Bob Greene’s family is taking Wednesday’s death of Grateful Dead singer and guitarist Jerry Garcia a bit harder than most.
The Greenes, after all, have a lot of time invested with the San Francisco rock group. The four family members say they’ve seen more than a thousand shows between them and share a library of bootlegged tapes that numbers more than 200.
Garcia, 53, died of a heart attack in a California alcohol and drug rehabilitation center Wednesday morning.
Greene, a 47-year-old accountant, has taken in too many shows to remember since he started going in 1968. “I’d say thousands.”
His wife Diana Newell, a bluegrass musician, has seen at least 100. Son Jesse, 22, saw over 60 shows as a toddler while his Deadhead parents followed the band. Eighteenyear-old Cameron Newell, his long hair in a ponytail, has gone to 10.
“We’re not your average family,” said Jesse.
Bob Greene said his family, in a state of shock, planned to listen to tapes of some concerts Wednesday night. But mourning for Garcia - unlike the experience of going to a Grateful Dead concert - must be done individually.
“These are the Albert Einsteins of music,” said Greene, who plans to attend Garcia’s wake in San Francisco this weekend. “(Garcia) will be known for a style, to pick up an instrument and make it sound perfect. Jerry Garcia will be an icon.”
For many in Spokane, the news signaled more than the passing of a cultural icon. Garia was one of the few remaining threads to the 60s subculture that celebrated peace, drugs and music.
The band has not announced whether it will play without Garcia, but fans Wednesday referred to the Grateful Dead in past tense.
“The unique thing about Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead is that they did more than just write and perform songs - they represented a culture,” said Robert Saucier, who named his Mars Hotel at Bernard and Sprague after an album. “It was almost a movement, a peaceful movement.”
One Spokane Deadhead who tapes concerts said he was too upset to talk. Others offered analogies to the past - John Lennon, Elvis Presley, John Belushi, Kurt Cobain.
“It’s just like Charlie Chaplin dying - the king of silent films,” said Steve Jackson, 38, who saw the Grateful Dead during the band’s only Spokane appearance in 1980. “It’s a huge piece of culture that has disappeared.”
Michael Moon Bear, owner of Moonshadow, a novelty store that sells Grateful Dead tapes, shirts and patchouli incense, said the appeal of the band is based on a feeling of shared experience.
“What you have is a nice bunch of people enjoying life, being nice to people,” said Moon Bear.
Some fans said the lingering image of Grateful Deads fans being tie-dyed, pot-heads is not accurate.
Many are now middle-aged professionals who simply like good music, said Greene. He noted that high-priced hotels like the Hilton - not cheaper Super 8 motels - fill up first when the Grateful Dead comes to town.
“I’m not a stoney, I’m as straight as they come,” said Greene. “We’re just into good music, a vibe people came to share.”
, DataTimes MEMO: Memorial A memorial celebration for Jerry Garcia is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday at Peaceful Valley Community Center.