He’s a Man Way Beyond Description: The World and I Miss You, Jerry!

I started listening to this guy and his band in 1970. They were doing stuff that was magic to my ears, and it still is.  I never tire of it and if it is some show that I have never heard, I love finding it and hearing it.  “They’re a band beyond description,” the non-fan would need clarification.  The band is and was The Grateful Dead and the line in quotes is from their song “The Music Never Stopped.”  And it hasn’t!  They were one of the first bands to allow taping of their show and had a special section behind the sound board for tapers.  I myself have about 28,000 hours of their music.  I guess you could say I am a Dead Head.  The driving force behind them and their leader was Jerry Garcia.  Most everyone has heard of Jerry.  For reasons both good and/or bad.  He contributed to mankind in so many ways with his talents.  He had his issues with drugs, but kept doing his art, visual and musical regardless of the problems he had.

Jerry Garcia was and is still one of my heroes! August 1st is his birthday, he would have been older than last year.   I was very lucky to have seen him numerous times, with The Grateful Dead and in other bands including his own Jerry Garcia Band.  He could do no wrong as far as I am and was concerned.  When he passed away I, like many, was devastated and we still miss him to this day.

I was very lucky! In 1980, I was doing some roadieing for major acts on the east coast.  Jerry was playing in Asbury Park, at Convention Hall.  I had tickets with some friends but I got the call to work the show.  Being a roadie is hard work, but I jumped at the chance.  Jerry only had one truck of equipment, unlike Santana who had 5 tractor trailers full.  We set up the stage for The Jerry Garcia Band fairly quickly and easily.  I was just out of college and my boss asked me to work with this guy Steve, I turned around and I looked at Steve.  This was Steve Parrish, Grateful Dead head roadie and good friend of Jerry’s.  I said “Hey Steve, how’s it goin’?” – he gruffly told me to “sit on the edge of the stage.”  Which, I did.  He then wheeled over this case that had 3 locks on it, 2 key locks and 1 combination lock.  He unlocked all of them and opened it up and there suspended on a guitar stand/pedestal was Tiger, Jerry’s Doug Irwin custom made guitar.  Steve said, “go like this” and he demonstrated me putting his hands face up on either side of legs.  So I did what he told me.  He then took Tiger and put her on my hands and lap.  He said, “don’t drop it!”  And I said, “No Shit.”  I held this beautiful guitar which Jerry had made sing so many times, while Steve changed the strings.  Unreal, and it was such a magicical gift for this fan/Dead Head.  It was so very beautiful and I will always cherish that memory!

Later that night, I had another amazing gift. There were 2 shows, an early and late show.  It was getting to the end of the first show and I wanted to go stand on the side of the stage and watch Jerry.  There was this sound trap between back stage and the stage.  It was a small room (maybe 5 feet by 10 feet) with doors on either end.  I walked into the sound trap and the door behind me closed, at the same time the music stopped.  I paused for a few seconds and no music, what’s going on?  Then the door on the other side of the sound trap opens and in walks my hero Jerry Garcia.  I was standing there face to face in this small room with Jerry.  Just Jerry Garcia, and me, Hal Janssen.  In my mind, I said, Holy Shit, it’s Jerry!  Then my mind, said this is a gift, you will never have this opportunity again.  I knew what I always wanted to say to Jerry, but I never knew I would have this chance.  I looked him right in the eye and said “Jerry, I just want to let you know, that I really enjoy what you do.”  Not bad getting that out, right.  Jerry looked at me and leaned in to meet me eye to eye.  Then he pulled his red sunglasses down and looked deeply into me, he then tilted his head and smiled at me.  Then he pushed the glasses back up his nose onto his face, and stood back up again.  I then opened the door which I had entered the room through, and held the door as Jerry disappeared backstage.  “He’s Gone.”

Jerry may be gone, and it is sad.  The world lost a wonderful guy when he passed.  He is still living on through his music, art, videos, and charities that he worked for like the Rex Foundation.  Many other bands including Furthur are continuing to play Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia music.  I wanted to wish Jerry, and all his friends and fans can join me, in saying happy birthday Jerry, and thanks for everything! You were always the man and still are!  You will stay forever young in our thoughts, minds and hearts!

