Jerry Garcia’s legacy still lives on in SF 

In San Francisco, “Days Between” refers to more than just a title of a Grateful Dead song.

They are the days each year between Aug. 1 and Aug. 9 in which San Francisco celebrates iconic musician Jerry Garcia, who grew up in the Excelsior district, briefly attended Balboa High School and lived for a time with the band in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, which he helped make internationally famous.

Garcia, musician and songwriter for the Grateful Dead, was born on Aug. 1, 1942, and died on Aug. 9, 1995. This year marks the 15th anniversary of his passing — he died of a heart attack while seeking treatment at a drug rehabilitation facility.

Four days after his death, The City held a public memorial in the Polo Fields at Golden Gate Park attended by more than 25,000 admirers.

To this day, The City and its people continue to honor Garcia in one form or another — whether by naming a park amphitheater after him, honoring him with an annual Jerry Day festival or with philanthropic pursuits done in his name. Grateful Dead lovers have made wine in honor of him and named ice cream after him, and popular Haight Street brewery Magnolia Pub and Brewery named one of its beers after one of his band’s songs.

The Examiner put together a few of many examples of the ways San Francisco continues to pay homage to the legend.

Tribute: Deadheads celebrate at the sixth annual Jerry Day held at Jerry Garcia Amphitheater in 2008. (Examiner file photo)

The City remembers the iconic musician

Jerry Day: Long after Jerry Garcia died, few people knew that he spent his childhood days in the Excelsior district.

It took the musician’s memoir — which he wasn’t able to finish before his death in 1995 — and several proud residents of the neighborhood to make certain Garcia’s Excelsior roots became a well-known fact.

The eighth annual Jerry Day will kick off today at Jerry Garcia Amphitheater in McLaren Park. The free event, where community-building donations are welcome, offers an afternoon of music honoring Garcia, organizer Tom Murphy said.

In the first unofficial Jerry Day in 2002, residents held a fundraiser for Crocker Amazon Playground, which is in Garcia’s former neighborhood. Eventually, residents worked to have city officials name the McLaren Park amphitheater as a memorial to the musician.

“Every year Jerry Day happens, the awareness builds and more people come on board and help out,” Murphy said. “We still want to build up that amphitheater and make it more attractive to philanthropists. It’s underutilized at the moment and we’re still mobilizing to get funding.”

Today’s performances include Melvin Seals and the Jerry Garcia Band at 3:30 p.m., Front Street and Friends at 12:30 p.m. and Check Engine Light, an acoustic band from Marin, at noon, organizers said.

Jerry Day

  • Sunday, Aug. 1: Noon to 6 p.m. (Open at 11 a.m.)
  • Jerry Garcia Amphitheater: 45 John F. Shelley Drive, San Francisco

Walking Tours: When it was discovered that Jerry Garcia grew up in the Excelsior district, Greg Pabst said it was a no-brainer to include the musician’s childhood home in scheduled walking tours of the neighborhood.

The history buff initially began the walking tour to inform others about the area’s rich past, including the Bernal Family Land Grant from Mexico that delineated the boundaries of the district. The addition of Garcia’s childhood home has only made the tour richer and more entertaining, Pabst said.

Initially, Pabst enjoyed how many weren’t aware of the time that Garcia had lived in Excelsior.

“They’re now hip to the jive,” said Pabst, who’s been leading the walking tours for nearly two decades.

Pabst also conducts walking tours in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, where the Grateful Dead lived at 710 Ashbury St. 

Excelsior Walking Tours

  • Held twice a year in May and October through the San Francisco City Guides program

Giants tribute: The most anticipated tribute on the 15th anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s passing will no doubt take place Aug. 9 at AT&T Park, where the Grateful Dead and family members, 7,000-plus kazoos and thousands of Jerry Garcia bobblehead dolls will be in attendance, according to the Giants.

The Giants appear to be taking every possible effort to pay homage to Garcia, who with band members Bob Weir and Vince Welnick sang the National Anthem before a game at Candlestick Park in 1993.

Weir will perform the National Anthem at AT&T Park for the Garcia tribute, and Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart will lead fans in a 7th-inning stretch celebration. Hart will lead more than 7,000 kazoo-playing fans in Take Me Out to the Ball Game, which aims to set a Guinness World Record for world’s largest kazoo ensemble.

