There have been a handful of artists throughout history who have had such an impact that they only require one name. Among them are Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Dylan… and Garcia.
“There’s no way to measure his greatness or magnitude as a person or as a player. I don’t think eulogizing will do him justice. He was that great – much more than a superb musician with an uncanny ear and dexterity. He is the very spirit personified of whatever is muddy river country at its core and screams up into the spheres. He really had no equal.” – Bob Dylan
As deadheads and fans of Jerry Garcia are aware, Jerry Week, also known as the Daze Between, is around the corner (Aug 1, Jerry’s birthday – Aug. 9, the anniversary of his passing) — and this year is extra special, as Jerry would have turned 80 years old.
Whether you’re heading over to the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater on Aug. 13 to celebrate Jerry Day or listening to your favorite Grateful Dead album on repeat, we all know that Jerry would have been celebrating his birthday with friends and a little help from the plant, he thought a joint could always bridge the gap between all kinds of folks,
Garcia Hand Picked (GHP), the cannabis brand created in partnership with The Garcia Family and Holistic Industries to honor Jerry Garcia’s legacy, debuted in California in 2020 and is now available in more than 300 dispensaries in California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon and now Michigan. According to market analyst BDSA, the collaboration is the leading celebrity cannabis brand in the United States. GHP is an official Garcia family endeavor and an authentic homage to the man who inspired a generation to live freely and think deeply.
Garcia Hand Picked (GHP) is a collection of cannabis products and merchandise created in partnership with Holistic Industries and The Garcia Family to honor the legacy of Jerry Garcia. And like his music and art, and unlike any other product available, Jerry’s signature cannabis collection is spontaneous revelatory healing and anything but ordinary.
From the plant’s genetics to packaging design and marketing, Garcia Hand Picked has been carefully curated by The Garcia Family to create an inspired cannabis experience that’s the highest quality, spontaneous, harmonious, and can bring people together in the way only Jerry could. Holistic and The Garcia Family worked together to identify and select old school strains and new genetics passed down from life on tour for Garcia Hand Picked.
It was important for this brand to have a variety of form factors to be inclusive and accessible for different types of consumers and patients while also maintaining authenticity. The products have been recognized and awarded across the industry, with its Super Lemon Haze strain from California winning second place in the Emerald Cup’s ‘Indoor Licensed Cultivator Flower’ category, and placing first in High Times’ NorCal ‘Sativa Flower’ category.
“We set out to create a national cannabis brand that resonates with Jerry Garcia fans, young and old, and is also accessible to cannabis consumers who are curious about the brand or just now discovering Jerry’s music and legacy,” said Josh Genderson, CEO of Holistic Industries. “We saw remarkable demand for Garcia Hand Picked across the country since our initial launch, and because of our ability to scale, launch and market new brands, we’ve been rolling out Garcia Hand Picked in new markets across the country.”
Jerry’s fan base is diverse in generation, geography, and almost every other demographic. What they share is a sense of belonging to the unique community Jerry helped build. From eco-friendly packaging to Jerry’s original artwork and quotes and suggested playlists for each strain, Garcia Hand Picked products and merchandise are designed specifically for the fans.
Those close to Jerry have said he rarely smoked weed by himself; it was more of a social interaction: “a joint became a bridge between him and those around him.” Holistic and The Garcia Family put an emphasis on pre-roll packs for a special experience – eco-friendly packaging made from recycled paper, matches, and a custom glass tip with Jerry’s handprint. Jerry’s Picks, GHP’s line of edibles, are all-natural gummies shaped like Jerry’s actual guitar picks.
Each product is paired with a curated playlist of Jerry’s music that corresponds with the strains and will bring out the best GHP experience (fans can go to the “Music Never Stopped” section of GarciaHandPicked.com to listen). Merchandise, including apparel and accessories, with Jerry’s original artwork, the GHP logo, and other designs are also available for purchase. Bertha, a custom Airstream filled with cool merchandise, positive vibes, music, and bliss, has been touring around the country, visiting select dispensaries. And she doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
Garcia Hand Picked launched in California in 2020 and on the East Coast earlier last year. It is available in more than 125 dispensaries in California, and select dispensaries in Massachusetts and Maryland and is on its way to becoming one of the first national cannabis brands with availability in additional markets in 2022. For more information, please visit www.GarciaHandPicked.com and @garciahandpicked.
On the day Garcia would have turned 80 years old, the story of the Grateful Dead is a story of relentless creativity and artistic expression rooted in an ethos of rebellion and individuality that defined the 1960s counterculture.
