Jerry Garcia Bio: He was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. He was best known for his work as the lead guitarist and as a vocalist with the band the “Grateful Dead“, which came to prominence during the counterculture era in the 1960s.
Jerry Garcia Biography
Jerry Garcia was born on 1 August 1942 in San Francisco, California.
He ancestors on his father’s side were from Galicia in northwest Spain. His mother’s ancestors were Irish and Swedish.
He was born in the Excelsior District of San Francisco, California, on August 1, 1942, to Jose Ramon “Joe” Garcia and Ruth Marie “Bobbie” (née Clifford) Garcia, who was herself born in San Francisco.
His parents named him after composer Jerome Kern. Jerome John was their second child, preceded by Clifford Ramon “Tiff”, who was born in 1937.
Shortly before Clifford’s birth, their father and a partner leased a building in downtown San Francisco and turned it into a bar, partly in response to Jose being blackballed from a musicians’ union for moonlighting.
Garcia was influenced by music at an early age, taking piano lessons for much of his childhood.
His father was a retired professional musician and his mother enjoyed playing the piano.
His father’s extended family—who had emigrated from Spain in 1919—would often sing during reunions.
At age 4, while the family was vacationing in the Santa Cruz Mountains, two-thirds of Garcia’s right middle finger was accidentally cut off.
Garcia and his brother Tiff were chopping wood. Jerry steadied a piece of wood with his finger, but Tiff miscalculated and the ax severed most of Jerry’s middle finger.
After his mother wrapped his hand in a towel, Garcia’s father drove him over 30 miles to the nearest hospital.
A few weeks later, Garcia — who had not looked at his finger since the accident — was surprised to discover most of it missing when the bandage he was wearing came off during a bath.
Garcia later confided that he often used it to his advantage in his youth, showing it off to other children in his neighborhood.
Less than a year after this incident, his father died. Vacationing with his family near Arcata in Northern California in 1947, Garcia’s father went fly fishing in the Trinity River, part of the Six Rivers National Forest.
Not long after entering the river, Garcia’s father slipped on a rock, lost his balance and was swept away by the river’s rapids.
He drowned before other fishermen could reach him. Although Garcia claimed he saw his father fall into the river, Dennis McNally, author of the book A Long Strange Trip: The Inside Story of the Grateful Dead, argues Garcia formed the memory after hearing others repeat the story.
Blair Jackson, who wrote Garcia: An American Life, lends weight to McNally’s claim. Jackson’s evidence was that a local newspaper article describing Jose’s death failed to mention Jerry being present when he died.
Jerry Garcia Wife, Children, Personal Life
Garcia met his first wife, Sara Ruppenthal Garcia, in 1963. She was working at the coffee house in the back of Kepler’s Books.
They married on April 23, 1963, and on December 8 of that year, their daughter Heather was born.
Carolyn Adams, a Merry Prankster was also known as “Mountain Girl” or “M.G.,” had a daughter, Sunshine, with Ken Kesey. Mountain Girl married another Prankster, George Walker, but they soon separated.
Jerry Garcia Birthday
To celebrate what would have been Jerry Garcia’s 77th birthday, we’re looking back on one of the guitarist’s most infamous stories from the mid-late-60s.
In the clip below, Garcia, with a permanent smile on his face, recalls hanging around San Francisco’s Fillmore before a Grateful Dead gig.
This guy who was sort of a famous freak who ran around the scene in those days comes in and he’s got this big birthday cake… and I’m looking at it thinking, ‘This thing has got to be dosed.’
However, the cake looked to decadent, and sure enough, Garcia took a taste of the icing. Then, somebody came in and says, ‘Yeah, we put about 800 hits of acid in that frosting,’ he laughs.
Sure enough, a certain psychedelic roar and paranoia came over Garcia, and before he hit the stage, he was convinced the crowd was filled with murderous mafiosos. However, he decided that if he performed well enough the imaginary foes would spare his life.
Ever since then… When I forget what I’m doing or why I’m doing it, he says in hindsight. I play for my life.
Happy Birthday, Jerry.
Death & Cause
On August 9, 1995, eight days after his 53rd birthday, Garcia was found dead in his room at the rehabilitation clinic. The cause of death was a heart attack.