John Cassady: Memories of Jerry

John Cassady, son of the great Beat legend Neal Cassady, wrote this for the San Jose Mercury News, and also e-mailed me a copy. John is now 43 years old and lives in Los Gatos, California, where he works in the technology industry. I hope to bring you more from John Cassady soon!

Memories of Jerry

By John Cassady
August 10, 1995

Dear Mercury News,

My memories of Jerry Garcia are both as a fan and a friend. He was a close associate of my father, Neal, for a few tulmultuous years in the mid-’60s. I was a teen-age hippie/guitarist wanna-be, and I thought Jerry was God. Although I saw him as often as possible in concert, I met him in person less frequently, but he was always kind to me.

I last spoke to him only briefly after a Dead show in Eugene, Oregon, in 1992, which I happened to attend during a visit with friends in Portland. It turned out to be, for me, a fantastic Prankster reunion. Kesey, Ken Babbs, George Walker, Zonker (Steven Lambrecht) and others of Dad’s cohorts were there in the new “Further”, most of whom I hadn’t seen in
twenty years. There was a private showing of Babbs’ “Multi-media Cassady Tribute” that night at a downtown hotel ballroom, which Jerry and the band also attended. I was flattered that Jerry remembered me and seemed genuinely interested in my welfare after so long. That night he was cheerful and funny. When the management asked us to leave because the Dead’s roadies had loaded in their own beer for the function (we were supposed to buy it from the hotel bar), Jerry stood up and announced, “We’ve been thrown out of better places than this!,” and we retreated to Bobby’s suite in their own hotel a few miles up the freeway to continue the party. Jerry skipped it and went to bed, and I was always disappointed that I wasn’t able to talk to him more that night. Now he’s gone and I never will.

Years before I would timidly approach backstage doors to be intimidated by gruff security personnel until Jerry intervened and invited me in to talk backstage and watch the show. He’d be casual; I’d feel awestruck. He was just an extremely nice man. He was also my guitar hero, and directly influenced my own style with his staccato down-beat accents in his solos, the triplet hammer-offs, and the unique way he could play out of key and make it work.

I think his legacy is the remarkable way in which he could bring joy to so many people from different walks of life in so many ways that made one feel he was talking personally just to you. I know he affected me that way.

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Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!