Recall the Days That Still Are to Come - Garcia: An American Life (2000)

Garcia: An American Life (2000)


Recall the Days That Still Are to Come

e’ll probably never know precisely what was going through Jerry’s head when he got out of the army, but one thing is certain—he made a conscious effort to disconnect from his family. Tiff had only sporadic contact with him over the next few years, his cousin Daniel didn’t see him at all for a couple of years and he completely ignored his mother and grandmother. Pop Clifford had died in February of 1960, and later that year Ruth split up with Wally and moved back into Harrington Street to be with Tillie, whose health and mental faculties had become somewhat precarious. Ruth sold her liquor license at some point, and later the building that housed the 400 Club was torn down to make way for a new entrance onto the Bay Bridge. Ruth returned to her first career—working as a pediatric nurse at San Francisco General Hospital—and Wally went back to being a seaman full-time for the Pacific Far East Lines. He and Ruth remarried and divorced again but continued to live together on and off at Harrington Street. Early in the afternoon of February 12, 1962, Wally was driving Ruth to work when he suffered a massive heart attack. Ruth had to wrestle the car to the side of the road and then drive Wally to San Francisco General, where he was pronounced dead at 3:20 P.M. After a funeral a couple of days later (which Jerry did not attend), Wally’s body was shipped to Jersey City for burial.

“I broke off all communication with my family when I went into the army,” Jerry said, “and they didn’t even know that I was out of the army… . I just didn’t want to say anything to anybody… . I just wanted to be goofing off. I didn’t want to get a job or go to college or do any of that stuff. So there was nobody after me to do it. I heard from people who had heard from [my family]. They knew I was okay.”

Jerry said that he migrated back down to the Peninsula after his stint in the army because “that’s where my friends were. I had a girlfriend in Redwood City when I was in the army and I met some people, this older couple, who lived in Redwood City—very nice people from Salt Lake City—and they moved down to Palo Alto and they offered me a place to stay when I was discharged. I thought, ‘Oh gee, that would be great.’ So I went to Palo Alto and I hung out there in the good graces of these nice people from Salt Lake City who put me up.”

Located about forty miles south of San Francisco, Palo Alto is a genteel suburban city of about 59,000 (it had about 52,000 in 1960) with a nearly perfect climate and block after block of American-dream houses and Edenic yards brimming with an exceptionally large variety of trees, shrubs and flowers. There are long, wide roads lined with white-blossomed magnolias, and great grassy parks dotted with willows and rhododendron. It’s probably best known as the home of Stanford University, itself an incredible California dreamscape, not to mention one of the best schools in the world. There’s lots of old and new money in Palo Alto; it’s filled with professionals who have chosen to bring up their children in more idyllic surroundings than the big city offers.

Of course there’s more to Palo Alto than that neatly manicured portrait. And that’s hardly the world that Jerry dropped into when he dropped out of the military.

Like most progressive university towns, Palo Alto has always been home to a sizable bohemian element—artists, dancers, musicians and freethinking literary types either connected to Stanford in some way or attracted by the surrounding creative-intellectual milieu. There’s always a lot happening on and around campus, so it’s hardly surprising that the area was a magnet for bright, curious teenagers and young adults. And in those days it was easy to live cheaply by renting rooms in any of dozens of old clapboard Victorians near campus, or by moving away from the downtown area altogether: Menlo Park to the north has more affordable housing, and in Palo Alto the farther west you move from Stanford’s towering eucalyptus groves, date palms and golden-stoned buildings, the more you encounter ordinary middle-class homes that were built in the late ’40s and early ’50s to accommodate an influx of baby boom families. And then, east across Highway 101 as you approach the shores of San Francisco Bay, there’s East Palo Alto, mainly black and poor, a thousand miles away from lily-white Stanford culturally, if not geographically.

It’s not clear how long Jerry stayed with the couple from Salt Lake City—whether it was a matter of days or weeks—but sometime right after he arrived on the Peninsula, his bad-news army buddy showed up unannounced at the house, parking his stolen car outside: “He’s got a fella with him, both of ’em dressed in suits and packing irons, and they had just done a string of bank robberies up and down the coast!” Jerry recalled. “I thought, ‘Hmm, maybe I’d like to not see so much of this guy and his crime scene any longer.’”

Jerry had no visible means of support when he arrived in Palo Alto, but through his friend Laird Grant and his own natural openness and affability he managed to plug into several different social scenes almost immediately. The main one revolved around Kepler’s Books, on El Camino Real, just a few blocks from Stanford in neighboring Menlo Park. More than just a bookstore, Kepler’s was a serious hangout that attracted all sorts of interesting characters, and indeed, it was at Kepler’s that Jerry met a number of the people who would be part of his remarkable odyssey over the next three-plus decades.

One person he encountered very quickly after moving to the Peninsula was a slight eighteen-year-old Englishman named Alan Trist, who had moved to Palo Alto in November 1960 when his father began a yearlong fellowship at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Studies in Behavioral Sciences. To occupy his days and keep his mind sharp for the three years of study at Cambridge he still had in front of him, Alan was auditing courses at Stanford, until fate intervened:

“One of the other Fellows at the center had a daughter, Karen Kaplan, and they had a dinner party one night and she said, ‘Well, if you want something to do here, you should see what’s going on down at Kepler’s,’” Trist says. “So the very next day I went down to Kepler’s, where I met Jerry. He was sitting on a coffee table playing the guitar and we struck up an instant relationship. Jerry had this amazing way about him, and it happened the first time I sat across the table from him—he would just sit there and play and look at you and smile. His charisma was really attractive. After that I didn’t want to audit any more courses at Stanford, because here was a bookstore where Roy Kepler allowed people to sit around all day and read the books and play music and talk. You could even take the books home overnight if you wanted.”

Kepler’s was more than just a boho hangout, for owner Roy Kepler was also one of the area’s best-known peace activists, so the store attracted people from that world, too. Both Kepler and Ira Sandperl, who worked at Kepler’s and also taught at the progressive Peninsula School nearby, had been instrumental in starting the Peninsula Peace Center in the late ’50s over on Stanford Avenue in south Palo Alto. The Peace Center became an organizing hub for all sorts of pacifist political activity during that era, such as mobilizing against further nuclear proliferation and testing. “Ban the Bomb” was the slogan of the day, when the devastation of the Korean War was fresh in people’s minds and the cold war was still heating up.

