In March 1993, I planned a vacation that would take me to Cleveland for the Richfield shows, then to DC for the Cap Centre, and then up to Syracuse for the NCAA basketball tournament (like Bruce Hornsby, I am a hoops junkie). Well, that was the weekend of the Superstorm that battered the east coast and canceled the Saturday Cleveland show. I managed to get to Cleveland through the storm and checked into the Ritz Carlton. That night, Jerry and Steve Parish came into the bar and sat down next to me. I didn't know Parish and said he looked like an old friend, Mike Stepanian, who I knew from my days with Pennsylvania NORML in the mid-1970s. Parish started to steam and Jerry said, "Uh-oh, wrong name to bring up, I'll have to apologize for my friend here."
We sat and talked for close to an hour before word filtered around the hotel and the place got nuts. He was aware of the case I was handling, said some nice things about NORML, and was funny and gracious. Signed everyone's scraps of paper and let them take photos. I will always remember him sitting there while a blizzard was raging outside and saying "Storm of the century, and I'm stuck in fucking Cleveland."
The other strong Jerry memory involves working out at the Four Seasons Hotel gym in Philadelphia with his wife Deborah. She was hitting the Stairmaster while Jerry walked the treadmill. One time, I was coming out of the pool and heading to the sauna (wasn't wearing my glasses) and I rounded the corner at the exact time Jerry was coming from the other direction heading toward the same (and only) sauna. I stopped, saw that he only had on a big towel and thought to myself, "There are two things in life I am not supposed to see. One is my parents doing it and the other is Garcia naked." I waved him on to the sauna, gave him a look that said I will respect your privacy (he had that Jerry smirk on), and went back to my hotel room.
When I think of Garcia, I think of him unselfishly encouraging and inspiring others, his joy of creation and discovery, and his love of music.
I am deeply saddened by his passing. For him: because he wasn't really done this lifetime. For us: for the same reason.
Before the Grateful Dead or even the Warlocks, Jerry and I were driving in his Corvair up from Palo Alto to Berkeley to see the Kentucky Colonels play. "Together Again" [Buck Owens] came on the radio, with that memorable solo by Tom Brumley. We both listened in reverent awe, and said, "Man, we gotta learn pedal steel." Between the two of us, I was the first to get a steel and start playing, and that's how I ended up playing on Aoxomoxoa.
When Jerry came back from a tour with a brand new ZB Custom double-10 pedal steel, he absolutely immersed himself in the instrument. I remember going over to his house to see it. He had me playing guitar as soon as I walked in the door, and singing every song I knew, so he could boink around and play backups and solos. Later that day, I showed him some things that I had discovered on the steel, including parts of "Together Again." He got good real fast and had a wonderfully unique style.
About a year later he got another steel, and loaned me the ZB, because the pedal steel I had was quite a clunker. Mine had pedals like a 2-ton truck clutch, and knee levers to match. Using the ZB really helped me get a job with my first country band, and helped me get good. Later, after I added 3 more knee levers, and was playing regularly in a really good country band, I shared my enthusiasm over using the instrument with Jerry. He said, "Well, if you like it that much, I think you ought to keep it." It's a great sounding instrument, and 25 years later, still finds its way into the studio to the delight of recording artists and engineers. And me.
So, today, shortly after I heard the news, I sat down at the ZB, played"Together Again," and played the hell out of it. For Jerry.
Thanks, man. I love you.
It would be like if tomorrow you heard that there is no more baseball. No one can play or watch it - it is no more. You can watch old tapes of games and read accounts in old newspapers, and everyone would know what baseball is but no one could experience it again. No more little kids playing Little League. Nothing. That's sort of what happened here.
Garcia was a risk-taker. From Garcia and the Dead, I learned that creative endeavor fulfills me when I sharpen my skills and open myself to meet the moment, rather than rehearse a preconception of how an event should unfold.
My Friend Jerry
by David Grisman
"Talk to me, David...you should talk to me a little bit in my solo...." Garcia was asking me to converse with him musically during the guitar solo he'd be playing after the first verse of "Blue Yodel #9," the Jimmie Rodgers' classic that we have never played together before. "Hi Jerry, nice solo you're playing," I quipped. We were kidding around, exchanging light-hearted banter like we always did when we got together in the small recording room that used to be my garage.
Decibel Dave slated "Take 1," but after the first verse we stopped, not quite sure whether Garcia would sing a long or short yodel. "The tempo's a little quick, too..," Jerry commented. "Down from the *bottom* brother, say way down from Dixie now," and immediately kicked off a slower, more laid-back groove. "That's it, that's the feel. Nothing is moving on the river." It had been over a year since Jerry and I had hit any licks together, and this was going to be *fun*.
Fun was always at the heart of the matter with Jerry, and now, three weeks and a thousand universes later, the notion that my world, and the world of countless others, will be decidedly less fun is painfully settling in. Of course Jerry desperately wouldn't want me or us to feel this way. I'm certain of that. Every fiber of his being was dedicated to the awesome task of making us all feel better, and he always *did*. He had those special unique qualitities that fused his great creativity with his even greater humanity, tempered always with that sense of humor...*fun*.
Let's not confuse the issue though. Jerome Garcia was a great leader - musically, morally, and spiritually. He didn't want it, he didn't seek it, he didn't ask for it, he may not have even *liked* it, but he carried that enormous weight with grace, dignity, and a huge sense of responsibility to his fellow man, particularly those less fortunate. If you needed help, he was there. Of course as we now know, it was Jerry himself who needed help. And although he was getting it, the years had already taken their toll, and that long strange trip is over. But is it really? Not for us - Jerry's kids. We need to take his message to heart and find our own creativity and our own path and help try and make this world a little better, which will be just a little harder for us now. This is our challenge, which I feel we can meet if we can all take a little piece of him with us. We all need to become a little more Jerry-like and move on down the road. Just one more thing I thought you'd want to know....Jerry died with a smile on his face.
Jim WyrickOn October 22, 1989, a few months after my mother died, two young friends took me to my first dead show in twenty-one years, in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was overwhelmed. Although I'm a fair musician, I'd never heard such music. It was as if I had lived all my life in black and white and then seen color for the first time. The spirituality and love were almost too much.
After the show we went to the Waffle House, a small all-night eatery with a counter and booths designed to seat about thirty people. Two very sweet, elderly African-American ladies were trying their best to feed 150 hungry hippies. I overheard them debating whether they should call their boss to ask for help. Finally, one of them headed for the pay phone at the entrance, and as she left she shouted to her partner, "I don't know about you, but I've had enough of this! I'm gonna call Jerry!"
The place went bonkers - 150 fried Deadheads cheering, laughing, clapping, and rolling on the floor, convulsed with hilarity. The poor woman froze in her tracks, having no idea what she had said. When things calmed down a bit a girl asked her, "Do you have Jerry's number?" The lady sheepishly pointed to a number written on her palm and said "Yes, honey, I've got it right here"