcia. It was broadcast under the title "'The Long Black Veil' and Other Ballads: An Evening with Jerry Garcia". Garcia soon began playing and teaching acoustic guitar and banjo during this time. One of Garcia's students was Bob Matthews, who later engineered many of the Grateful Dead's albums. Matthews went to high school and was friends with Bob Weir, and on New Year's Eve 1963, he introduced Weir and Garcia to each other. Between 1962 and 1964, Garcia sang and performed mainly bluegrass, old-time and folk music. One of the bands Garcia was known to perform 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 thereafter, Garcia joined a local bluegrass and folk band called Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, whose membership also included Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, a rhythm and blues fan. Around this time, the psychedelic LSD was beginning to gain prominence. Garcia first began experimenting with 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".[15] 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 quickly learned that another group was already performing under their newly selected name, prompting another name change. After several suggestions, Garcia came up with the name by opening a Funk and Wagnall's dictionary. He was then promptly greeted with the "Grateful Dead". The definition provided 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 immediate reaction was disapproval. Garcia later explained the group's feelings towards the name: "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 himself 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 on when to solo, 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.[citation needed] There was also early rock (like Lonnie Mack, James Burton and Chuck Berry), contemporary blues (such as Freddie King and Lowell Fulson), country and western (such as Roy Nichols and Don Rich), and jazz (like 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.


Jerry Garcia in 1969 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 varied somewhat according to the song or instrumental to which he was contributing. His playing had a number of so-called "signatures" and, in his work through the years with the Grateful Dead, one of these was lead lines making much use of 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").


Side Projects 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.


The album cover of Garcia (1972), Garcia's début solo album. Several of the songs featured on the album eventually became concert staples of the Grateful Dead 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, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young on their smash hit Teach Your Children , David Bromberg, Robert Hunter (Liberty, on Relix Records), Paul Pena, Peter Rowan, Warren Zevon, Country Joe McDonald, Ken Nordine, Ornette Coleman, Bruce Hornsby, Bob Dylan and many more. He was also one of the first musicians to really cover in depth Motown music in the early-1970s and probably the most prolific coverer of Bob Dylan songs. 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, Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh, drummer Mickey Hart, and David Crosby collaborated intermittently with MIT-educated composer and biologist Ned Lagin on several projects in the realm of early electronica; 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 playing 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 début 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. Having studied art at the San Francisco Art Institute, Garcia embarked on a second career in the visual arts. 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. Even in 2005, ten years after Garcia's death, new styles and designs continued to be produced and sold.


DeathEdit

On August 9, 1995, at 4:23 AM, Garcia's body was discovered in his room at the rehabilitation clinic. The cause of death was a heart attack. Garcia had long struggled with drug addiction, weight problems, and sleep apnea, 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." On the morning of August 10, Garcia was rested at a funeral home in San Rafael, California. On August 12, at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Belvedere, Garcia's funeral was held. It was attended by his family, the remaining Grateful Dead and their friends, including former basketball player Bill Walton and musician Bob Dylan, and his widow Deborah Koons, who barred Garcia's other two 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 twenty-five thousand people. The crowds produced hundreds of flowers, gifts, images, and even a bagpipe rendition of "Amazing Grace" in remembrance. 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 the Hindus. Then, according to Garcia's last wishes, the other half of his ashes were poured into the San Francisco Bay. Deborah Koons disallowed one of Garcia's ex-wives, Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Garcia, from attending the spreading of the ashes.

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