August 1, 1942 - August 9, 1995
Jerome John Garcia, named after the show tune composer Jerome Kern, was born August 1, 1942.
Garcia displayed an early interest in music and took piano lessons as a child.
He showed great interest in art, attending the California School of Fine Arts during the summer of 1957, and for his 15th birthday that year, his mother gave him a guitar
18 years old, Garcia moved to Palo Alto, CA, where he lived informally over the next several years, playing in clubs and bookstores near the campus of Stanford University and encountering many of the people he would work with for the rest of his career.
The early '60s was the period of a folk music revival, and Garcia became an avid student of folk, old-time country, and bluegrass music, playing both the acoustic guitar and banjo in ad hoc groups with names like the Sleepy Hollow Hog Stompers, the Wildwood Boys, and the Hart Valley Drifters over the next two years.
During 1964, he began playing in a jug band, Moter McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, that also featured guitarist/singer Bob Weir and singer/harmonica player/keyboardist Ron McKernan (aka Pigpen). At the turn of 1965, the group took up electric instruments and became a rock & roll band, adding drummer Bill Kreutzmann and renaming themselves The Warlocks. Phil Lesh, another friend of Garcia's joined on bass by June 1965, and in December the quintet first performed under its new name, The Grateful Dead. Their first single, comprised of the traditional songs "Stealin'" and "Don't Ease Me In," was released by Scorpio Records in June 1966, The Grateful Dead signed to Warner Bros. Records for the release of their first album,'The Grateful Dead', in March 1967.
Taking up the pedal steel guitar, he helped form The New Riders Of The Purple Sage with singer/songwriter John Dawson and guitarist David Nelson, the latter one of his old friends from his Palo Alto days, the band filled out by Grateful Dead members Lesh and Mickey Hart.
His first track as a solo performer was "Love Scene," which appeared on the soundtrack to the 1970 film Zabriskie Point. He also began playing in a pickup band in a club in San Francisco with keyboardist Howard Wales, beginning a string of gigs that would lead to The JGB, although the more immediate result was his first "solo" album, an LP actually credited to Wales and him, called 'Hooteroll?', released by Douglas Records in 1971.
In June 1974, Round Records released Garcia's second solo album, which, like his first, was called Garcia. To avoid confusion, fans began calling it 'Compliments Of Garcia' because of the legend "Compliments Of" that appeared on a sticker on promotional copies sent to radio stations, and it later was officially retitled 'Compliments'. The album featured no new compositions by Garcia and was more in the mode of his club band, with numerous cover songs. Nevertheless, it reached the Top 50
It has been suggested that the dearth of recordings by either Garcia or The Grateful Dead in the early and mid-'80s was partly the result of the guitarist's drug usage during the period. Always known for his affection for psychedelic drugs Garcia apparently had moved on to harder drugs by this time. On January 18, 1985, he was arrested for possession of cocaine and heroin. He avoided jail time by agreeing to seek treatment, attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and do a benefit concert. Along with his drug usage, his smoking and other unhealthy behavior contributed to a physical decline during what turned out to be the last decade of his life.
Garcia did a special series of shows at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater on Broadway in New York City in October 1987, leading an acoustic string band in the first set and The JGB in the second. The shows resulted in a live album, 'Almost Acoustic', credited to The Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band, released by Grateful Dead Merchandising in 1988.
In February 1991, Garcia added a third steady group to his schedule, appearing in an acoustic duo with his old friend Dvid Grisman at the Warfield and, shortly after, releasing the album 'Jerry Garcia/David Grisman' through Grisman's Acoustic Disc label. Warfield shows from 1990 with The JGB were the source for Arista's two-CD set Jerry Garcia Band, released in May 1991.
The summer of 1995 found The Grateful Dead as usual playing outdoor stadiums, and they finished the run with a show at Soldier Field in Chicago on July 9. It was the band's last concert. A week later, Garcia checked into the Betty Ford Clinic, his first-ever attempt at formal rehab to kick his heroin habit. He stayed a couple of weeks, but did not complete the clinic's one-month program. On August 8, he entered another rehab facility in Forest Knolls, CA. In the early hours of August 9, 1995, he died there in his sleep of a heart attack at the age of 53.
Although Garcia eschewed the title of leader of The Grateful Dead, his significance to the band was obvious, and the surviving members' announcement in December 1995 that the group was breaking up without him was no surprise.