To help pay the rent on the ramshackle house that was headquarters of the Peace Center, Kepler and Sandperl used to rent out most of the rooms, at first mainly to needy Stanford students, but then to anyone who could afford the dirt-cheap monthly rent. Sandperl says that the staff at Kepler’s also regularly helped its more indigent customers—which in short order came to include Jerry and most of his friends—to find places to live or crash for a day or two.

“The Palo Alto Peace Center was a great place for social trips,” Jerry said. “The Peace Center was the place where the sons and daughters of the Stanford professors would hang out and discuss things. And we, the opportunist wolf pack—the beatnik hordes—would be there preying on their young minds and their refrigerators. And there would be all of these various people turning up in these scenes and it just got to be very good; really high.”

One character he met at the Peace Center who became a lifelong friend was Willy Legate, a brilliant, red-haired, red-bearded College of the Redlands dropout and would-be communist—“I didn’t know Marxist theory then and I don’t know it now,” he says, “but I enjoyed giving the impression that I might be some kind of commie.” A deep-thinking and introverted historian, philosopher and theologist, Willy was also the first person in Garcia’s Palo Alto crowd to take LSD: In February 1959, he ingested about 100 micrograms of illegally obtained Sandoz LSD with a couple of acquaintances in his dorm at Redlands. “We listened to a lot of Bach,” he recalls. “I remember the dormitory’s hallway seemed to be miles long, and the chapel jutted out like gingerbread against the cut-glass sky.

“These guys seemed to be saying that such hallucinogens were the answer, the end—a religious thing,” Willy says. “I considered the experience a mental act, not a spiritual reality.”

Another group Jerry ran with during these first days on the Peninsula lived in rented rooms in a rambling old house known as the Chateau, on Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park, a couple of miles from Kepler’s. “The Chateau was this large house that was probably built in the late ’20s or early ’30s on this little knoll there,” says Laird Grant. “At the time it was owned by a guy named Frank Serratoni, who was an artist. He’d do these drawings and then put a watercolor wash on them; they sold at the City of Paris [an elegant San Francisco department store] and places like that.”

“The Chateau was mainly the various people from the Kepler’s crowd,” adds David Nelson, who met Garcia in the summer of 1961. “And defining that is kind of elusive, because a lot of them were people who had been traveling and used Kepler’s as a stopping point or meeting place. You’d be hitchhiking and coming from Big Sur or Monterey, where Emerson College was, and you’d be on your way to Oregon, where Reed College was, or to Berkeley, which had a scene, too. So there was all this commerce and traffic and different stopping places. Kepler’s was one because it was a public place. The Chateau was another because it was so loose—it was always filled with people staying with other people, and partly because of that it became a really serious party place. They were big affairs, with pot for the people who were wise to it, usually smoked out back discreetly, and big jugs of wine inside. People would play music endlessly and Frank Serratoni just let it all happen.”

Yet another meeting place was one of the local folk music spots, St. Michael’s Alley on University Avenue in Palo Alto. It’s there that the area’s most celebrated singer and activist, Joan Baez, got her start while she was still a student at Palo Alto High School, and as Alan Trist puts it, “Kepler’s was the main spot in the daytime and at night everyone would go over to St. Michael’s Alley.” Besides drawing some of the Kepler’s crowd, St. Michael’s also attracted a number of Stanford students and even local high school kids, since no alcohol was served there. Garcia and Phil Lesh met at St. Michael’s during that year.

Garcia also struck up close relationships with a number of high school students who hung around the scene, including Charlotte Daigle, a senior at Palo Alto High School whom he dated on and off for about a year after they met at Kepler’s; Barbara Meier, a sophomore at Menlo-Atherton High in Menlo Park, who would become one of his first serious loves; Danya Veltfort, a bright, politically active Peninsula School alumnus and Willy Legate’s girlfriend; and a sixteen-year-old Menlo-Atherton student named Paul Speegle Jr., whom Garcia and Laird Grant knew from their time at Menlo-Oaks.

Speegle was by all accounts a very interesting character. He was the son and namesake of the well-respected drama and music critic for the San Francisco Call-Bulletin newspaper, and he certainly had a taste for the theatrical himself. A painter of considerable renown, he regularly dressed in elegant, semi-Edwardian finery, and he was active in two local drama groups, the Teen Players at the Palo Alto Community Center, and the Comedia Theater. “Paul and Lowell Clukas were totally into Rimbaud and they were just flaunting it,” says Barbara Meier. “Menlo-Atherton High School at the time was so ’50s preppy—white bucks, crewcuts. They were definitely effete young men, but very, very bright. They were cultured. They were erudite. They had very refined taste and I think they were appalled, as I was, by our high school.”

Garcia and Speegle spent a fair amount of time together in early 1961. Jerry greatly admired Paul’s painting and his colorful personal eccentricities (this was no typical sixteen-year-old), and it was through him that Garcia became briefly involved with the Comedia Theater group. “I was just getting to be good friends with Paul,” Garcia said of this period. “We didn’t know each other that well yet, but it’s like how you know you’re going to be good friends with somebody. It’s just getting hot. I could feel that coming. We were starting to cook… .”

At about 1:30 in the morning on February 20, 1961, a party at the Chateau was breaking up and Garcia, Speegle and Alan Trist all piled into a 1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk owned by one of the Chateau’s residents, Lee Adams, to drive Paul back to his mother’s house in the Los Altos Hills. Jerry, Paul and Alan had been playing charades—with Paul and Alan donning black cloaks at one point to mime what Trist calls “a game of death”—and they’d all had a lot to drink, including Adams, the driver. At about 1:50 A.M. the car was speeding south on Junipero Serra Boulevard near the U.S. Veterans Administration Hospital at about ninety miles per hour when Adams failed to negotiate a curve and lost control of the Stude, which slashed through a fence, rolled over several times and finally came to rest on its wheels—on top of Paul Speegle, who was pronounced dead at the scene. “It was just wham!” Garcia remembered. “We went flying, I guess. All I know is that I was sitting in the car and that there was this … disturbance … and the next thing I was in a field. I went through the windshield and landed far enough away from the car where I couldn’t see it. It was night. It was very, very quiet, you know. It was like a complete break in continuity—from sitting in the car roaring down the road, to lying in a field wondering what had happened; nothing in between.”

