The day the music died.
That's no exaggeration for the multigenerational throng of Grateful Dead fans, who mourned the death yesterday of guitarist Jerry Garcia. News of Mr. Garcia's death after a heart attack spread fittingly by word-of-mouth in local Dead sanctuaries such as Fells Point. In one store after another, Grateful Dead music was played in tribute. "Truckin' " and "Sugar Magnolia" and "U.S.A. Blues." All that classic, bluegrassy rock and roll.
Candles were lighted. Vigils held. Beliefs spoken:
Garcia was God. Yes, he was a drug addict. But he was a nice drug addict. He couldn't have been 53, could he?
Man, the band loved to perform. Never a set play-list. Never a studio band. A bootlegger's dream.
What will happen now to the band? People follow the Dead for a living! What will become of them?
Bigger than Elvis' death.
"A culture has died," says a Dead fan at The Little Iguana, just one store in Fells Point loaded with Grateful Dead merchandise. Then, Jennifer Tiedebohl runs into the store to tell them Jerry is dead. They know. They have already lighted a candle.
Jennifer is still trembling. "I just got a call from my friend. He said, 'Think about this: Jerry is dead.' Then he hung up." Jennifer is 22. "My cousins raised me on the Grateful Dead. My parents were all about this.
"It was part of my youth." She has her night alone planned. Surround herself with candles and "jam out for hours" until she has to go to work in the morning.
IN MEMORY OF JERRY GARCIA. R.I.P. 8/9/95 reads the fresh pink chalking on the stoop at WanderWear on Thames Street. The store is laced with Grateful Dead shirts and neckties, magnets, bookmarks, license plates ("Have A Grateful Day"), the signature Grateful Dead Teddy Bears, and copies of "Dead Base VIII," a complete guide to the band's forever-mutating song lists.
Store manager Nessie Nanes did the chalk work. She rifles through her cassette collection to find the Dead's "Uncle John's Band." She saw the Dead in Washington this year. The music was mellow, the scene was classic, tie-dyed Dead, and "you don't have to be on drugs to enjoy the Grateful Dead . . . although it helps," she says.
The death of an icon ages us by chiseling away at our youth. Even Nessie is feeling a little older because of Mr. Garcia's death, and she was born in 1973.
Mainly, fans were just heartsick.
"I'm sorry. I don't know what to say," says Zoe Moskovitz, an 18-year-old graduate of Sidwell Friends School in Washington. "Everybody gets into the Dead in a different way. I've loved the Dead since I was 12 -- Emily Irish gave me my first tape."
Zoe spent the summer seeing six Dead concerts from D.C. to Vermont. The guys sounded better than ever, she says. Jerry was looking good and thin, too.
Zoe spent yesterday huddled with a friend, stop-start crying, and listening to the best music of her life. "It's everything . . . it's everything," she says. "It's impossible to sum up something so huge."
Hold everything. Mark Horner at After Midnight, a fashion gallery featuring Mr. Garcia's clothes and artwork, was taking only deposits from dozens of people rushing to buy Mr. Garcia's autographed lithographs. Who knows what these $450 originals will cost in a few days -- $2,000? Could easily happen, says Mr. Horner. His store and "Jerry Garcia Art Gallery" became a meeting place yesterday for Baltimore Deadheads.
A Dead fan dropped off 50 copies of the Associated Press story of Mr. Garcia's death and plopped them down at the counter. Dead fans also got the news on the Internet.
Kim Springham, a 32-year-old mother and student from Catonsville, went straight to her computer as soon as she heard the news. "I knew I could find out fact from rumor there," she says. "Also, it was comforting."
America Online kept opening "chat rooms" in the Rose Garden and the Phish Bowl to accommodate hundreds of mourners. People with user names such as JGarcia229, FatManSings and Psikodelik visited "710 Ashbury" -- the Dead's address in San Francisco -- and typed in lyrics and lamentations.
"We will survive" was one of the inevitable sentiments, along with references to "Truckin' " and what a strange, not terribly long trip Mr. Garcia's life had been. The electronic wake naturally referred to acid and 'shrooms ("Let's just trip one more day to remember") and a debate on Mr. Garcia vs. Kurt Cobain, the Nirvana star who committed suicide in 1994.
"Kurt couldn't hold the fat man's burrito," one user typed in disgust.
Burrito? No, man, Jerry loved chili dogs and milkshakes, says Robin Rider, a 43-year-old, certified Deadhead from Baltimore. He came to After Midnight to confirm Mr. Garcia's death; he thought the guy on the radio was joking. Mr. Rider has seen the band 25 times -- which is nothing to brag about around other Deadheads. Twenty-five times is nothing.
In the Garcia gallery, Mr. Rider does "The Spin," a favorite dance at Dead concerts. He does the Teddy Bear dance, too. So strange. So weird that he's dead, Mr. Rider says. "I'll never stop following him."
He has memories of bus rides to concerts, giving people a lift, and everybody helping themselves to whatever. The concerts, all those concerts attended by kids, 20-year-olds, middle-aged guys and grandparents -- the entire Deadhead spectrum.
For Robin Rider -- just another Deadhead with a ponytail and a day job -- the proper thing to do right now is sing his favorite Dead song, "U.S.A. Blues.":
Red and White Blue Suede Shoes
I'm Uncle Sam
How do you do?
. . . Ain't no lie. I'm still alive.
"Not anymore," Robin Rider says.
THE MUSIC LIVES ON
To hear the music of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, call Sundial at (410) 783-1800 and enter code 6164. For other local Sundial numbers, see the directory on Page 2A.