Jerry Garcia

Jerry Garcia in his youth
Jerry Garcia in his youth

Jerry Garcia (born Jerome John Garcia), (August 1, 1942 - August 9, 1995) was famous as guitarist and primary singer of the psychedelic rock band the Grateful Dead, though his extensive career involved many other projects. He has become one of the most studied 20th Century rock musicians. Garcia started on the piano, moved on to the guitar, and eventually became a master on many stringed instruments, despite the loss of his right middle finger just below the first knuckle while chopping wood in his youth.

Garcia was born in San Francisco, California. Though he had a keen and insightful mind, Jerry 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. The rigors and the structure of Army life did not appeal to him and he was discharged after accruing two courts martial and eight AWOLs. Upon returning to the Bay Area, Garcia and a poet named Robert Hunter teamed up to make music—later on, Hunter would become the main lyricist for the Grateful Dead. Around this time Jerry Garcia was playing acoustic guitar and banjo (his other great instrumental love), and up to 1964 he sang and performed mainly bluegrass, old-time and folk music. Garcia joined a local bluegrass and folk band called Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, whose membership also included Bob Weir and Ron "Pigpen" McKernan. In 1965, this group evolved into the Warlocks—which would in turn become the Grateful Dead later that year—and Garcia picked up the electric guitar.

Jerry Garcia's electric-guitar playing melded elements from the various kinds of music that had interested him. Echoes of bluegrass, early rock (like Chuck Berry), contemporary blues, country & western, and modern jazz could be heard in Jerry's style, which varied somewhat according to the song or instrumental he was contributing to. Jerry's 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 (often staccato) rhythmic triplets (examples include the songs "Good Morning Little School Girl," "New Speedway Boogie," "Brokedown Palace," "Deal," "Loser," "Truckin'," "U.S. Blues," "Sugaree," and "Don't Ease Me In").

Young people were attracted to Jerry not only because of his talent and his tendency to good cheer and general goodwill, but for his obvious intelligence, libertarian sort of attitude, and willingness to speak his mind. Though he was widely regarded as a kind of guru figure in the San Francisco psychedelic scene, Jerry couldn’t take the role seriously himself.

From 1965 to 1995, the Grateful Dead toured almost constantly, developing a fan base known as deadheads, renowned for their intensity and devotion. Some fans dedicated their lives to the band, following the Grateful Dead from concert to concert, making a living by selling handmade goods, arts, crafts and other items in the parking lots of venues before the shows. It was no secret that drugs, especially psychedelics, were condoned in this scene. Jerry’s tendency to use hard, addictive drugs was evident to those who knew him by the mid 1970s.

Jerry Garcia later in life
Jerry Garcia later in life

In addition to the Grateful Dead (who frequently toured for long periods), 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 [1] (, Legion of Mary [2] (, 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.

Having studied art at the California Academy of Art, Garcia made a second career out of painting. A series of neck ties based on those paintings has been quite lucrative. The popularity of the ties might be attributed to their wild patterns and bright colors. Even in 2005, ten years after Garcia's death, new styles and designs continue to be sold at high-end men's stores and department stores.

In 1987, ice cream manufacturers Ben and Jerry named one of their flavors Cherry Garcia after this musician.

Garcia was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

Jerry Garcia died on August 9, 1995 of heart trouble. Garcia, who struggled with drug addiction for much of his adult life, was staying at a drug rehabilitation center at the time. On his passing, he was honored by President Clinton as being "an American icon". Memorial services were held in Golden Gate Park on August 13, 1995. Along with the band members, his family and friends, thousands of fans were present, many singing and playing in drum circles.

External links


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools