Jerry Garcia: The Man, the Myth, the Area Rug

Breaking News

One of the icons of modern American culture now resides in a nondescript warehouse about 30 miles north of San Francisco, in a windowless, climate-controlled, heavily-alarmed room built like a bomb shelter that is called simply the Vault.

There, in towering rows of 13,000 audiotapes, 3,000 videotapes and about 250,000 feet of traditional 16-millimeter film lives the recorded history of the Grateful Dead, one of the seminal American rock bands.

The Grateful Dead ceased to exist on Aug. 9, 1995, when the band's lead guitarist and most recognizable figure, Jerry Garcia, died at age 53 of a heart attack at a drug treatment center. Yet 10 years later, the man and the band remain alive for millions of fans, and the once notoriously ad hoc Grateful Dead business operation has become a model for a music industry struggling with the Internet and digital democracy.

"When I first got into the record business I learned that it wasn't cool to be into the Grateful Dead," said Christopher Sabec, 40, a lawyer who said he saw the band more than 250 times and is now chief executive of the Jerry Garcia Estate L.L.C., controlled by Mr. Garcia's heirs. "But if you look at where the music business has been forced to go by technology, now it's not about selling records. It's about live shows and inspiring a fan base to be absolutely loyal. Hello? Who did that first? The Grateful Dead."

The Jerry Garcia company and Grateful Dead Productions are separate businesses each generating millions of dollars of revenue a year.

comments powered by Disqus