Grateful Dead Magazine Articles

Playboy Interview w/J. Garcia Pt. 13

Collected from
Back Previous Bus Stop Forward (Beth Dyer)
Organization: University of California; Santa Cruz
Reprinted without permission from Playboy, March 1972...

GRATEFUL DEAD I HAVE KNOWN (pt. 13) by Ed McClanahan

Backstage again, and I've retreated to the remotest corner of the lounge to work for a few minutes on my notes on the New Riders' set. I'm just getting fairly deep into it when I begin to feel that creeping uneasiness that signals another presence, close at hand and watching me intently. I lift my eyes reluctantly from my notebook and find myself face to face with a small child, just a toddler, a little boy about a year old, standing there right next to the arm of my chair, his wide blue eyes fixed on my moving ballpoint. He has rust-red hair, brushed nearly flat, and a round, fair face upon which has settled an expression as solemn as a judge's. And he very definitely does not, let it be said here and now for reasons that will momentarily become apparent, resemble Jerry Garcia in any way, shape or form.

"Hi sport," I greet the boy, offering him the pen. "You wanta write something?"

"Oh lord, baby, don't go bothering people that way, sweetheart. Is he bothering you?"

The mother, presumably: a tall, slender blonde, very pretty in a sort of pale, bloodless way, oddly brittle-looking somehow, a china figurine off some Victorian parlor's whatnot shelf, or perhaps, with her plaid wool skirt and cardigan sweater and plastic barrettes and silk stockings and penny loafers, a portrait by Andrew Wyeth. Here amid this tribe of weird Aquarian savages, she seems, in every sense that the phrase can conjure, out of time.

"No, he's fine," I reassured her, flipping a page in my notebook for the boy to leave his mark on. "Let him write; he probably understands it all better than I do anyhow."

"Are you writing something about the band?" she asks. I own up to it and name the magazine I'm doing it for. "Oh," she says, "that's very interesting. Because Jerry Garcia, well, he's, you know," she rolls her eyes significantly toward the kid, who by now is assiduously inscribing his hieroglyphic autograph in my notebook, "he's little Jerry's father."

Uh, beg pardon, ma'am, but heh-heh, I could've sworn you said ...

"His true father, I mean. He's his true father."

My first flash is to those two lines from Jerry's song Friend of the Devil, the ones that go "Got a wife in Chino, babe/ And one in Cherokee..." But then I cop another quick peek at the weanling at my knee, with his sober delft-blue eyes and that red hair, and instantly the next lines of the song come to mind: "First one say she got my child,/ But it don't look like me." Which is to say either that the girl is some kind of shakedown artist, or that she is, as the quaint old phrase so delicately had it, bereft of reason. Because if this kid is Jerry Garcia's offspring, then I am Walter Winchell.

"And you know what?" she hurries on. "I came all the way out here from Stockton on the Greyhound, just so he could see Little Jerry, and I paid my way in tonight just like everybody else, and I talked the door guy into letting me come backstage and everything, and then when I said Hi to Jerry and held up the baby to him and all, he acted like, you know, like he didn't even know us. Which I just don't understand what's wrong, I mean, I sure hope it's not because of something I've, you know, done or anything..."

True father indeed. But this time I can plainly hear, through the rush of words, the faint rattle of hysteria that bespeaks a screw loose somewhere.

"I just hope he's not, you know, mad at me

Turn to Part 14. . .

Back Previous Bus Stop Forward