•••

Jerry Garcia at Amazon!

Jerry Garcia’s Art in Books at Amazon!

Jerry’s Guitar History

Jerry Garcia’s Official Site

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11 comments for “He’s a Man Way Beyond Description: The World and I Miss You, Jerry!

  1. Anonymous
    August 1, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    What an amazing story Hal! And what awesome memories you have of Jerry Garcia! Lucky, lucky you!

  2. Bo Zo
    August 1, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    Hal, those of us who know you know that Jerry is up there thinking “Wow… how great it is that I got to meet Hal Janssen. I hope he’ll remember me”.

  3. Tom Angeloni
    August 2, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Hal, You’ve told me this story before and it still makes me tremble when I hear it. I often wonder how I would have reacted if it were me. I’m sure it was an amazing experience for you as it would have been for any of us Dead Heads.

  4. Mason Vollmer
    August 7, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Dear Hal,

    Thanks so much for your recent article on Jerry Garcia. Most people know only of his work with the Grateful Dead. It was Old and In the Way that really got me into traditional music. I first heard him sometime back in 1974 or so. As a teenager in the Palo Alto, I could jump on my bicycle and catch a JGB gig, and get in even though I was underage for a club.

    It’s very hard to share with others what Jerry’s music was capable of. I too have hundreds of hours of live recordings, a kind of shadow reminder… A good CD of the JGB live, is the 1975 ‘Don’t Let Go’ double CD. At times, it’s almost painfully slow, but Jerry’s ability to be in the moment, and improvise, gave ‘live’ music its’ magic.

    Although I loved the GD, it was Jerry’s other work, that showed how he soaked up the entire American Music experience: Bluegrass, Swing, Jazz, Blues, Traditional, Pop, Disco, and of course Rock and Roll.

    1980 RockPalast in Essen Germany is a peak time for the GD. I caught the London shows at the Rainbow Room on that tour as I was going to school then and caught the Essen show on the radio live, but there are great videos from that concert as well. The Who joined them for the finale…Thanks again for reminding us of Jerry’s contribution to musical culture.

  5. Chris Robertson
    August 8, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Hal,
    I enjoyed your article on Jerry Garcia in the Philadelphia Inquirer (8/7/2011). I missed the Grateful Dead in the 60s when I was a teen but I had a chance to follow the Dead one summer with my son, Nate, when he was in high school. It was a wonderful mother/son bonding experience. Nate has been in a band for a number of years (Foxtrot Zulu) which has played at venues in the Philadelphia area and has a following in Rhode Island – the band was definitely influenced by the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia.

    When I went to Saybrook Graduate School several years ago, I learned that a professor (Stanley Krippner) knew Jerry Garcia and conducted “A Pilot Study in Dream Telepathy with the Grateful Dead” – you can find it on Stanley Krippner’s website. Stan knows Micky Hart of the Dead – Hart was awarded an honorary doctoral degree from Saybrook in 2000 for his contribution to advancing the preservation of music archives.

    Again, thanks for your article!

  6. Lesley Goddin
    September 27, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Hal, great story! I didn’t know this about you – your work as a roadie or meeting Jerry! Thanks for posting this today. I loved the recollection. What an awesome experience and a treasured memory!

  7. December 16, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    Nice pick, Chez! (Damn, how young they are.) Of course, they later rmadee this song as “We’ve Got a Bigger Problem Now,” about Reagan, which was pretty damn dead-on.

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  9. April 28, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    It's very wonderful distribution but I wanna know What is the best one "this or mint"? please tell me because I wanna install two distributions Ubuntu and …. ? I don't know until now what is the second

  10. July 15, 2016 at 6:34 am

    I can't decide whether I'm more impressed with your taper las week or your tenacity during the race. Regardless, I'm impressed. Good to see you last week and happy to see you with a bib number again. Good work.

  11. Jane
    August 4, 2017 at 12:23 am

    You met him! Cool!

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