The force of the crash was so severe that Garcia was literally thrown out of his shoes, and Adams and Trist were tossed clear of the car as well. All three were taken to Stanford Hospital—Jerry with a shoulder injury, Alan a hurt back, and Lee Adams with a mild head wound and various cuts on one side of his body. The story of the calamity made the front page of the Palo Alto Times: Under a brooding photo of Paul Speegle Jr. was a headline that read SPEEGLE’S SON KILLED IN CRASH, and the accompanying story gave the vital stats on the car’s other occupants, mentioning “Jerry Garcia, 18, 1339 Willow Road, Menlo Park, ‘fair’ condition with a shoulder injury.”

In interviews Jerry often spoke of the crash as one of the early turning points in his life: “This was crushing. This was serious. For me—I was not really going anywhere special. I wasn’t going to art school anymore, but I was playing the guitar an awful lot, sitting around and poking around the guitar. But I wasn’t thinking about myself as a guitar player or musician. I was still thinking of myself as an artist. But that was really drifting away from me and I hadn’t really admitted it to myself one way or another… . I was awfully happy to be alive, certainly. I was a changed person. It was cosmic. In fact, it affected our whole little community… .”

In another interview Garcia went even further, saying the crash was “where my life began. Before then I was always living at less than capacity. I was idling. That was the slingshot for the rest of my life.”

Sara Ruppenthal, whom Jerry would meet and marry two years later, says that “He would talk about the accident a lot. I remember him driving me by the V.A. and saying, ‘Here’s where the accident was. I remember going through the barbed-wire fence.’ He’d broken his collarbone and was in a lot of pain but managed to walk to the V.A. hospital, but they told him, ‘Sorry, we don’t have any emergency services; we can’t help you.’ That was such an awful part of his life. It was something that was still weighing heavily on his mind when we met.”

Garcia didn’t really make any radical changes in his life after the crash. He was still essentially a homeless drifter with no money, bouncing around to different friends’ houses for as long as they would have him. Alan Trist’s parents let Jerry stay off and on in the small Spanish-style house they were renting for the year and, as Trist puts it, “He always had a graciousness about him that you never felt imposed upon.”

“In those days,” adds David Nelson, “you could basically walk around with some stuff—maybe just a knapsack, or a little bag and a guitar—and you’d set it down somewhere and that’d be where you were. There were occasional nights one place and then you’d move on to another place, and you really didn’t have to sweat it that much; you’d always wind up someplace.

Shortly after the accident, Garcia met Barbara Meier, a bright, vivacious fifteen-year-old student who was already an entrenched member of the Kepler’s/Peace Center crowd. As she puts it, “My parents knew they could call up Kepler’s pretty much any time to find out where I was, or [the Kepler’s clerks] would cover for me and tell them I was fine.” She describes her parents as “very cool, bright, extremely literate and politically liberal.

“Part of why I flowed into [the Palo Alto beatnik] scene so easily is that at the same time my parents were in Menlo Park, my aunt, who was a fashion executive at Joseph Magnin [department store] in San Francisco, had an apartment in North Beach so I would go and spend weekends up there. I think the turning point for me, when it really fell into place, was 1959, somewhere around my fourteenth birthday. I read On the Road and then I got what that scene in North Beach was all about.”

Through her aunt, Barbara started to land modeling assignments, and her career was in full swing when she met Jerry—she often appeared in Macy’s and Magnin’s ads in the San Francisco newspapers, and nationally she appeared in Life magazine and in a Pepsodent toothpaste commercial. Jerry mocked her modeling but was more than willing to reap the benefits of the hundred dollars a day she made doing it. Barbara gave him money in dribs for nearly two years, and even bought him two guitars during that time.

* * *

In March 1961 Garcia was filling some of his evenings working the lights for the Comedia Theater’s production of Damn Yankees when he met a very interesting, seriously intellectual, similarly bohemian nineteen-year-old who had been bumming around town looking for adventures and kindred spirits following a stint in the National Guard. This was Robert Hunter, who was, coincidentally, a former boyfriend of one of the girls Jerry was dating at the time, Diane Huntsburger. Hunter and Garcia hit it off immediately, discovering they had many interests in common, including Beat culture, mysticism, James Joyce, drawing, poetry, singing, playing guitar, girls and getting high. Just a couple of not-so-regular American teenagers on the prowl for good times.

Like Garcia, Bob Hunter had been bounced around by fate most of his life. “I’m from up and down the West Coast,” he said. “I’ve lived in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, Long Beach, all that, a couple of years in Connecticut, in my growing-up period.” At age nine he went through a traumatic family breakup that led to his being placed in a series of boardinghouses for a couple of years: “Made a melancholy lad of me,” he once wrote. “I was never in one place too long. I think Palo Alto about the longest of all—I spent between eighth and eleventh grade there. Up till then I think I went to a different school every year, which certainly helped develop my outsider feelings; always the new kid in school.”

One way Hunter dealt with his loneliness was to dive headlong into both reading and writing: “I always had my nose in a book,” he said. “I was getting away from it… . I thought that a lot of [the other kids] were just better than me. I didn’t feel that I was particularly smart, and I felt they didn’t like me for some reason. I think the reason they didn’t like me was that I was too defensive and I would strike first. But I’d just forget it all and bury my nose in Robin Hood or something like that. I think my real life was books, in my growing up. So it was only natural that I started writing. I started my first novel when I was eleven.”

Certainly there were plenty of books around the Hunter household. His stepfather, Norman Hunter, was a book salesman for Harcourt Brace and later a prominent book editor, whose high-profile authors included William Saroyan among others, “so we had a splendid library around the house.” He said, “My father certainly didn’t discourage [my writing] … although he told me there was no money to be made in the profession. I wasn’t as discouraged from that as I was from my trumpet and violin, which after a hard day at work, he would tolerate but not encourage.”

Besides his stabs at those instruments, Hunter took up the guitar, but it was trumpet that he played in a group called the Crescents during his senior year of high school in Stamford, Connecticut, forty-five minutes north of Manhattan on the venerable New York-New Haven Railroad line. It was an unusual quartet—drums, electric guitar, trumpet and bass clarinet. “We played Dixieland and I played trumpet and we played rock ’n’ roll and I even wrote a song called ‘Rock ’n’ Roll Moon.’ We used to play for dances on Saturday afternoons over at the Jewish Community Center and at the Veterans Hospital, where I had a good fantasy trip: ‘Blue in the Night’ with a blue spotlight on me. I got some of my Harry James fantasies out of my system.”

