Jerome John Garcia has been continually referred to as the backbone of the Grateful Dead. Born to a nurse named Ruth and a swing musician named Jose in August 1942, Garcia was named after Jerome Kern, the Tin Pan Alley composer.
At four years old, Garcia lost his middle finger from his right hand when his older brother chopped it off with an axe while the boys were splitting wood. A year later, Garcia watched as his father drowned in a fishing accident. Garcia was then raised by his grandparents while his mother worked.
In 1957 Garcia received his first guitar for his fifteenth birthday, just as rock and roll was gaining popularity. That same year, Garcia was introduced to marijuana. Garcia began taking classes for painting at a nearby college while he played guitar in his free time. Garcia played a little country, jazz, folk and blues.
Garcia dropped out of high school in 1960 and enlisted in the Army. Garcia was still spending his hours at his leisure, picking up the acoustic guitar at this time. Garcia was discharged from the Army after accruing 2 court marshals and 8 AWOLs, so he headed back home and began to get into hootenennies around Stanford. For a while, Garcia and a poet named Robert Hunter teamed up to create some music. Later, Hunter would become the main lyricist for the Grateful Dead.
Garcia spent time in Dana Morgan's Music store and bought a banjo from a teenage employee named Bill Kreutzmann. It wasn't long before Garcia was employed at the store and performing in a number of bluegrass and Pig Pen bands. Meanwhile, classes were being skipped for the sake of music and a few kids were spending all of their time at Dana Morgan's. Out of this group, Bob Weir, Bob Matthews, Marshall Leicster, Tom Stonedeemed themselves Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, a bluegrass-insanity band. With constant urging from Pig Pen, Mother McCree's kept progressing towards going electric, beginning with the formation of the Warlocks, and then the Grateful Dead.
In the mid sixties, the Dead became an integral part of the multi-media extravaganzas, the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests. Garcia met Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Adams at an acid test and the two were a couple for a number of years. The whole lot of them, the Grateful Dead moved to 710 Ashbury where they were fully enveloped in the scene and their music really evolved into what it is today.
The rock and roll industry has seen its share of bands and singers. What is remarkable about the Grateful Dead is that the band has been performing since the 1960s and its following endured for several decades. At the head of this long-lived group was singer and guitarist, Jerry Garcia (1942-1995).