He’s a Man Way Beyond Description: We 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.

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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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