top of page

Episode #23-The Musical Roots of Jerry Garcia

Today’s episode is an examination and celebration of the musical roots of the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia. Garcia’s musical roots begin in the early 1960s with traditional American folk music. With styles ranging from bluegrass, old time country music, folk, blues and jug band music, Garcia was a well known performer in SanFrancisco and Bay Area clubs. Around 1964-65 Jerry switched his energy from bluegrass banjo to the electric guitar after forming a rock band with fellow American down home music enthusiasts Bob Weir, Ron “Pigpen” Mckernan, Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzman. The Warlocks, soon renamed the Grateful Dead became an extremely popular act in the SanFrancisco area and the rest, as they say, is history.

The format for this episode is semi-chronological in regard to Jerry Garcia’s music styles. A variety of styles are examined and is nowhere near a complete, in depth analysis of Jerry’s styles and influences. That could be a full length book. Rather, the show is a simple examination that looks at some of the original recordings that influenced Jerry and then mixes in snippets of how those recordings were manifested in Garcia’s style throughout the decades he was active as a performer up until his untimely death in August of 1995. Early recordings of Jerry in his many aggregations around the Bay Area folk scene have long been available as bootleg tapes as well as most, if not all, of the Grateful Dead shows from their 30 year career made possible through the Dead’s allowing of and encouragement of taping their live performances. There’s a lot out there to listen to and I recommend you seek out as many recordings as you can.

For an in depth dive on the Grateful Dead I highly recommend the official podcast of the Grateful Dead, The Good ‘Ol Grateful Deadcast as David Grisman’s record label, Acousticdisc, which made many great recordings of Jerry playing traditional American music in the early 1990’s. See links below.

Thanks for listening and I hope you enjoy the show.

Acoustic Disc:

Good ‘Ol Grateful Deadcast:

Donate to the podcast:



Instagram: @olddingyjukeboxpodcast


  1. Charlie Parker and Mack Woolbright “Man Who Wrote The Home Sweet Home” Columbia Records 1927 > Jerry and Sara Garcia recorded at The Tangent, Palo Alto, California 1963

  2. Short Buckle Roark and Family “I Truly Understand” Victor Records 1927> Jerry and Sara Garcia recorded at The Tangent, Palo Alto California 1963

  3. The Stanley Brothers “She’s More To Be Pitied” King Records, 1958>The Black Mountain Boys recorded at The Tangent, Palo Alto California 1963

  4. Charlie Monroe and his Kentucky Pardners “Rosa Lee McFall” RCA Victor Records 1949 > The Grateful Dead The Warfield Theater, SanFrancisco, California, 1980

  5. Jimmy Skinner “Dark Hollow” Mercury Records 1959 > The Grateful Dead The Warfield Theater, SanFrancisco, California, 1980

  6. The Memphis Jug Band “Stealin’ Stealin’” Victor Records 1929 > The Grateful Dead Rehearsal Tape 1966.

  7. Mississippi Sheiks “Sittin’ On Top Of The World” Okeh Records 1930> Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys Decca Records 1958 > The Grateful Dead The Lyceum Theater, London 1972

  8. Sonny Rollins and the Modern Jazz Quartet “Newk’s Fadeaway” Prestige Records 1958 > The Grateful Dead “Eyes of the World” Sportatorium, Pembroke Pines, Florida, 1977

  9. Ornette Coleman “Lonely Woman” Atlantic Records 1959 > The Grateful Dead “Playing in the Band” Winterland Arena, San Francisco, California 1973

  10. Ralph Mooney “Moonshine” Challenge Records 1961 > Grateful Dead “Dire Wolf” 1970 > Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young “Teach Your Children Well” 1970

  11. Oscar Aleman Trio “Russian Lullaby” Swing Records 1939 > Jerry Garcia 1973

  12. The Pindar Family with Joseph Spence “And I Bid You Goodnight” Field Recording early 1960s by Jody Stecher > The Grateful Dead Meadowlands Arena, 1989

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page