Also, fans at the game will enjoy live music by Jerry Garcia and Grateful Dead cover bands, and there will be a pre-game ceremony at home plate attended by many of Garcia’s family members, the Giants said. The musician’s daughter, Annabelle Garcia, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Fans purchasing a special event ticket will get a seat in the “Jerry Garcia designated section,” and will receive a Jerry Garcia bobblehead doll, which will portray Garcia’s April 12, 1993, National Anthem performance.

Jerry Garcia Tribute Night (presented by Ben & Jerry’s)

  • Monday, Aug. 9, AT&T Pre-game VIP tribute party: 4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m.
  • National Anthem: Bob Weir, Phil Lesh and Jeff Pehrson
  • Game start: Giants vs. Chicago Cubs, 7:15 p.m.
  • 7th inning Stretch: Mickey Hart


Legacy of giving: Above, Rex Foundation Executive Director Sandy Sohcot. (Mike Koozmin/Special to The Examiner)

Rex Foundation: Aside from their music and global influence, the Grateful Dead’s greatest legacy could be the Presidio-based Rex Foundation.

The nonprofit was established by band members in 1983 who wanted to hold benefit concerts for the community. Since its first show, the foundation has raised $8.6 million, helping more than 1,000 people in the arts, sciences and education — particularly those less fortunate — around the world and also in San Francisco.

After Jerry Garcia — a foundation board member — passed away in 1995 and the Grateful Dead stopped touring, the foundation lost its main source of funding. Nevertheless, foundation supporters pledged to continue the nonprofit’s work, Executive Director Sandy Sohcot said.

The foundation continues to hold benefit concerts, and has launched various other fundraising efforts to make grants to benefit education, social service and cultural enrichment.

It annually provides a “Jerry Garcia Award” to groups stimulating creativity in young people. The nonprofit has also worked on education programs with Balboa High School, which Garcia attended for a time.

The foundation is set to receive a portion of the revenue that comes from the Jerry Garcia Tribute Night at the Giants game at AT&T Park Aug. 9,Sohcot said.


Grateful Dead

Band members between 1965 and 1995:

  • Jerry Garcia
  • Bob Weir
  • Phil Lesh
  • Bill Kreutzmann
  • Ron “Pigpen” McKernan
  • Mickey Hart
  • Tom Constanten
  • Keith Godchaux
  • Donna Jean Godchaux
  • Brent Mydland
  • Vince Welnick


Notable legacies

1987: Ben & Jerry’s invents the flavor Cherry Garcia

1994: Garcia is inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

2003: Rolling Stone magazine ranks Jerry Garcia 13th on list of 100 greatest guitarists of all time


City connection

The Grateful Dead frontman had a long history with San Francisco, dating back to his childhood.

1937: Jerry Garcia’s father, Joe Garcia, a retired professional musician, opens a bar in downtown San Francisco with a partner.

1942: Jerry Garcia is born as Jerome John Garcia on Aug. 1, in San Francisco.

1947: Jerry’s father dies and his mother takes over the bar. Garcia and his brother move down the block from their Excelsior district home to their grandparents’ house on Harrington Street.

1953: Garcia and his brother move back to their mother’s home, but she eventually moves the family to Menlo Park because Excelsior was a rough neighborhood.

1957: Garcia enrolls at the San Francisco Art Institute.

1958: Garcia attends 10th grade at Balboa High School.

1959: Garcia’s mother moves the family to Sonoma County.

1960: Garcia is forced to join the Army after stealing his mom’s car, and spends time at Fort Winfield Scott in the Presidio, but is discharged after not taking the roll seriously.

1965-66: The Grateful Dead is founded in San Francisco, the band eventually moves into a house at 710 Ashbury St.

1967: The Grateful Dead House is raided after police are tipped off about drugs. Phil Lesh and Garcia are arrested.

1970: Garcia’s mom, Ruth, dies following a car accident near Twin Peaks in San Francisco.

1985: After nearly completing a drug rehabilitation program, Garcia is arrested for drug possession in Golden Gate Park.

1995: After checking himself into two separate rehab centers, he dies of a heart attack. Four days later, San Francisco holds a memorial at Golden Gate Park’s Polo Fields attended by more than 25,000 fans.

1996: Half of Garcia’s ashes are spread into the Ganges River in India, while the other half are poured into San Francisco Bay.

2005: San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission passes resolution to name the amphitheater in McLaren Park “Jerry Garcia Amphitheater.”

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