After graduating from high school in Stamford, Hunter had a brief and ignominious stint at the University of Connecticut: “It was my first taste of real freedom. I arrived for freshman year a week early and spent all the money my father had given me for textbooks on pinball. Fortunately, I flunked out.” Before that happened, however, he played in a folk music trio at UConn, and his second semester there he was president of the folk music club. After dropping out of school, Hunter traveled to California to pursue a girl he was in love with, but when he finally found her she was no longer interested in him. Heartbroken, he attempted to join the Coast Guard, but they weren’t accepting enlistees, so he signed on with the National Guard, which required just six months of active duty, followed by five and a half years as a reserve.

So there he was, fresh out of Fort Sill, living on his meager mustering pay in a room in the Palo Alto Hotel, when he met Garcia. Within a month of their meeting the two of them were living side by side in their cars in a vacant lot in East Palo Alto—Jerry in an old Cadillac (with the words CALL PAM written in the dirt on the back window) and Hunter in a 1940 Chrysler straight-eight he’d picked up for fifty bucks a day or two after he’d arrived in town. “Hunter had these big tins of crushed pineapple that he’d gotten from the army,” Garcia said, “and I had this glove compartment full of plastic spoons, and we had this little cooperative scene, eating this crushed pineapple day after day and sleeping in the cars and walking around.

“He played a little guitar; we started singin’ and playin’ together just for something to do. And then we played our first professional gig. We got five bucks apiece.” Their innocuous little folk act was billed as Bob and Jerry, but they performed only two real gigs—at the Arroyo Lounge on May 5, 1961 (for a payday of five dollars, which Hunter says “we decided to frame as the first musical earnings for either of us, but spent on cigarettes instead”); and a concert at the Peninsula School’s eighth-grade graduation ceremony in early June. That gig had been arranged by Danya Veltfort, whose younger sister was matriculating. Danya says Bob and Jerry took home fifty dollars for their troubles, good money for those days (and that crowd). The only known tape of Bob and Jerry was recorded by Barbara Meier’s father in the living room of her house at her sixteenth birthday party. As Danya says, “It was a big deal to be able to make a tape in those days; not like today where everyone has recorders.”

Alan Trist viewed his new friend Bob Hunter as “another fellow traveler. Like me he was really into reading; we’d spend hours having literate discussions, picking books off the shelves and getting into them. Jerry was carrying his guitar around and Hunter and I had our notebooks and we’d go places and Jerry would play and Hunter and I would write. Or we’d go to a cafe somewhere and we’d write and sometimes Jerry would sit there and draw. We’d talk and then move on to some other place.

“Hunter tells me now that Jerry and I were the ones who were raving around at the time, full of theatricality and spouting lines of poetry and being totally wild, and he was more circumspect. I think his recollection is probably correct, but what’s interesting to me is that’s not the person I later became. But Jerry was always outgoing and always had a very positive outlook on life. That’s the thing that was most important to me during that period—a pure positiveness that we were all experiencing with each other, and affirming back and forth.”

When one of them had a working car, they often would go up to San Francisco to wander around North Beach and soak up what was left of the Beat scene at places like City Lights Books and the Coffee Gallery. “It was still a vital scene, especially to those of us who were just coming of age,” Trist says.

But their outlook on life was always much sunnier and more optimistic than that of the Beats they so admired. As Barbara Meier explains, “We weren’t sitting around in our black turtlenecks, smoking Gauloises and talking about existentialism. We weren’t doing that. We were raving. The music was happening; we were singing. We were partying. We were running around the beach or the mountains. The age difference [between the Palo Alto crowd and the original Beats] was crucial. I don’t think we were saddled with that morose energy at all.”

“It’s funny, you know,” Hunter remarked. “Back in those days there weren’t a lot of people on the street, and I thought me and Garcia and Trist and the people who were hanging around there were really unique. I thought we were the new thing. It was quite arrogant: we felt that we were the legitimate rulers of the world.”

At least they were rulers of the back room at Kepler’s for a while. Garcia had traded his Sears electric guitar for an acoustic model shortly after arriving in Palo Alto, and late that spring Barbara bought him a better guitar, and shortly after that, a lovely sounding Stella twelve-string. Jerry spent hours in the back room at Kepler’s practicing and playing the limited folk repertoire he had mastered, which consisted mainly of straight-ahead popular tunes by the Kingston Trio, Joan Baez, the Weavers, Pete Seeger and other leading lights of the burgeoning folk revival movement.

Of course folk music wasn’t exactly new in the late ’50s and early ’60s, but its widespread popularity in America was, particularly in urban areas. This renaissance was driven largely by college students who had rejected rock ’n’ roll as the anointed musical voice of their generation. By 1960 rock’s initial flash had dimmed considerably, as the first generation of ’50s rockers all but vanished from the scene (Chuck Berry went to jail; Jerry Lee Lewis was tainted by scandal; Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran were dead; Elvis was in the army), replaced by bland teen idols whose white-bread take on rock ’n’ roll was seriously lacking in soul and grit. And then there was the matter of rock’s lyrical content, which was mainly limited to teenage love, lust and heartbreak. Folk music, on the other hand, drew from a wide variety of established traditions, including American blues, Southern mountain music, songs from the labor movement and the dust bowl diaspora, ballads from the British Isles, sea chanteys and tunes from around the world. In an America that was furiously promoting The Donna Reed Show, Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best as visions of the perfect postwar world, folk musicians—like the Beat writers all through the ’50s—provided an alternative vision of the world to thousands of kids who believed that the gray-suited Madison Avenue man paradigm was just smoke and mirrors obfuscating a darker national reality that included McCarthyism, segregation, an aggressive, even jingoistic, foreign policy and an unhealthy compulsion to manufacture a perfect cookie-cutter culture.

“Having been born at the beginning of the ’40s and coming of age during the ’50s, there was an expectation of conformity,” says Suzy Wood, who met Jerry in 1961. “My sense is that there was a huge feeling of unrest, starting with those of us who had that ’50s kind of background: This is what we expect you to do—go into advertising, go into engineering, wear a suit, wear a skinny little tie, wear a dress with petticoats under it. You never fuck anybody except somebody you’re married to. And in real life people weren’t doing that. And so instead of saying, ‘Here’s the structure we’re going to fit into,’ we said, ‘Let’s trash the structure entirely. Let’s just do anything we want.’ And that was the appeal of people like Jerry, because he was doing exactly what he wanted. He certainly wasn’t being in the army and wearing a suit.”

Adds Eric Thompson, who became one of Jerry’s musical partners later that year, “The people of our generation looked up and said, ‘Wait a minute. We’ve got enough to eat. We’re not at war. Everything seems to be fine. Why do I have to anesthetize myself? Why do I have to strive for this? Why can’t I strive for something that actually interests me?’ This was not something that previous generations had really done on any kind of wide scale. I think folk music’s popularity was partly a response to the repression of real life that was happening. When all of a sudden you came across this wealth of emotional music, it seemed like it was coming from a different world than the one my parents talked about, and it seemed a lot more real to me and a lot of other people.”

