Jerry Garcia Biography

Jerome John Garcia has been continually referred to as the backbone of the Grateful Dead. Born to a nurse named Ruth and a swing musician named Jose in August 1942, Garcia was named after Jerome Kern, the Tin Pan Alley composer.

At four years old, Garcia lost his middle finger from his right hand when his older brother chopped it off with an axe while the boys were splitting wood. A year later, Garcia watched as his father drowned in a fishing accident. Garcia
was then raised by his grandparents while his mother worked.

In 1957 Garcia received his first guitar for his fifteenth birthday, just as rock and roll was gaining popularity. That same year, Garcia was introduced to marijuana. Garcia began taking classes for painting at a nearby college while he
played guitar in his free time. Garcia played a little country, jazz, folk and blues.

Garcia dropped out of high school in 1960 and enlisted in the Army. Garcia was still spending his hours at his leisure, picking up the acoustic guitar at this time. Garcia was discharged from the Army after accruing 2 court marshals and 8 AWOLs, so he headed back home and began to get into hootenennies around Stanford. For a while, Garcia and a poet
named Robert Hunter teamed up to create some music. Later, Hunter would become the main lyricist for the Grateful Dead.

Garcia spent time in Dana Morgan's Music store and bought a banjo from a teenage employee named Bill Kreutzmann.
It wasn't long before Garcia was employed at the store and performing in a number of bluegrass bands. Meanwhile, classes were being skipped for the sake of music and a few kids were spending all of their time at Dana Morgan's. Out of this group, Bob Weir, Bob Matthews, Marshall Leicster, Tom Stone and Pig Pen deemed themselves Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, a bluegrass-insanity band. With constant urging from Pig Pen, Mother McCree's kept progressing towards going electric, beginning with the formation of the Warlocks, and then the Grateful Dead.

In the mid sixties, the Dead became an integral part of the multi-media extravaganzas, the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests.
Garcia met Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Adams at an acid test and the two were a couple for a number of years. The whole lot of them, the Grateful Dead moved to 710 Ashbury where they were fully enveloped in the scene and their music really evolved into what it is today.

An Elegy for Jerry By Robert Hunter

(Delivered August 13, 1995, The Jerry Garcia Memorial, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California.)

Jerry, my friend,
you've done it again,
even in your silence
the familiar pressure
comes to bear, demanding
I pull words from the air
with only this morning
and part of the afternoon
to compose an ode worthy
of one so particular
about every turn of phrase,
demanding it hit home
in a thousand ways
before making it his own,
and this I can't do alone.
Now that the singer is gone,
where shall I go for the song?

Without your melody and taste
to lend an attitude of grace
a lyric is an orphan thing,
a hive with neither honey's taste
nor power to truly sting.

What choice have I but to dare and
call your muse who thought to rest
out of the thin blue air,
that out of the field of shared time,
a line or two might chance to shine --

As ever when we called,
in hope if not in words,
the muse descends.

How should she desert us now?
Scars of battle n her brow,
bedraggled feathers on her wings
and yet she sings, she sings!

May she bear thee to thy rest,
the ancient bower of flowers
beyond the solitude of days,
the tyranny of hours --
the wreath of shining laurel lie
upon your shaggy head,
bestowing power to play the lyre
to legions of the dead.

If some part of that music
is heard in deepest dream,
or on some breeze of Summer
a snatch of golden theme,
we'll know you live inside us
with love that never parts
our good old Jack O' Diamonds
become the King of Hearts.

I feel your silent laughter
at sentiments so bold
that dare to step across the line
to tell what must be told,
so I'll just say I love you
which I never said before
and let it go at that old friend,
the rest you may ignore.

August 11, 1995

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