Ripple in Still Water – The Enduring Legacy of the Grateful Dead
by Vivian McPeak
1965 was a pivotal year in American society. In January, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in for a full term as U.S. President. Soon after, the United States escalated the growing conflict in Southeast Asia with an aerial bombardment campaign on North Vietnam. In late March, in Selma, Alabama, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. led 25,000 peaceful protesters on a four-day march from the capitol in Montgomery, demanding racial equality. And Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov exited his spacecraft for 12 minutes, making him the first person to walk in space.
And that’s not all that happened in the middle of a decade that would radically transform the American experience. On May 5th of that year in Menlo Park, California, young classically trained trumpeter Phil Lesh walked into Magoo’s Pizza Parlor to see a new music act called the Warlocks. The blues-based band featured a 16-year-old guitarist named Bob Weir, a 17-year-old drummer, Billy Kreutzman, and a 19-year-old frontman and keyboard player named Ron “Pigpen” McKernan. Jerry Garcia, a former banjo player a few years older than the rest, already well known locally for his musical prowess, was on guitar.
Lesh, the oldest of the bunch, was asked to play bass in the fledgling act. He had no idea that he was entering into what was to become a global phenomenon that would touch the hearts and minds of millions of people and carve out a legacy of untold proportion.
The band would be renamed the Grateful Dead by December. They would eventually sell 35 million albums worldwide and earn the distinction of being one of the highest-grossing touring bands in the world.
That year, however, the group would cut its chops in a fashion like no other, as they were designated a house band at LSD parties produced by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. Fruit-flavored Kool-Aid would be spiked with LSD-25 at these Acid Tests, as Kesey named them. The band would provide the soundtrack for attendees’ acid trips against the pulsing backdrop of psychedelic oil-on-water light shows. It is worth mentioning that LSD was legal at that time. It was already federally illegal just a few years later, when those events were immortalized in Tom Wolfe’s book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, helping to kick-start the psychedelic revolution.
By 1967 the Grateful Dead was making a name for itself on the West Coast and saw the addition of a second drummer, Mickey Hart. A lyricist named Robert Hunter was added to the mix and began crafting the verbal imagery of the band’s songs, mixing nostalgic Americana with a Western outlaw ethos. Hunter was an old friend of Garcia’s, and the two had played banjo together around the days of Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions, the Dead’s earliest musical incarnation.
The Dead’s new double drummer lineup would soon become a San Francisco hippie scene staple. The band moved into a Victorian house in the city that they resided in for three years. The Grateful Dead performed at Bay Area festivals and clubs, further honing their skills at gigs, including those produced by Chet Helms and the Family Dog along with other notable bands like Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and the Holding Company (with Janis Joplin on vocals). Called “the Dead” by fans, the act gained notoriety for its long improvisational jams; a style developed playing the Acid Tests and concerts rich in the sweet smell of patchouli and wafting cannabis smoke.
Garcia met a young Merry Prankster called Mountain Girl, who in 1965 was involved in one of the most high-profile West Coast pot busts of that time while smoking ganja with Kesey on the rooftop of a home in San Francisco. Garcia and Mountain Girl would later marry and go on to have two daughters. Called MG by her friends, Mountain Girl had a green thumb and would become a primary cannabis grower for the Dead and their intimate circle.
The Grateful Dead would become known for the intricate psychedelic lettering and art on their albums, carried over from the mind-bending posters that promoted the music of the late-1960s San Francisco music scene. Artists such as Rick Griffin and the team of Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley (Kelley Mouse Studies) created visual compliments to the Dead’s musical landscapes with evocative renderings such as the Skull and Roses graphic and the now-iconic Steal Your Face image.
When the band discovered that another act was going by the Warlocks, the band’s new name Grateful Dead was taken from Funk & Wagnalls dictionary, being the first thing Jerry Garcia saw when he opened the book. Poster and album artists endlessly riffed off that theme; the term lifted from an Egyptian prayer.
Of all the Grateful Dead logos and images, the most prolific and widely adapted is the skull-with-lightning-bolt Steal Your Face, designed in 1969 by financier Owsley Stanley when the band required something to help identify its massive touring gear on the road. Stanley, nicknamed Bear, was also a clandestine chemist. He is said to have produced millions of doses of pure LSD, fueling the psychedelic explosion on the West Coast and beyond. The dancing bear seen on so many patches and stickers within the Grateful Dead fan base is an homage to Augustus Owsley Stanley III.
Touring aggressively throughout the early 70s, the Dead produced many recordings, resulting in the Europe ‘72 live album. In early 1973, a disturbing trend began as vocalist and keyboard player Pigpen McKernan died of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage after years of alcohol abuse. Over the next few decades, the Dead would see multiple keyboardists pass away from various causes, either during or shortly after their stints playing with the band. But nothing would slow down the Dead’s ascension, and by the 1980s, their popularity continued to grow, blossoming like a budding pot plant under the bright Mendocino sun. The folky, Western flair of the Dead’s melodies started evolving as the band incorporated funkier, jazzier elements into its songwriting.