A musical turning point for Jerry came in the late spring of 1961. Marshall Leicester, who’d had a passing friendship with Garcia back at Menlo-Oaks Middle School, returned to the Peninsula from a year at Yale. One day, “I walked into Kepler’s and Jerry was sitting there playing a twelve-string guitar and singing tunes like ‘Everybody Loves Saturday Night,’ which was one of those kind of Pete Seeger ‘love-your-worldwide-neighbors’ songs in which the verses are the words ‘everybody loves Saturday night’ in about fifteen languages—sort of the last gasp of the politically oriented folk music of the ’30s and ’40s. I think I asked to borrow his guitar and play some of my kind of music on it, and I think we were mutually impressed with each other. We remembered having met before and we hit it off.”

Leicester taught Garcia the rudiments of the fingerpicking guitar style and also introduced Garcia to the main traditional white folksong forms of the South—old-time string band music and bluegrass. “He was playing more strum stuff, Kingston Trio-oriented songs,” he notes. “He wasn’t playing melodically oriented guitar at all. I think he’d gotten away from rock ’n’ roll, too, so he wasn’t using a flat pick, either. So I taught him how to play stuff like [Elizabeth Cotten’s] ‘Freight Train,’ and he just took it and ran with it on his own—I never saw anybody learn how to do something as quickly as he picked up on that. So from there he went and made himself into someone with a sense of style.”

The model for Garcia and many other aspiring old-timey music pickers in the early ’60s was the New Lost City Ramblers, a trio of New York City boys who were faithfully devoted to uncovering, preserving and performing rural folk songs. One of the founding members of that group was Mike Seeger, Pete’s younger half-brother, who had learned how to play fiddle, guitar, banjo and autoharp mainly from listening to old Library of Congress recordings made in the South as part of the library’s Archive of Folk Song project. In the mid-’50s Seeger had traveled through the South himself with a tape recorder, capturing dozens of obscure folk and blues performers in their living rooms and back porches.

“In those days we all wanted to be Mike Seeger, so we were all trying to learn to play five or six instruments,” says Marshall Leicester. “I played guitar, banjo, autoharp and a little mouth harp. I didn’t become a fiddler, which is mostly what I am these days, until a couple of years later. Jerry was just playing the guitar at first, but then of course he took up the banjo and got really good at that, too.” By 1963 Jerry was trying his hand at mandolin, dobro, fiddle and autoharp as well.

Another huge influence on nearly everyone playing folk music at this time was Harry Smith’s multivolume Anthology of American Folk Music, which brought dozens of folk tunes that had been originally cut as 78s between the ’20s and the ’50s to a new audience. “Back in 1961 there was only one copy around our scene, belonging to Grace Marie Haddie,” Robert Hunter said. “The six-disc boxed collection was too expensive for guitar-playing hobos like me and Garcia, even if we had a record player, or a place to keep a record player. Grace Marie had a job and an apartment and a record player. We would visit her apartment constantly with hungry ears. When she was at work, we’d jimmy the lock to her apartment door or crawl through the window if the latch was open. Had to hear those records.”

Early in the summer of 1961 a pair of folk music enthusiasts, Rodney Albin and George Howell, launched a small coffeehouse called the Boar’s Head in a loft above a bookstore called the Carlos Bookstall in San Carlos (north of Menlo Park). “George was a renegade high school student and a wanna-be beatnik,” said Peter Albin, Rodney’s younger brother, later a founding member of Big Brother and the Holding Company. “My brother played banjo and fiddle and guitar; I played a little guitar, and a lot of our friends played various instruments. So we opened the Boar’s Head and we had little get-togethers there on Friday and Saturday nights.”

Besides the Albin brothers and George Howell, one of the other key members of the Boar’s Head scene was David Nelson, who in June of 1961 had graduated from Carlmont High School in Belmont. Nelson was another bright, well-read kid with music in his soul. He began taking guitar lessons when he was in second grade and even studied steel guitar when he was in grade school.

It was through the Albin brothers that Nelson met Garcia: “I still remember that moment at Kepler’s when Pete and I were peeking through some books, and we saw this hairy, swarthy guy with an open Levi’s shirt and a real brooding look and an olive wreath in his hair, playing a Stella twelve-string. It was Garcia, and he had some notoriety even then. There was something scary about him; something awesome, some invisible quality. We talked to him and Rodney put a banjo in my hand and I thought, ‘Oh no!’ I had learned a little bit of banjo from a Pete Seeger book Rodney had given me, but here I was playing with Garcia the first minute that I met him!

“So we asked him to come play at the Boar’s Head. That night at the Boar’s Head it was Garcia, who played some songs on guitar, and then Bob Hunter came on wearing his army boots, as he always did in those days, and he sang a couple of songs. And there was also David X [David McQueen, a black man in his forties who was part of the Chateau scene] and Sherry Huddleston, who’s the one who gave Pigpen his name [the next year]. It was very low-key. The Boar’s Head always seemed more like a party than a real gig. It became another place for friends to get together and play and sing.”

After Boar’s Head gatherings, Suzy Wood, Carlmont High class of 1960, often hosted parties at her parents’ large, lovely home on Debbie Lane, on a hill above the College of Notre Dame in nearby Belmont. “The way the house was set up, there was an extra lot behind the house, sort of secluded by fences and bushes, and we’d go hang out back there and pass hats and collect change and somebody would go off and buy gallons of wine,” Wood says. “That was a place that summer where there was a lot of partying, for as long as anybody could stand to lie around drinking wine. I don’t remember Jerry being into drinking particularly.

“My father was very intrigued by him,” she continues. “Even though Jerry was a dropout, because of the kind of intelligence and charm and insight that he had, he always seemed more like a leader than a bad guy. My dad thought he was a wonderful person but he’d say, ‘Why doesn’t he do something with his life?’ If there was any disapproval of Jerry back then, it was usually from the parental generation, but even so he was charming enough that they kind of threw up their hands—‘Oh, the darling boy! Whatever will become of him?’”

Marshall Leicester’s parents were a little more negative in their assessment of Jerry’s character. After the ever-homeless Garcia spent a couple of weeks crashing at the Leicester family pad, Marshall’s parents made it clear to their son that it was time for this charming “freeloader,” as they branded him, to move on.

