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Jerry Garcia: 1942-1995: Musician

Developed Love Of Folk Music

In 1959 Garcia and his family moved to Cazadero, 80 miles north of San Francisco, and he joined a band called the Chords at Sebastopol's Analy High School. His mother had hoped the move would improve Garcia's performance in school, but it didn't. After an arrest for stealing his mother's car, he was left with two choices: a sentence in jail or a stint in the army. He chose the army, and after basic training at Fort Ord near Monterey, California, he was stationed at the Presidio in San Francisco. During that time Garcia continued to play guitar and developed a love of folk music, a craze which was then sweeping the United States. As with school, however, Garcia got in trouble for being absent without official leave (AWOL) and was given a general discharge from the army in 1961. "They didn't say that I was pathologically antiauthoritarian," Garcia told Ben Fong-Torres in People, "but I guess that was out of kindness."

After his discharge Garcia moved to East Palo Alto, where he became involved with a bohemian crowd. He was in a car accident in 1961 with several friends and, while his injuries were minor, he was deeply affected by the death of his friend Paul Speegle in the accident. "He would still be undisciplined," wrote Dennis McNally in Long Strange Trip, "but now he would become obsessive. The guitar would become an extension of his hands, ears, and mind, and for years few would remember him without an instrument in his hands." In 1961 he also met Robert Hunter, a lifelong friend and future co-writer. They performed for a short time as Bob and Jerry, playing folksongs they had learned from the Anthology of American Folk Music. By 1962 Garcia had also learned the banjo, and he joined a number of bands including the Hart Valley Drifters and the Sleepy Hollow Hog Stompers.

Garcia married Sarah Ruppenthal in May of 1963, and they had a daughter, Heather. By 1964 he had formed the Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions with two future Grateful Dead members. Ron McKernan, nicknamed Pigpen after a character in the Peanuts comic strip, played harmonica and sang, while Bob Weir played a washtub bass and jug. At McKernan's insistence, Garcia and Weir would switch to electric guitars the following year and the band, re-christened as the Warlocks, specialized in electric blues. Bassist Phil Lesh and drummer Bill Kreutzman also joined, and the band performed at Ken Kesey's Acid Tests in 1965-66.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: E(mily) R. Frank (1967-) Biography - Personal to Martha Graham (1893–1991) BiographyJerry Garcia: 1942-1995: Musician Biography - Traded In Accordion For Guitar, Developed Love Of Folk Music, Settled In San Francisco, Life With The Grateful Dead