Excelsior Roots Key to Jerry Garcia’s Success

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Famed musician Jerry Garcia will be consecrated in the Excelsior this summer with a second memorial plaque to be dedicated on Mission Street near his childhood home.

Though the deceased former Grateful Dead guitarist died more than 20 years ago, he would have been 75 years old in 2017, and the annual Jerry Day festival is held annually to mark his birthday.

This year, the festival is planned to coincide with the plaque unveiling, and the plaque will be placed near Amazon Avenue where Garcia lived until he was five. Garcia moved just a few blocks away, to Harrington Street, where another memorial plaque has been placed.

Though he moved away from the city while still a teenager, San Francisco’s impact on the man was clear. Garcia was a gifted guitar player, and he dabbled in watercolor painting as well. He even wrote a book that was never completed, yet published posthumously entitled “Harrington Street” about his growing up in the Excelsior.

He would not likely recognize San Francisco today, yet every year, the Jerry Day festival packs in hundreds of Garcia’s fans in John McLaren Park.

Tom Murphy has long helped organize the Jerry Day festivities, and he was excited about the confluence of Garcia’s 75th birthday, the plaque display, the 15th annual Jerry Day festival, and the potential 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, a reference to the 1967 heyday of the San Francisco counterculture music and arts scene.

For those of a certain age, this would indicate a great convergence of Garcia related activity, indeed. For younger music fans, well, you can check out the Jerry Day festival on Aug. 6 to get a taste of what Garcia’s impact has meant to an entire generation. As for the plaque, the three foot by three foot bronze square will be similar to the one near Harrington Street.

Tom Schrey, like Murphy, is a long time deadhead also pitching in on this year’s festivities. Schrey’s company, Artworks Foundry, is responsible for the plaque itself.

“It’s a bronze casting with a patina added for coloring and a sealing over it for protection,” Schrey said. “It’s a two level image where people’s feet will only hit the top portion, leaving the darker colored part untouched. The constant foot traffic will keep polishing it. It should look good with age. After about 20 years, it will turn green. It’s kind of a classy look that lots of old bronze plaques around the city have.”

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