Bob Hunter spent most of July 1961 in a National Guard summer training camp at Hunter-Liggett Military Base in San Luis Obispo, a few hours down the coast, but when he returned, he, Garcia and Willy Legate all lived for a time at the Peace Center. Willy, at least, had a political streak, but Hunter and Garcia had little interest in the center’s activities, a fact that was not lost on Ira Sandperl and Roy Kepler, who tolerated them there and at Kepler’s but never really warmed up to them personally.

At Jerry’s urging, Barbara Meier attended the California School of Fine Arts that summer of 1961, and, like Jerry before her, became close to Wally Hedrick. Unlike Garcia, however, Barbara stuck with art through the years; indeed, she is still a painter. Garcia spent quite a bit of time in San Francisco that summer, too. “Jerry lived with John ‘The Cool’ [Winter] in this hotel on O’Farrell Street, which was just down from Magnin’s,” Barbara says. “So I’d walk those five blocks from Magnin’s down to the hotel to see him. It’s hard to say what they were doing. I think they had a little benzedrine and they were kind of racing around the city. I remember being with them and we’d rave around. We’d go to parties or drive over to KPFA [in Berkeley]. Little impromptu gigs and parties would turn up.

“They’d do crazy things like go down to Fisherman’s Wharf and boost [steal] a big fifty-pound bag of carrots, for instance, and they’d live on that! He never had any money, but I was sort of supporting him. I remember that I made a point of never showing up to see Jerry without first stopping to pick up a pack of cigarettes, for instance, because he never had cigarettes. Once he had a car he could never afford gas, so I was always filling up his gas tank, too.”

Eventually Garcia and Winter moved briefly into a nice attic apartment on Noriega Street, in the Sunset district of San Francisco, that was shared by Jerry’s occasional girlfriend in this era, Phoebe Graubard, and Elaine Heise, the former girlfriend of Paul Speegle (as Elaine Pagels she went on to write The Gnostic Gospels). Phoebe had grown up in Palo Alto, where she was close friends with Danya Veltfort, but she moved up to the city to attend San Francisco State. She thought nothing of having Jerry, John and sometimes others crashing at her pad for days at a time. “It was part of that wave of Beat energy,” Phoebe says. “If you read a Kerouac book, like On the Road, it was like that. They just kind of arrived, there was this frenetic On the Road kind of energy for a while, and some of those On the Road kind of experiences and these characters, and then one day they were gone.”

Phoebe says that Jerry spent nearly all his time on Noriega Street playing guitar, trying to master old-timey fingerpicking styles, and even gigging occasionally as a solo act: “Jerry was playing in dives in North Beach, these remnants of the Beat Generation’s places, but no one was going to them anymore. He would walk in at seven-thirty or eight and there might be nobody there, and sometimes nobody ever came and he’d play his set and go. But he had an amazing perseverence.

“Jerry used to take his guitar with him wherever he went, and one time we went down to Aquatic Park on the bus. We were sitting on the grass and he was playing the guitar and this old Basque man, who worked in a restaurant or something, had a pot full of food that he was going to feed to the birds, but he said he liked Jerry’s guitar playing so he gave us the big pot of food instead. It was very sweet. And this was at a time when none of us had any money; we were very poor.”

* * *

Alan Trist bid a fond farewell to his Palo Alto mates in September of that year and returned to England fundamentally changed. He had spent the year “experiencing life in the moment,” he says. “We weren’t thinking about the future. We were aware that we were experiencing something deep at that time. There was a lot of coherence to that little scene. It was this bunch of us going all around and hanging out just for the purpose of enjoying each other and sharing intellectual and artistic experience. We were all, in the broadest sense, involved in the arts—writing or drawing or both; playing music, listening to music. We were proto-artists; that was our sense of ourselves.”

“Jerry, John, Alan, Phoebe and I stayed up all night rapping at Phoebe’s before driving up to Twin Peaks at dawn, then driving Alan to the airport for his return to England,” Robert Hunter recalled. “I consider that the end of our old scene. We all thought so. Alan was really the prime mover of our group cohesiveness. Without Alan’s social focusing skills, the main group splintered, by main force of entropy, into several scenes rather than one.”

Also departing at summer’s end was Marshall Leicester, who returned to Yale. Leicester pops back into the scene during Christmas and summer vacations for the next couple of years, but his absence forced Garcia to look for new playing partners, as he dug deeper into the old-time string band repertoire and also began to explore bluegrass a little more.

Despite the generosity of Barbara Meier, who became Garcia’s girlfriend that autumn, Garcia was perennially broke, but his friend David McQueen reveals that from time to time Jerry would do odd jobs to earn a little scratch:

“Aside from my regular job, I used to do yard work for extra spending money. I knew Jerry was broke and I enjoyed his playing at Kepler’s, so we’d go on these yard jobs so he could earn some money for cigs. It was fun for both of us. Jerry used to call me a lousy blues singer, and I said he was equally lousy at yard work. Neither of us got offended; it was the truth.

“Jerry always had a guitar with him wherever he went,” McQueen continues. “One day, after doing a yard job, we were on the way back to my house in East Palo Alto. It was summer, kids were out playing in the streets, and Jerry was playing guitar and we were singing as we walked. I looked behind us at one point and saw there was a whole group of little black kids following us and dancing, like in those great but politically incorrect Marx Brothers movies. I was impressed—those kids were for real! When we stopped, they were all over Jerry: ‘Play some more! Play some more!’ Jerry loved it.

“He was listening to a lot of Reverend Gary Davis at that time. But blues, gospel, jazz—he’d play it all. He used to jam with the drummers who came to play at Pogo’s [Norm Fontaine’s] house. I’m sure Jerry was influenced by some of the music he heard in East Palo Alto. Sometimes he’d go to the Anchor Bar—white owned, black run—which had music on weekends. There was a house band, but anyone with a union card could sit in, and name players would come by and jam after hours for drinks.”

That fall Garcia moved to the Chateau. Actually, he moved into a broken-down car that had its windows whited out and was collecting dust behind the main house. He already knew all the Chateau’s denizens, having partied there on numerous occasions since his arrival in the area, and no doubt he’d crashed there before, but this was the first time he’d actually lived there. By the middle of November, Bob Hunter was living there, too, having managed to snag a room in the main house when Carl Moore moved out. A while later Garcia moved inside to drummer Danny Barnett’s old room.