By this time, Robert Hunter’s lyrics had become musical folklore. Hunter was a master storyteller, skillfully incorporating mysterious, mystical imagery that the listener could personally interpret while evoking dark yet cosmic wisdom for the ages. And there were plenty of fans keenly analyzing every word.
As the fan base of the Grateful Dead swelled, many fans began annually embarking upon a nomadic quest to follow the band’s tour schedule. Wherever the Dead were performing, parking lots bulged as followers with and without tickets set up shop in truck beds, campers, and alongside vans and busses adorned with stickers and psychedelic paint jobs.
“Deadheads” developed a mobile underground economy as long-haired and dreadlocked entrepreneurs hawked everything from homemade hemp jewelry, tie-dyes, and freshly cooked grilled cheese sandwiches to an abundant selection of Grateful Dead-themed decals, pins, and patches. The parking lot scene was known as Shakedown Street, mirroring the song of that title and eventually creating challenges for the band’s management. Municipalities welcomed the revenue that Dead shows brought, but some bristled at the spectacle and impact of the sudden influx of “deadicated” fans into their towns.
A famous patch says, “There is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert,” a proclamation shared by many a true believer.
Jake Dimmock is a West Coast cannabis expert who attended his first show in 1973 in Norfolk, Virginia. “I related to the lyrics and the sound immediately. Going to a concert would become a spiritual experience. We would gather and commune with one another en masse. Everywhere there was a spirit of love and sharing,” says Dimmock.
Whether intended or not, the Grateful Dead attained the unspoken designation as the flag bearers of the Woodstock Nation, becoming the extemporary musical ambassadors for the 1960s counterculture. And while the band members generally shied away from making public statements on politics and domestic affairs, their fans strongly identified with the Dead’s non-conformist Bohemian origins.
“For me and for many of those I associate with, the Grateful Dead is what somewhat defined who we are and what we value. I’m certain the experiences I had with my friends, and fellow Deadheads changed each of us in some way. It helped make me into who I am and define the values I hold dear. I’ll forever proudly wear the mantle of a Deadhead,” Dimmock beams.
Keeping with the Grateful Dead’s anarchic tendencies, they became one of the only touring bands to allow the taping of their performances by fans. For years there was an allocated taping section where microphones dotted the air resulting in over 2,000 shows recorded for posterity. Tape trading continues to this day, with renditions of Dead tunes being scrutinized and rated by the legions of Grateful Dead enthusiasts all over the world.
The Grateful Dead only once played the same setlist twice in three decades of performances. Therefore, the recordings of each show are distinctive and unique, generating a near cult obsession among fans and aficionados who dissect each performance in a quest to find the best renditions of each song.
Dead concerts featured a few other signature components. From 1978 on, every Grateful Dead performance included, in the middle of the second set, a dual drum solo featuring the evocative improvisations of Bill Kreutzman and Mickey Hart, known as the Rhythm Devils. In reverence to the Dead’s psychedelic roots, “Drums,” as fans called the segment, was followed by “Space.” That portion of each Dead show was a sonic journey of improvisational sounds presumably emulating the illusory sensations of an LSD trip. When you thought the band had fallen entirely apart, they would burst into the next song totally in sync.
Another ritualistic element of each Grateful Dead concert was the band’s uncanny ability to tease the audience by manipulating the energy and intensity of the performance, slowly building upon each musical stanza until reaching an explosive crescendo. For many fans, a Grateful Dead performance was a form of church. Each show was, for them, a musical and cultural jubilee evoking a state of euphoric ecstasy evident in the unique and individual dancing styles that emerged among many of the most diehard Deadheads.
By the late 70s, the Dead’s songwriting was further shifting away from the folksy, Western-influenced songs of their earlier albums like Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty to a more syncopated, funky blend evident in 1977’s Terrapin Station album and the 1978 Shakedown Street, their 9th and 10th respective studio recordings.
Following a trip to Egypt, where the band performed at the base of the Sphinx during an eclipse of the sun, keyboardist Keith Godchaux and his wife Donna, backup vocalist for the Grateful Dead, left the band. Godchaux was eventually replaced by keyboardist, vocalist, and songwriter Brent Mydland, resulting in the group’s most enduring lineup.
That iteration of the Dead saw growth in the band’s popularity that few could have predicted. The 1980 Go to Heaven album featured three songs written by rhythm guitarist and singer Bob Weir and lyricist John Barlow and would chart slightly better than the previous two records. The material signified a return to the rock influences of earlier works. Weir is widely considered one of the best rhythm guitarists of all time.
