Jerry Garcia looked around the Grateful Dead’s rehearsal studio in San Rafael, California, and smiled. “It’s good to not die,” said Garcia, who suffered a nearly fatal diabetic coma in July of ’86. The legendary guitarist whose mercurial improvisations are the life’s blood of the Grateful Dead’s music has made a miraculous recovery from an illness that at first left him incapable of walking, speaking clearly or playing.
What a difference a year makes. In February 1969, the Grateful Dead recorded a series of shows at San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom and Fillmore West in the hope of finally capturing on tape the psychedelic alchemy of their already legendary onstage interplay. The double album Live Dead, released in November that year, showcased the Dead at their adventurous and exploratory acid-peak best and cemented their reputation as the premier jamming band of the era.
Jerry Garcia is best known as the lead guitar player and primary singer/songwriter of the Grateful Dead. Though they are regarded as pioneers of the “jam band” genre that rose to prominence in the late Sixties, the Grateful Dead, unlike many of their counterculture contemporaries, never faltered with the changing times.
This weekend, the Grateful Dead will reunite for what is being billed as their final concerts. From July 3 through 5, guitarists Bob Weir, bassist Phil Lesh, and drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart will reunite, along with Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, for three shows at Chicago’s Soldier Field, the site of the band’s last concert with legendary Dead cofounder Jerry Garcia on July 9, 1995.
On December 6 and 7, Julien’s Auctions will host a two-day auction, Icons & Idols: Rock n’ Roll. Its highlight will be Jerry Garcia’s Custom Travis Bean TB500 Electric Guitar. Many will argue this guitar was played during the pinnacle of Garcia’s most musically creative period with the Grateful Dead. Garcia’s tone enchanted multitudes of “Deadheads” throughout the band’s 30-year career and beyond.
Fantasy Records will release a four-disc version of Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders' Keystone Companions/The Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings. The album, which was recorded live in July 1973 at the Keystone Club in Berkeley, California, will be released September 25, part of the celebrations surrounding the late Garcia's 70th birthday (August 1).