Dark Star : An Oral Biography of Jerry Garcia

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2009-09-24
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications
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or more than thirty years, Jerry Garcia was the musical and spiritual center of the Grateful Dead, one of the most popular rock bands of all time. In Dark Star, the first biography of Garcia published after his death, Garcia is remembered by those who knew him best. Together the voices in this oral biography explore his remarkable life: his childhood in San Francisco; the formation of his musical identity; the Dead's road to rock stardom; and his final, crushing addiction to heroin. Interviews with Jerry's former wives, lovers, family members, close friends, musical partners, and cultural cohorts create a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a rock-and-roll icon-and at the price of fame.


Dark Star
An Oral Biography of Jerry Garcia

Chapter One

Clifford "Tiff" Garcia: Our mom was a registered nurse. She wasn't a practicing nurse. Maybe she practiced for one year and then she got married. In the thirties, she was a housewife. Her family was working-class Irish. Her mother, Tillie Clifford, organized the laundry workers union. She was elected secretary-treasurer and she kept the post for like twenty-five years. I was named after her. Which I guess was traditional. It might have been at my father's insistence. I don't know. My father used to play in speakeasies. He also had big bands that used to play out in the park and various places. A big orchestra. Twenty-piece, at least. I've seen pictures of them in their formal stuff. He had these pictures taken for promotion and in one of them, he was all spruced up. Really looking sharp. Tux, tie, everything. He had kind of fair skin and he worked under his own name. Jose Garcia. Or Joe Garcia. Depending on the particular gathering he was with.

When they got married, he went into the bar business because he got blackballed from the union and his band had a breakup. It was a job he had to take to survive. Back then, you had to take any damn thing. You couldn't be really picky. So he got into the bar business with a partner. He took a day job because he couldn't make money being a musician. He was lucky to even have a job back then. This was right after the Depression. Things were pretty slim. Usually, he was at home at night because he worked in the daytime. He was perfect for the bar scene. Maybe a little bit too suave. Shirt open. Sleeves rolled up. Apron. It was his place but he served.

The first of his bars was located on First Street and Harrison in San Francisco right where the Sailors Union of the Pacific is now. It's an industrial neighborhood about two blocks from the waterfront with a lot of seamen. In fact, a seamen's hotel was on top of the corner businesses. There was a bar one corner, a Curtis Baby Ruth candy factory on the other corner, and right behind that was Union Oil. Running bars, my mom went from one corner to the next. She was on three or four corners.

Two blocks away was the poorest area in town. Third and Howard. Down there was really scumbag city. Skid row, totally. Jerry and I used to go down there. We'd take the bus from my grandmother's house or the streetcar down to First Street and then all the way to Mission from the Excelsior District where we lived. Then we'd wait for the bus at First where the terminal is and then ride it up. We could see the transients and sailors. A lot of drunken sailors and it was rowdy. That was the worst part of town we could go to. We were street kids but in our neighborhood. We knew when we got in another neighborhood, we didn't know who anybody was. We were living on the other side of town in the Excelsior or the Crocker-Amazon District. My grandmother lived three blocks away. Within a five-mile radius lived all the family members that I was aware of. All in different neighborhoods but we'd see each other weekly.

The Cliffords and the Garcias bought a summer house in Santa Cruz. In Lompico near Felton. In the wintertime, you could never get out of there. In the summertime, they had a nice dam, a lodge, a bar, and a little grocery store. Sometimes we'd go there all summer. We'd ride down there with my grandfather and my grandmother would stop at the store and load up on groceries and we'd go into the canyon. The first stuff they brought down there was tools. Between the half-dozen adults down there at the time, my father and my uncle and my grandfather Clifford put all the kids to work, raking leaves or unloading the car so they could fix up this cabin. The different family members would go down there and have a picnic and they started gradually staying longer because the place was fixed up. But there was no electricity or nothing.

A year before my father died, I chopped off Jerry's finger. That was where it happened. I'm not sure how long we'd had the place by then but we'd been there for a while. Long enough to put what I thought was my name across the driveway. Clifford Garcia. Actually, we'd been given a chore to do but we were fucking around. Jerry had the ax for a while, too. I wasn't the only one that had the ax. We both had axes. He would hold the wood and I'd chop it and we were chopping these branches. My dad was constantly cutting parts of this redwood tree down and Jerry just kept fucking around. He was putting his finger there and pulling it away.

He was fucking around and I was just constantly chopping. I was going to tease him. But I would stop the hatchet before getting to the wood. He'd put the wood there and I'd go "SWEEEEE" and stop. And he'd pull it away thinking it was chopped. I'd say, "Hey, I forgot to chop," and I'd pick it up again and I'd do that. We were playing little games like that and then I nailed him. He screamed. I screamed. We both screamed. It was an accident. I didn't do it maliciously. I was a kid. I was eight and Jerry was four. We were little guys.

They took him to the hospital in Santa Cruz. Back then it could have taken two hours. I remember I was in the car. It was traumatizing. Jerry was home that night but they couldn't get him to the right surgeon to save the finger. They could have saved it. I didn't cut it off. It was just a wound.

Dark Star
An Oral Biography of Jerry Garcia
. Copyright © by Robert Greenfield. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Dark Star: An Oral Biography of Jerry Garcia by Robert Greenfield
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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