Tag Archives: Grateful Dead

Jerry Garcia

Jerry Garcia

Happy birthday

August 1, 1942

Jerry Garcia

Jerry Garcia

           Jerome John Garcia was born in San Francisco, CA. His father was Jose “Joe” Garcia , his mother, “Bobbie” Garcia. Brother "Tiff."

           Joe Garcia loved music, especially jazz, and played woodwinds and clarinet.

           In the spring of 1947 when Jerry was four, his brother Tiff accidentally chopped off a large part of Jerry's middle right finger. Later that year, Joe Garcia drowned  while on a fishing trip.

           Jerry and brother Tiff moved in with Bobbie's parents, Tillie and William Clifford. While living with them the boys enjoyed great autonomy. It was also during this time that Jerry's third grade teacher encouraged the artistic side of Jerry. Jerry starts to play the banjo.

Bobbie remarries…

           In the early 50s, like so many other young Americans, Jerry discovers early rock 'n' roll: Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, BB King,  and others.

           In 1957 for his fifteenth birthday, his mother and step-father gave Jerry an accordion. Not what he wanted, he complained until they exchanged the accordion for an electric guitar.

Brief military career and 1961

           He joined the Army  in April, 1960 but the Army and he realized they were incompatible. He left that December.

           In 1961, Jerry a couple of people who'll have a big impact on his future: Robert Hunter and David Nelson.

More people & Mother McCree’s

           In early 1962 Jerry met Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, and, in December, Bob Weir.

           Jerry continued to play and by 1964 Jerry, Pigpen, and Weir form Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions (with Dave Parker, Tom Stone, and Dave Garbett).

Warlocks > Dead

           In 1965, Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzmann joined Jerry, Pigpen, and Bob to form The Warlocks. Their first show is  at Magoo’s Pizza in Menlo Park, CA.

           In December, The Warlocks changed their name to Grateful Dead, and perform their first of many shows as the house band at a Ken Kesey Acid Test in San Jose, CA. . Garcia was 23; Lesh, 25; Pigpen, 20; Weir, 18; and Kreutzmann, 19.

Long strange trip

           The Grateful Dead would play over 2300 shows until their last on July 9, 1995, at Chicago’s Soldier Field. A month later, on August 9, 1995 Jerry Garcia died.

           Over his life, Jerry Garcia was addicted to several things. Luckily for us, one of those addictions was music. In addition to the 2300 Dead shows, Jerry seemingly played continuously with his own band (Legion of Mary, Jerry Garcia and David Grisman, Jerry Garcia and Friends, Jerry Garcia Band, and many more) or sat in with other bands (Mickey and the Heartbeats, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and many more).

           Happy birthday Jerry. We thank you for your eternal music.

Bill Kreutzmann

Bill Kreutzmann

Bill Kreutzmann

Happy birthday to you!

          Bill Kreutzmann was born on May 7, 1946 in Palo Alto, California. Despite early criticism, Bill loved playing the drums.  Before he was legal, he, Jerry Garcia,  Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, and Ron "Pigpen" McKernan formed a band.

          Of course that band evolved into the Grateful Dead. Later Mickey Hart joined the Dead and he and Bill ("the rhythm devils") drove the Dead's beat.

          Though there were sometimes solos during a show, it was never about an individual. Jerry Garcia may have been the axle  of the band's wheel, the band  it was greater than the sum of its parts.

          Robert Hunter knew of what he spoke when he said in "Truckin'" What a Long Strange Trip It's Been. That, of course, is a shibboleth for the Grateful Dead and many of the bands that the 1960s produced. 

          Bill Kreutzmann was there for all the Dead's shows. The good and the bad. The ethereal. The cosmic. The high and the low.
          He and Benjy Eisen wrote about it in Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead (2015). The book begins with a story about Jerry Garcia and Bill going scuba diving in the late 80s. Touch of Grey, the Dead's only big commercial hit. Like anything that brings public attention, Touch of Grey brought the good and the bad. Scuba diving in Hawaii seemed like a good place to get away from it all. No drugs. No attention. Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream.

          Then a scuba instructor swam up to Garcia with a waterproof notepad and asked for his autograph.

Bill Kreutzmann

          When Garcia died in 1995 the Grateful Dead did, too.  Without Jerry, the axle gone, the band could light a spark, could start a fire, but never burn as brightly as those previous 30 years.

          Of course Bill Kreutzman has continued to play music. It is, it was, and always will be what his life is about.

          He had helped form bands (The Other Ones, The Dead, The Rhythm Devlis, 7 Walkers, and most recently, Billy & the Kids) and has sat in at concerts (with Journey, Warren Haynes, Phish, David Nelson Band among others).

          In 2015, a Grateful Dead formed to perform a series of concerts commemorating its 50th anniversary. Bill Kreutzmann, of course, was there and wanted more.
A wonderful interview by PBS NewsHour Chief Arts and Culture Correspondent Jeffrey Brown with Kreutzmann,

This summer, Dead & Company are touring and Bill is right there with them.

Tom Constanten

Tom Constanten

Woodstock alum
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Happy birthday
March 19, 1944
(above: Tom playing “Mountains of the Moon” at Wofford College on Jan 13, 2009)
Tom Constanten
On Wednesday, August 29, 2012, former Grateful Dead keyboardist, composer and piano instructor Tom Constanten told stories from his long career and performed as part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s Hall of Fame Series.

Tom Constanten

                   According to the Grateful Dead site, "Phil Lesh was standing in line at Cal Berkeley's music department in 1961 when he overheard a young man, Tom Constanten by name, remark that Music stopped being created in 1750 and began again in 1950. They shook hands, and became friends for life. Shortly after, T.C. persuaded Phil to apply for a special class in electronic composition at Mills College with Luciano Berio, which would become one of the touchstones of Lesh's life. As the Grateful Dead emerged and began to create, Phil returned the favor to T.C., who became the Dead's advisor/keyboard creative spirit, altering normal piano sounds by inserting combs, Dutch dimes, and a gyroscope into the body of the keyboard, as they recorded the masterpiece avant garde albums Anthem of the Sun and Aoxomoxoa. He joined the touring band in November 1968, and amicably departed in January 1970, feeling that he was underamplified ... and in so doing avoided the curse of the Dead keyboard seat."
 
                   Curse of the Dead keyboard seat?  Four of the Grateful Dead’s keyboardists – Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Keith Godchaux, Brent Mydland and Vince Welnick – died prematurely.
                   From the All Music site: "After the Dead, Constanten  spent the '70s, '80s, and '90s mostly in the Bay Area, creating odd compositions, teaching piano, and playing shows around the periphery of the Dead scene. He composed for the theater with some success, including the off-Broadway play Tarot... ultimately winning a silver medal in the New York Critics' Circle Poll. In 1986, he was an artist in residence at Harvard University. 
                   He tours and has released five albums: Nightfull of Diamonds (1992), Morning Dew (1993), Grateful Dreams (2000), 88 Keys to Tomorrow (2002), and Moved to Stanleyville (2006).

Tom Constanten, Tom Constanten, Tom Constanten, Tom Constanten