The Grateful Dead would release two live albums in the next year, not releasing another album until 1987’s In the Dark catapulted the band into global superstardom, achieving double-platinum certification in the United States, reaching No. 6 on the Billboard 200 chart. The next album, Go to Heaven, was the Dead’s first and only record that reached the top ten. The song “Touch of Grey,” the band’s only top 40 single, rose to No. 9 on the Billboard Top 100. MTV placed the music video for “Touch of Grey” in heavy rotation, and an entirely new generation of Deadheads became enraptured with the band. The lyrics ‘we will survive we will get by’ became a creed for the band’s fans, new and old.
A grueling tour schedule followed, with the Grateful Dead performing in giant stadiums. The ironically named Built to Last (1989) was the band’s final studio recording. After making a miraculous recovery from a 1986 diabetic coma, Jerry Garcia’s health now began to decline in part due to his use of heroin. Keyboardist Brent Mydland was also using opioids. After an early summer tour in 1990, Mydland died of an accidental heroin overdose. The death of his friend reportedly was very hard on Jerry Garcia since the two had forged a close brotherly bond.
Former Tubes keyboardist Vince Welnick was added to be briefly complemented by Grammy Award-winning singer, keyboardist, and songwriter Bruce Hornsby. They were the second dual keyboard team in the band’s history (from 1968 to 1970, Tom Constantin played keys in the band along with Ron Pigpen McKernan).
The Grateful Dead toured extensively in the first half of the 1990s, bringing in $285 million in concert revenue. Only the Rolling Stones outsold the Dead in ticket revenues during this period. The traveling circus of loving fans that flocked to each Dead show, many financing the pilgrimage by capitalizing off the black-market economy that surrounded the Dead parking lot phenomenon, expanded to unprecedented proportions. More municipalities grumbled about having the Dead perform in their cities, prompting the band to issue a message to its fans to stay away if they did not have tickets.
Having been elevated to near-deity status by some in the Deadhead community, Jerry Garcia, never wanting to be a leader, struggled on and off with addiction in the band’s final years. Garcia tragically passed away of a heart attack while receiving care in a drug treatment center in Forest Knolls, California. Garcia remains one of the most revered and influential guitarists in the world.
By most accounts, Jerry Garcia was a gentle, gifted person who was highly intelligent and had a keen sense of humor. His loss so early was mourned by fans everywhere.
One of the most famous music groups of all time, the Grateful Dead, altered the landscape of American music. It embodied the avant-garde aesthetic and creative exploration of the post-beatnik alternative culture. Few other musical acts in history have captured the hearts and minds of their fan base, like the Grateful Dead. In addition to the band being the catalyst for a slew of ‘90s era jam bands, the Grateful Dead songbook influenced numerous artists to cover an array of tunes. The remaining members have continued to record and perform, some with side projects and together off and on.
And the enduring legacy of the Dead lives on.
While this article was being written, a vintage 1967 Grateful Dead T-shirt designed by graphic artist and member of the Hell’s Angels, Allan “Gut” Turk, was auctioned at the famous Sotheby’s and sold for a record-breaking $17,640. Sotheby’s is one of the world’s largest brokers of collectibles, art, and jewelry. The yellow Dead shirt was an auction piece in “From the Vault: Property of the Grateful Dead and Friends,” featuring items from the band’s inner circle and Grateful Dead Productions, the band’s official corporation.
The long strange trip of the Grateful Dead cannot be summed up in a few pages, but it is clear they were a group unlike any other. While not everyone is a fan of the Dead’s music and legacy, for those of us “on the bus,” as it is said, our appreciation of the band connects us to a worldwide brotherhood and sisterhood of hardcore fans grateful for the experiences that the group bestowed upon us. That legacy lives on in the performances of the surviving members and the hearts and minds of Deadheads everywhere.
Yossarian Kelley, son of the celebrated psychedelic poster and album cover artist Alton Kelley, is a Pacific Northwest ganjapreneur who grew up in the extended Dead family. His recollections do a great job of summing up the Grateful Dead experience:
“I do remember going to the GD office in the early 70s with my dad. He’d bring sketches and show them to the band. They’d hang out and smoke joints for a while. It wasn’t until the 1982 Veneta Field Trip where I really “got it.” I was living in Washington with my mom, and an older kid who was maybe 17 or 18 brought me down to Oregon. Ken Kesey and the Pranksters were in full effect. There were psychedelic parades with naked people dancing. People were putting buds and mushrooms in the vendor’s tip jars. Eventually, the band came on, and I found myself becoming the rhythm, blending with the melody. Losing the separate self and getting lost amongst the swirling cascade of music and people.”
The moral of the Grateful Dead story is plain and simple: If you get confused, just listen to the music play.