It was in that autumn, too, that Jerry first encountered twenty-one-year-old Phil Lesh, who’d been kicking around the Peninsula on and off for a couple of years, and, like nearly everyone in the area with a rebellious streak and boho tendencies, eventually found his way to Kepler’s and the Peace Center. Phil came from a very different world from Garcia’s, and there was nothing in the early days of their relationship that would have suggested they would someday become musical soul mates.

Phil, who grew up in El Cerrito and Berkeley—the East Bay, as it is known—was initially interested in classical music almost exclusively. In third grade he began violin lessons and he stuck with it long enough to become second chair in a local youth orchestra after a few years. At fourteen he dropped violin and took up the trumpet, playing in the El Cerrito High School marching and concert bands. Midway through high school Phil’s parents moved to neighboring Berkeley so Phil could go to Berkeley High, which had a much more serious music program.

Although he mainly played the classical repertoire, Phil also became a jazz aficionado during his high school days. At first he was attracted most to the music of Stan Kenton and the big, horn-heavy bands that were popular on the West Coast in the late ’40s and early ’50s. But at age seventeen, he met a bassist at a summer music camp who turned him on to John Coltrane (whom Phil dismissed initially: “I was incensed—How dare he play like that?”). It took him a while to warm up to the hot (or should we say cool?) jazz trumpeter of the day, too: Phil found Miles Davis’s sound too airy and breathy at first—“not the kind of trumpet tone I’d been taught was the hip thing,” he said.

After high school he moved to the Peninsula to attend the College of San Mateo, where he played in the school’s jazz band for two years. During his second year there, Phil wrote a pair of original compositions for the jazz band, an experience that opened up a new world to him: “That was the first real flash that I had of having ideas and writing them down.” Eventually he dropped the trumpet completely because he had decided that what he really wanted to do was become a composer—“with a capital C,” as he put it.

Throughout his time at CSM he’d become increasingly interested in both the pioneers of electronic music such as Stockhausen and Berio, and modern composers like Schoenberg and Charles Ives, who was Phil’s favorite. Operating under the mistaken belief that the University of California at Berkeley’s music program was more plugged in to this progressive world, Phil enrolled there for the fall semester. It wasn’t until he got to Berkeley that he discovered that the music department was geared to musicologists rather than composers. But on the day he was registering for classes in the department he met a fellow intellectual and modern-music freak named Tom Constanten, who became his roommate in Berkeley, and, several years down the line, the Grateful Dead’s second keyboardist.

That fall of 1961, on November 18, the crowd at the Chateau got together to throw a giant party, dubbed the Groovy Conclave, which was attended by Lesh, Constanten, Bobby Peterson and about two hundred other people—intimates from the post-Beat and folk worlds, as well as friends of friends of friends. The party lasted nearly three days. Laird Grant, who didn’t actually live at the Chateau but instead was settled in the wilds of the nearby Los Trancos Woods, even printed up “tickets” for the party. Garcia and others played music in the front room. Pot was smoked discreetly in the backyard, and the crowds went through gallons and gallons of jug wine and white port-and- lemon juice. It truly was a “groovy” scene; it was also the first time that nearly everyone from the bohemian/beatnik community on the Peninsula had gotten together in one place. These were pre-hippie days, but already some of the freak mindset was established in this crowd: they disdained the straight nine-to-five workaday world; they helped each other survive their sometimes desperate poverty; their scene was always more inclusive than exclusive, embracing misfits and outcasts as long as they were interesting; they enjoyed eclectic tastes in books and music; and they certainly seemed to share a hedonistic bent.

Alcohol was still the main drug then, but, as Bob Hunter said, “Those were seriously demented times. We were taking anything to get high: Asmador, Contac capsules—you could open them up and separate the little white caps out and take them; God, anything. There was hardly any weed around—maybe a matchbox or so every now and then. And it was nothing like what came along later; it was brown Mexican.” As the early ’60s wore on, the route from the Bay Area down to Los Angeles, and even all the way to Mexico, became increasingly well-traveled by couriers smuggling cellophane-wrapped bricks of Mexican pot back to an ever-expanding base of customers. There was also a fair amount of methedrine in the scene, which laid waste to more than a few promising souls back then, and on occasion strange things like the cough medication Romilar and various prescription drugs would turn up and be eagerly ingested. The truly desperate might even eat the cotton wadding from the insides of nasal inhalers, which were reputedly soaked in a mild upper.

Of his own preferences during this era, Garcia said, “We did a lot of playing around with these weird drugs, cough medicine kind of drugs. I didn’t like to drink ever and drugs were always much more fun for me. I loved pot. Pot was just right up my alley. Anything that makes you laugh and so you love to eat—that’s fun. To me there was no contest. That constituted our scene—we laughed a lot, really a lot. Still do. That was part of the orientation. We were basically looking for something, too. Seeking. And determined. And there was nothing pressing us to be any more structured than that, really.”

As the months passed, Garcia devoted more and more of his time to practicing the guitar and his new love, the five-string banjo, a legacy of Marshall Leicester’s influence. In fact, many days went by when Jerry literally played all day and well into the evening; this was a passion that bordered on the obsessive, no question about it. And the better he got, the more like-minded pickers he encountered.

One friend he made in the folk and bluegrass world around this time was a guitarist named Eric Thompson, a precocious and very well-connected fifteen-year-old who was a high school senior bound for UC Berkeley when he met Jerry. Though he lived on the Peninsula, Thompson had been floating around the more established Berkeley folk and bluegrass scene for about a year.

Berkeley had been the birthplace of the first Bay Area bluegrass band to come out of the folk boom in the late ’50s, a group called the Redwood Canyon Ramblers, who amassed a small but dedicated following and influenced many other aspiring players. Berkeley had a few choice nightspots that catered to the string band music crowd, including the Peppermint Stick, the Jabberwock and the Cabale; an annual folk festival put on by guitarist Barry Olivier; a couple of music stores where pickers could hang out and swap licks—Jon and Deirdre Lundberg’s Fretted Instruments and Campbell Coe’s Campus Music Shop—and even a radio station, listener-sponsored KPFA, that regularly featured folk and bluegrass programming. Indeed, Barry Olivier had started the acoustic music program The Midnight Special in 1956—before the New Lost City Ramblers hit with their eclectic mélange, and well before Flatt and Scruggs came through town in 1961 and blew away every would-be picker from Marin to San Jose, leaving them slack-jawed and envious.

