August 9, 2015.
It has 20 years since Jerry passed and the background music to my life hasn’t been the same since. Jerry Garcia, (August 1, 1942 – August 9, 1995) His candle burned brightly and his candle burned out much too soon. Sometimes, sadly, early death is the counter-weight to immense talent.
In a previous post I wrote about his main gig, Grateful Dead, and no doubt, GD was a staple and a steady source of earnings, but there was much more to the man’s music than just this one facet of his career.
While touring usually 150 days a year for 35 years with Grateful Dead, Garcia also worked in studio and on the road with various incarnations of the Jerry Garcia Band and Garcia Acoustic Band. In the early days there was also Legion of Mary and his work with Merl Saunders. Live at the Keystone is a must have for any Garcia enthusiasts collection. Garcia’s guitar jams dueling against Merl’s organ is a dark tangle of bluesy goodness.
Then, there was his contributions with Old and In the Way sessions and his work with other bluegrass artists. Later, his long time friend, David Grisman, collaborated to make several Bluegrass and Jazz (arranged for strings) albums. These are some of his finest works. Seeking treasures of traditional American music found in the National Archives and arranging them for today’s audiences was truly a gift to our nations music heritage. Many of these old songs had been long forgotten for so many younger America’s.
The two albums of note by Grisman & Garcia – Not For Kids Only, also, Shady Grove. another great album – The Pizza Tapes included jams with the exceptional guitarist, Tony Rice. Even Jerry commented to Rice a couple of times during the recording session that “they had some hot ones in there”! Funny story about the “Pizza Tapes” is that the three, Garcia, Grisman, and Rice were playing around at Grisman’s home studio. They ordered a pizza to be delivered and apparently the pizza delivery guy stole a copy of the recordings. Grisman was rather annoyed about the matter and especially upset that the bootleg tapes that were being circulated were of such a poor sound quality. He subsequently released his studio recording of the sessions for sale to the public and it was a big hit among the faithful.
Garcia collaborated with friend, Robert Hunter on many compositions. Among my favorites; Ripple– is at the top of the list. Reuben and Cerise and The Wheel rank high on my list of favorites Garcia tunes. Stella Blue is another notable song that was a regular feature at many Dead shows. Stella was a name brand of guitar that was very popular in the 1920s an 1930s among Blues players.
Though Garcia’s death at 53 was early by modern standards, there is no doubt that his lifestyle choices had a serious impact on his long term health. His death did not come as a shock for many. In the several years prior, he had a number of incidents involving heart distress associated with long term drug use and heavy tobacco smoking. One of these incidents cast him into comma for a period of time, though he did survive that episode and managed to clean up for a while after.
It is clear that Garcia had a life-long habit with cocaine and heroin, alternating between the two. Pity he was unable to manage it better for the long run. His tremendous talent is deeply missed by many.
Few people know of Jerry’s talent in painting but if you follow this link you can go to an online gallery that shows many of his works.
go here for a complete list of his studio recorded music.
and here for a short article that points out the top 5 best shows of the Grateful Dead.