The Music Never Stopped in the Year since Jerry Garcia's Death, Deadheads Still Find Reason to Be Grateful
Green, Tony, The Florida Times Union
A year after the death of Jerry Garcia, Scott Sisson still
remembers his particular period of mourning.
"It was hard, for the longest time, to get through a set
without breaking up," said the drummer, who plays with the Dead
tribute band Glass Camels.
To the hard-core Deadhead, Aug. 9, 1995 -- the day the
charismatic Grateful Dead frontman died of a heart attack -- was
the next worst thing to a natural disaster.
"It's hard for someone who is not a Deadhead to understand,"
said Steve Silberman, co-author of the book Skeleton Key: A
Dictionary for Deadheads . "But for longtime fans [he's been
following the band for 23 years] the whole scene was like a
small town. And when Jerry died it was like our town was blown
away by a tornado. So the mourning that went on was not just for
Jerry, but for the community at large."
But a year after that tornado hit, the town rebuilt itself
pretty well. San Marco resident Kevin Ray still gets together
with friends to listen to music and swap Dead stories.
Functions like last Friday's acoustic tribute at Barnes & Noble
Bookstore in Mandarin draw relaxed, coffee-house friendly
crowds. The local newsletter Unusual Occurrences is still going
strong, as is the show it helps promote, WJCT-TV 7's
four-year-old Grateful Dead Hour broadcast Friday nights from 11
p.m. till midnight.
The China Cat Sunflower Fest will bring music and activities to
the Jacksonville Museum of Contemporary Art starting at 11 a.m.
tomorrow. Life after Jerry may not be the same, but it's pretty
"It's like the Dead used to do in concert," said Sisson. "If
something new comes up, you adjust. Stuff happens. It's up to
you to just take what life gives you and and jam with it."
`Flowers, calliopes and clowns'
The popular image of Grateful Dead fans comes straight out the
counterculture comics of R. Crumb: Libertine hippies. Airheaded
flower children. Drugged-out Nixon-era relics. Jacksonville
Beach-based podiatrist Turner Houston objects to it.
"Most people see Deadheads as hippies; running around barefoot
with long, wild hair," said Houston, who edits and writes for
Unusual Occurrences. "To tell you the truth, I don't know
anybody like that. Most of the people I know that are into the
Dead are like me. Doctors, lawyers, accountants."
People with lives, in other words. Which explains, why except
for the hardest of the hard-core, or those who drew their
livelihood from the Dead shows, there isn't an overwhelming
sense of "What am I going to do with my life?" angst that many
expected to see in the wake of Garcia's death.
Miami Lawyer and writer Fred Sall, who, along with his producer
brother Ralph, put together Arista's 1991 Deadicated tribute
album, has a simple explanation.
"The kids have grown up."
`I don't know, maybe it was the roses'
You miss someone less if he leaves something to remember him by.
In many ways, Jerry Garcia and the Dead have never really left.
The other members of the band have kept active -- Mickey Hart
with his group Mystery Box and Bob Weir with Ratdog, both
headlining this year's Furthur tour. Relix, the bimonthly Dead
magazine, has increased its circulation from 50,000 to more than
But more significantly, the Grateful Dead's mainstream media
profile has increased drastically since Garcia's death.
Electronic and print media have pored over every detail of
Garcia's life -- from his heroin abuse ( Rolling Stone ) to the
contents of his will ( The New York Times ). …