Get To Know Jerry Garcia If You Didn’t Already

William Panzer’s latest music blog post.


For those of you too young or musically unaware, one of the greatest bands in American musical history is the one and only Grateful Dead. The Grateful Dead’s lead guitarist was Jerry Garcia who was also the band’s primary singer and songwriter. Garcia played with the band for the entire thirty years they played together. Besides playing with the Grateful Dead, Garcia also was a member of side projects like the Saunders-Garcia Band, Jerry Garcia Band, Old in the Way, Legion of Mary and the New Riders of the Purple Sage. Besides playing with these side projects and with the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia also was a solo artist who well known for his guitar playing skills.


William Panzer discusses Jerry Garcia’s background and the Grateful Dead origins.

Garcia was born in San Francisco in 1942. Between his mother being a piano player and his father being a retired musician, as a child, Garcia was immersed in music and quickly became passionate about it. Jerry Garcia attended Menlo Oaks school in Menlo Park in which his brother first introduced him to rock and roll. Jerry began listening to artists like Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Hank Ballard and Chuck Berry. After high school, Jerry joined the United States Army, and he received training at Fort Ord. In the early 1960s, Jerry drove to East Palo Alto to visit an old friend from middle school in a car he bought from a friend in the army. In Palo Alto, Garcia slept on his friends’ sofas. It was around this time that Garcia met Robert Hunter and Phil Lesh.  Phil Lesh would eventually became the bassist for the Grateful Dead. The two recorded songs on Lesh’s tape recorder.

Once, Garcia began teaching banjo and acoustic guitar, he met Bob Weir on New Year’s Eve of 1963. In the early 1960s, Garcia was singing mainly folk music, and it wasn’t until 1965 that the Grateful Dead band was fully formed. Throughout the course of the band’s time together, Garcia was a main songwriter and vocalist. Garcia was also known for his talent for guitar improvisation. Between 1965 and 1985, the band performed and toured together constantly with minimal breaks. When Garcia wasn’t playing with the band, he continued performing solo as the Jerry Garcia Band as well as other side projects.

from William Panzer Music


About williampanzer

William Panzer is a lawyer practicing in the Oakland, CA area supporting medical marijuana initiatives.
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