Grateful Dead co-founder Jerry Garcia would have celebrated his 81st birthday today. From his humble beginnings as a banjo picker in the Palo Alto bluegrass/folk scene with Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions (with future GD band members Bob Weir and Ron “Pigpen” McKernan) and the Black Mountain Boys (which included lifelong writing partner Robert Hunter) to later spearheading The Warlocks and ultimately the Dead, Jerry provided the world with some of the most profound and vibrant musical zeniths ever achieved by an American artist.
Garcia’s music still captivates and awes listeners almost 25 years after his untimely death thanks to his indisputable musicianship and undeniable charisma. Jerry “Captain Trips” Garcia was truly a salt-of-the-earth and one-of-a-kind individual, although he never sought the fame that so often found him while playing in one of the most enduring rock bands in American history. The music he wrote alongside Hunter and performed with the Dead and the Jerry Garcia Band continues to transcend time and will forever remain a testament as to what can happen when you embrace the light in the strangest of places.
In celebratory fashion, we offer a helping of some of Jerry Garcia’s birthday shows as played on August 1st over the years from three different eras of the band.
August 1st, 1973 – Roosevelt Stadium – Jersey City, NJ
The Grateful Dead shared the bill with The Band on this night, and the Dead were still recovering from their spectacular soundcheck performance and historic set at Watkins Glen Grand Prix Raceway just a few days before as a part of the Watkins Glen Summer Jam, which also featured the aforementioned The Band as well as the Allman Brothers Band. Celebrating Jerry’s 31st birthday on this occasion, the band blazed through an unforgettable “Dark Star >El Paso > Eyes Of The World” passage that is still talked about today. Take a listen.
August 1st, 1982 – The Zoo Ampitheatre – Oklahoma City, OK
As the story goes, the Dead were partying pretty hard the night before in celebration of Jerry’s 40th birthday the next day and appeared a little sluggish at times during their performance. Hitting on some classic tunes in the first set like “Jack Straw,” “Tennessee Jed,” and a “China Cat Sunflower” > “I Know You Rider” segue, the band got down and dirty for the second set, with an astoundingly fluid performance, taking no breaks until the final notes had wrung out on Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” Of particular note is the “Iko Iko” sandwiched in between the second set’s opener, “Playing In The Band.”
August 1st, 1994 – The Palace – Auburn Hills, MI
Though many Deadheads would like to forget the band’s later years, there are still some excellent pieces of music to be found in them. Jerry was in rare form this night at The Palace on his 52nd birthday, dialing up a couple of his favorite tunes like “Stagger Lee” and “Stella Blue.” The second set highlights include a healthy “Scarlet Begonias” > “Fire On The Mountain”, as well as the final time the Dead would ever cover The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.” Listen to the audio as well as some video from the show below.
Grateful Dead – “Stella Blue” – 8/1/94
Happy birthday, Jerry! Our love will not fade away!
[Originally published 8/1/15]