Tech firm StraxArt has spent the last year immersed in the artwork and mythology of the Jerry Garcia. In conjunction with those closest to Jerry—including his daughter, Trixie Garcia and his longtime friend and collaborator David “Dawg” Grisman—the company has been sifting through the extensive, unseen portfolio of visual art that Jerry left behind and digitizing it for the masses via their online Jerry Garcia Collection. In the process, the StraxArt team has unearthed fond recollections and untold memories that add a new color to the late legend’s towering legacy.

New Jerry Garcia Stories Uncovered Through Digitized Art Collection

“It’s remarkable how Jerry’s art seems to open a door to the past and brings it into the present for those close to him,” explains StraxArt Co-Founder Eric Singleton. “When discussing or looking at a work with a family member or friend like Trixie or David Grisman, we are often rewarded with the story about why he painted a particular piece, where he painted it, what his inspiration was. In that moment, you feel like he’s all around you, and it’s magical.”

One such discovery came when the StraxArt team caught up with Grisman at a recent show in Washington, D.C. There, Grisman signed a special run of ten prints of a portrait Jerry had created of him and David performing as a duo—an image many know as the cover art for the pair’s 1993 children’s album, Not For Kids Only. Says Singleton of the conversation, “In October of this year, the StraxArt team found itself backstage at the Hamilton Theatre in D.C. with David Grisman and his band. We were able to hang with David and get the interview of a lifetime. Once again, we were blown away and speechless”

In the first of three portions of StraxArt’s David Grisman conversation, he speaks about the now-beloved album of children’s songs, going into detail about the project’s origins. David reflects on the process of getting a reluctant Garcia to go along with his idea for the children’s album concept and the last-minute burst of inspiration that moved Jerry to create the album’s cover art—a pen-and-watercolor portrait of himself and Grisman—which remains one of the most popular pieces (if not the most popular piece) in the Jerry Garcia Collection.

Hear the story behind David Grisman/Jerry Garcia’s children’s album and its Garcia-designed cover art straight from David’s mouth below, courtesy of StraxArt (Interview conducted by Eric Singleton; Video Production by Ryan Thomas, Lee West):

“I had this idea, you know? Make a kids’ album,” David explains in the interview, “Nobody in my company thought it was very viable…And Jerry didn’t wanna do it—I pitched it to him, and he went, ‘Ehh, I hate kids music’ [laughs].” He continues, “So [Jerry] would just call up out of the blue and come over every once in a while. One day, it was raining really hard, and Jerry called up and said he was coming over. I said to our friend who was hanging out there at the time, Bernard Glansbeek, ‘Hey, can you find a book of kids’ tunes?’ He came back with this book, 2000 Children’s Songs. So Jerry showed up, and it was just gonna be the two of us, and I gave him the book and said, ‘Why don’t we just try a couple?’ He starts looking through and sees ‘Freight Train’, says ‘That’s a good song.’ Boom. We did ‘Freight Train’—two takes, sounded good. That’s the thing about kids’ songs: they’re simple.”

You can listen to Not For Kids Only below via Spotify:

They kept flipping through the big book of kids tunes that day, playing and recording a handful of songs Jerry knew and liked as they came across them. The two continued that process over time. As David explains, “He’d go out of town and I’d edit them, work on them, overdub stuff. He kind of put me in charge of production.” While Grisman handled much of the legwork of preparing the album, he knew that Jerry was a talented artist and asked him to design the cover.

As he explains, “I asked Jerry if he’d do the cover, you know, and he said ‘yeah, cool’—but of course, it just wasn’t happening. Finally, the record was done, he was over, and I said ‘Jerry, we need this cover.’ So he goes out to his car and he brings this pad and pens and paints. He did that thing in about ten minutes. He just sketched this thing out of his head. And I think he really nailed himself—I look a little funny, but, you know…[laughs]. And then he just dabbed some watercolor on it and there it was. I don’t think the whole thing took more than twenty minutes…he just did it right on the spot.”

“I wish Jerry would’ve made it longer, you know?” Grisman recalls wistfully, “Because he said to me ‘We’ll do this the rest of our lives.’ And he, of course, did…[His death in 1995] was a shock, but I’m glad we got a chance to get back together. He was a very special guy.”

The video about the Not For Kids Only artwork marks the first installation in a three-part series from Grisman’s fascinating conversation with StraxArt at The Hamilton. The second and third parts will be released soon, and will touch on the work he did with Garcia during the years between Old And In The Way and the pair’s first duo release, as well as The Pizza Tapes, the acoustic album released years after Jerry’s death that the pair (and Tony Rice) recorded at Grisman’s studio over two evenings in 1993.

You can purchase one of the 10 David Grisman-signed prints of Jerry Garcia’s portrait for the cover of Not For Kids Only via the Jerry Garcia Collection.