KPFA was also very supportive of avant-garde and modern classical music, which is one reason Phil Lesh did some volunteer engineering work for the station during his time in Berkeley. Among the programs he regularly engineered was The Midnight Special, and one night at a party at the Chateau Phil was listening to Garcia singing and playing the guitar when he had a flash that Jerry should play on that radio show. Phil recalled, “I said, ‘Hey Jerry, if we could make a tape of you playing and singing, would you mind if I took it to Gert Chiarito [host of The Midnight Special] and played it for her?’ He said, ‘Shit no, man.’ … He rode with me back to Berkeley to get the tape recorder—this is when we had all the time in the universe!—and he sang and played five or six songs.”

Phil played the tape for Gert Chiarito, who was so impressed that she arranged to do an entire hour-long program with Garcia, which was called “The Long Black Veil,” after the classic murder ballad that was part of Jerry’s repertoire at the time. “After that he was almost a regular,” Phil said. “Then he started to bring his buddies up from Palo Alto.” The exposure on KPFA helped established Garcia as one of the premier pickers in the area.

“Bluegrass had kind of a shock value, like rock ’n’ roll had shock value in a way,” says Neil Rosenberg, a founding member of the Redwood Canyon Ramblers. “Electric instruments were considered outré by all of us. So if you wanted to do something that really set people’s teeth on edge and kind of kicked butt, bluegrass was it. It was an exciting ensemble form and it appealed to the jazz sense—there was improvisation and trading of licks back and forth. There was a whole bunch of us young guys learning together and being very excited about it.”

Actually, there was a fair amount of enmity between some hard-core bluegrass musicians and some old-timey string band players—“people looking down their noses at each other and being sort of cliquish,” as David Nelson puts it—but Garcia and his crowd embraced both disciplines and basically played anything that caught their fancy. Jerry’s first forays on the banjo had been influenced by the frailing style he heard on old-timey records, but as he investigated bluegrass more closely he naturally gravitated to the incredible picking of Earl Scruggs, who had popularized his rolling banjo technique first as part of Bill Monroe’s seminal band in the mid-’40s, the Blue Grass Boys, and then with fellow Monroe alumnus Lester Flatt in the Foggy Mountain Boys. Actually, 1962 was a high-water year for Flatt and Scruggs and bluegrass in general. The duo’s theme song for the hit television series The Beverly Hillbillies hit number 1 on both the country and pop music charts and spurred a brief bluegrass craze and some attendant grassploitation in the form of commercials using bluegrass music.

“It’s hard to learn how to play bluegrass,” says Marshall Leicester. “It’s got a lot of rules and it’s complicated music and that creates a kind of natural elitism around it. The banjo player has to learn to play Scruggs’s three-finger style and that’s a rather complicated and demanding way to play the instrument. It takes a lot of practice, it takes a lot of thinking. You have to get around the fingerboard in a way that an old-timey banjo player normally doesn’t. And you have to learn to play fast and loud, which is also difficult.”

Records and tapes were one way to learn about old-timey and bluegrass—Jerry said he spent hours listening to records slowed down to 16 rpm to learn solos off them—but he and his musical friends also took advantage of every opportunity they could to see touring acts from the East and South. Since Berkeley had always had an active folk scene—it was sort of “Cambridge West,” though it didn’t have a venue as established as the East Coast folk mecca’s Club 47—the big folk and bluegrass acts would generally pass through on their infrequent tours. But the real action was down in Los Angeles at a club called the Ash Grove, which was run by a string band enthusiast and political activist named Ed Pearl. “He was one of the early guys to bring roots music to the West Coast,” says Brooks Adams Otis, a musician and record collector in the Peninsula folk scene. “Not only bluegrass, but blues. He brought out the Stanley Brothers, Doc Watson, Bill Monroe. He brought out this succession of great people and you’d go to the club and then later Ed would have parties at his house with the musicians. A lot of people from the Bay Area went down to the Ash Grove.”

* * *

Jerry and his friends made the pilgrimage south to L.A. many times, and in the process they befriended the members of what was unquestionably the best homegrown bluegrass band in L.A., the Country Boys, who changed their name to the Kentucky Colonels in 1962. The Colonels are probably best remembered as the group that launched the influential flat-picking guitar wizard Clarence White, but all four core members were hot pickers—Clarence’s older brother Roland White, who played mandolin and guitar, banjo player Billy Ray Latham and bassist/banjoist Roger Bush. Though Garcia was friendly with the entire band, he later became closest to Clarence White, and many years later he said, “Clarence was important in my life both as a friend and a player. He brought a kind of swing—a rhythmic openness—to bluegrass and a unique syncopation. His feel has been incorporated by a lot of other players, but nobody has ever quite gotten the open quality of his rhythm. Clarence had wonderful control over the guitar. He’s the first guy I heard who really knocked me out.”

When Marshall Leicester returned from Yale in the spring of 1962, he and Garcia and a classically trained violinist turned fiddler named Dick Arnold, who had gotten the string band music bug from hanging around the Chateau, formed a group called the Sleepy Hollow Hog Stompers (“Jerry and I had a mutual taste for that kind of absurdity,” Leicester says of the name). “Our repertoire was always about 80 to 90 percent from the first few New Lost City Ramblers records and reworked; and then a few other things from elsewhere, like the tapes that Adams Otis had and Chris Strachwitz’s records. So we got a pipeline directly into the music and not just as mediated by a band like the Ramblers.”

Garcia finally found a way to make some money on a semiregular basis when he started teaching guitar and banjo at Dana Morgan’s Music Shop in downtown Palo Alto. This wasn’t about to make him rich, but it allowed him to make enough to keep the wolf away from the door while still devoting most of his time and energy to practicing and playing music. And as Barbara Meier says, “That’s all he did. That’s it. He played music. He was totally dedicated. He would play all day long. If he was trying to learn something, he would practice it until he got it. And it wasn’t something he ever had to force himself to do. For some reason, he was absolutely charmed, in the sense that it never occurred to him that he would have to earn a living. He was totally content.

“I did two paintings of him at that time, and in each one of those he’s wearing the same shirt. Do you know why? Because it was just about the only shirt he owned. There was a short-sleeved white shirt that he wore when he went to Dana Morgan’s to teach, and he had this other shirt. And he did not care. He did not care about anything, as long as he had that guitar, as long as he had cigarettes. There was always somewhere to stay, food always manifested somehow. He lived on less than nothing for a long, long time. And he allowed himself to have this incredible space, this time to devote to his craft. And he had no plan, either. This was just what he liked to do and this is what he was interested in. I don’t think it ever occurred to him that he wouldn’t be able to do whatever he wanted.”