Jerry Garcia fronted one of the most legendary rock bands in history for 30 years, but on August 9, 1995, that came to an end when he died of a heart attack at the age of 53. Here are five interesting facts you may not know about the man who helped usher in a whole generation of peace and love...
Jerry Garcia's First Love Was Country Music. Though he went on to found one of the most popular bands in rock n' roll history, if the young Jerry Garcia had it his way, he'd have been playing country tunes in a pair of cowboy boots. Garcia grew up listening to Grand Ol' Opry every Sunday and his first record ever was a Hank Williams 45. It wasn't until he watched The Beatles' film, A Hard Day's Night, that Garcia converted to the church of rock n' roll.
The Original Band Name Was The Warlocks. The five-some of Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Pigpen McKernan, and Bill Kreutzman originally formed a group in 1964 called The Warlocks before going on to change the name to The Grateful Dead. According to Garcia, the new name didn't have any prolific origin—he simply plucked it out of the dictionary. Deadhead legend has it that the band was smoking DMT at Phil Lesh's house when Garcia opened a dictionary randomly to those two words. He suggested the name to the rest of the guys, and it stuck.
Garcia Has a Cockroach and an Asteroid Named After Him. The spirit of Jerry Garcia lives on in more than his music—in the late 1990s, a Deadhead doubling as a researcher discovered a new breed of cockroach (hooray!) and decided to pay homage to the hippie king of rock n' roll by naming the bug after Garcia. “Cryptocercus garciai” was born! But don't worry, if bugs aren't your thing, two astronomers named an asteroid after the singer just three months after his passing, so you can remember him through a giant flying rock instead!
Garcia Earned Just $5 for His First Gig. Before The Grateful Dead (and even before The Warlocks), Garcia and friend Robert Hunter played a gig under the name "Bob and Jerry" for just $5. Though the duo initially framed the check to remember their humble beginnings, the memory was short-lived. The duo cashed the check for cigarette money just days after getting it. Bob Hunter would go on to write lyrics for The Grateful Dead, and when the band was inducted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, Hunter became the first non-performing band member to get inducted.
They Had an Awful Set at Woodstock. Most people know that The Grateful Dead performed for 400,000 people at Woodstock in 1969, but few know the dirty details: the band had an awful set. So bad, in fact, that they were not featured in the feature film version of the concert. Garcia himself acknowledged that the band was too trashed when they got on stage for their nighttime set, and a mix of bad weather and too many people on stage made them play poorly.