San Francisco Giants pitcher Jake Peavy has an impressive list of accolades to his name. Any pitcher would be envious of his triple-crown season and Cy Young Award; any athlete envious of his two World Series rings. Grateful Dead fans, however, may be more envious of his connection to the band, its community, and a special guitar named Tiger.
Before any of that, however, is the story of a man and his love of music. “I think anyone who listens to music a lot gets exposed to the Grateful Dead at some point,” he says, but pinpoints his fandom to his 2014 arrival with the San Francisco Giants. It’s a tale that is all-too-familiar for many of us, getting swept away in the Grateful Dead music and never looking back.
“What really did it for me was going to Santa Clara [for Fare Thee Well],” says Peavy. “That whole experience was unlike anything else. I was coming off a serious back injury, and the healing power of that music really saved me.” Peavy also admits that, after attending the Saturday night show at Levi’s Stadium, he had to go back and see the Sunday night performance as well. There was one problem, however; the team was scheduled to fly out to Washington, DC that night. Peavy cleverly told manager Bruce Bochy that he needed to stay behind, in order to be with family. “I still don’t think it was really a lie,” he says with a laugh. He’s right, The Grateful Dead is family.
Peavy has recently gotten some press in the Grateful Dead world for his connection to the famed Tiger guitar. Played by Jerry Garcia exclusively from 1979-1989, Tiger was also on hand at the last-ever Grateful Dead concert on July 9, 1995. The guitar is now in the possession of Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, who bought it at auction in 2002. With Fare Thee Well and Dead & Company revitalizing the Grateful Dead scene for a new generation, Peavy was instrumental in convincing Irsay to get the guitar into the hands of the faithful.
“As Bobby said, ‘It’s what Jerry would have wanted,’” though the task has been easier said than done. Jim Irsay actually offered the guitar to Trey Anastasio to use during Fare Thee Well, but Anastasio replied that he had a specific rig setup and respectfully declined the invitation. It seems that the musicians who are filling that lead guitarist role don’t want to disrespect the instrument and the Deadhead loyalists.
Still, that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed behind the scenes. One day after presenting it to the Dead & Company members before their show at The Fillmore, Peavy’s bandmate, Ben Jernigan and the guitar’s caretaker took Tiger over to Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, CA. There, Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh was performing a tribute to the year 1987 in Dead history as part of an ongoing series. As fate would have it, 1987 was one of the years that Tiger was in action.
“It was Phil Lesh’s first time seeing the guitar in twenty years. It was amazing getting to reconnect the two,” said Ben Jernigan, bandmate of Peavy. Unfortunately, Jake Peavy himself was pitching the next night and couldn’t make it to Terrapin Crossroads, but he more than made up for it the following day. After a solid outing against the San Diego Padres last Wednesday, May 25th, the pitcher got some all-star friends together for a jam session with Tiger in tow. Musicians like Stu Allen, Grahame Lesh, Col. Bruce Hampton, Tim Flannery, Dan Lebowitz, Doug Pettibone and more on board for the festivities.
“Stu has his rig set up in the exact same way as Jerry’s, and the tone was just incredible. When he plugged Tiger in and started playing ‘Stella Blue,’ the emotion in the room was indescribable.” The jam session also reunited Tiger with Steve Parrish, a guitar tech who spent years working with Garcia. “The guitar is in mostly the same condition as it was when Jerry last played it, so it was heartwarming to see Steve reconnect with his old instrument.”
While Tiger most likely won’t make it out on the road with Dead & Company, it’s nice that Garcia’s classic instrument made it to the hands of his musical disciples. The guitar will, however, return to the San Francisco area for a planned benefit concert for the Jake Peavy Foundation and the Rex Foundation – a longtime Grateful Dead affiliated charity – on August 17th at The Fillmore. “We’re still in the planning stages for the event, but it’s looking like a number of great artists are going to come out and show their support.” Not only that, but Tiger will make it to the San Francisco Giants stadium, AT&T Park, for a Jerry Garcia Tribute Day on August 18th.
There’s a lot of love between the Giants and the Grateful Dead, as both are cornerstones of the San Francisco area. Tim Flannery, a respected musician and third base coach for the team, has hosted Bob Weir and Phil Lesh to sing the National Anthem in recent years. The team also celebrated the Dead’s 50th anniversary with a tribute night last year, and the Jerry Day will keep that spirit alive. With all of those ties, it’s no wonder that Jake Peavy became such a Deadhead.
Peavy’s ties to music date back to his upbringing in Mobile, AL, and he’s since started up an impressive guitar collection of his own. Among those of note are a ’55 Telecaster Sunburst with the lowest serial number known, a ’62 Stratocaster that survived a house fire, a ’54 Stratocaster that belonged to Eric Johnson, and a ’69 Goldtop Les Paul – the first year that the guitar maker used the mini-Humbucker pickup. All instruments can be viewed at dsscollection.com
Peavy is a renowned musician in his own right, as he leads a group called the OUTSIDERS. Made up of some great local artists, the group got their start when Flannery asked Peavy to open for him at a benefit concert. “When Tim asked me to play, it was too good to be true. I couldn’t pass up a chance to get up on stage and play guitar for 900 people, so I got some friends together and figured out some covers we all knew. Some Grateful Dead, The Band… it was a really fun night.” Since then, Peavy put together something of an all-star lineup for a benefit back in January, with Jackie Greene, Jennifer Hartswick, Duane Trucks, Chris Spies, Kevin Scott and more. “The fact that these performances have all had a philanthropic theme makes the music even more special.”
In addition to everything, Peavy recently opened a new recording studio in Mobile called Dauphin Street Sound, with the intention of bringing some more music to the Alabama city. “We were actually just looking to buy an office space, but the room we were looking at happened to have a recording studio in the back. Since then we’ve been trying to get it perfect, with special equipment designed specifically for the room.” The studio is something of a passion project, with Peavy looking to expand and eventually create a music district in the area. “Mobile has always had a rich history in music, and we just want to help it grow.”
Between building up the Mobile music scene, playing with his own band, being an ambassador for one of Jerry Garcia’s prized guitars, championing the Grateful Dead community from within the San Francisco Giants organization, and pitching at the Major League level, it seems like there’s nothing Jake Peavy can’t do. Deadheads everywhere should certainly be thankful that Peavy has found his way onto the bus to never-ever land.
[Big thank yous to Jake Peavy, Ben Jerrigan, Thomas Fowlkes, and Jay Blakesberg for the photos]