Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Jerry's Brother Sells Lithographs


Another Liberatore article on MarinIJ.com:

Jerry Garcia's brother Tiff selling lithographs
Paul Liberatore
Marin Independent Journal

TIFF GARCIA loves guitars and has a talent for drawing and art. In that sense, he's a lot like his late brother, rock icon Jerry Garcia. In the living room of Garcia's immaculate Novato home one recent afternoon, a vintage Les Paul Custom electric guitar lay in a princely position on one sofa, and a customized Fender Telecaster had its own soft place on a couch under a window overlooking a deck and garden.

"They keep the dogs from jumping on the furniture," Garcia cracked with a laugh that sounded eerily like his brother's.

"I'm a guitar player, but I know that Jerry had more talent than I do.

"When I think back on it, I can't say that there was any one time when I realized that my brother was gonna be a guitar hero some day, and everyone was gonna worship the various strings that he touched. All that's good, and I appreciate it, but it took a while for me to swallow that."

Tiff (a nickname for Clifford) is a trim man with curly brownish gray hair and a neat beard. He's 69 years old, four years older than Jerry, who died in 1995 at 53 after decades of drug abuse.

"I didn't poison myself as much," he said with a sad smile. Then he brightened, joking in a mock shout: "I've got Jerry beat by 10 years!"

Jerry Garcia was one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time, with an instantly recognizable, distinctive style and sound.

But before he formed the Grateful Dead in 1965 and began a 30-year career as a touring musician, he was looking to become a fine art painter, studying at the San Francisco Institute.

When he was in art school, he completed five oil paintings that he gave to his brother, who is now offering limited-edition lithographs of one of them for sale to collectors and fans of Garcia's art.

Priced at $2,000, the 19-by-25.5-inch lithograph is for "the Deadhead who already has everything," joked poster artist Stanley "Mouse" Miller, who is overseeing the reproduction process.

Garcia's painting, titled "In Chair," a male figure sitting and reading, was done under the tutelage of Elmer Bischoff (1916-1991), a leader in the Bay Area figurative art movement (1950-1964). Richly colored in ochre, red, browns, yellows, greens and black, it's available at www.jerryfineart.com.

"Jerry was just 17 when he painted it," said Bob Mathews, a former Grateful Dead music producer and sound engineer who is co-producing the project. "It represents a period of time before Jerry chose music as his means of creative expression. This was when he was seriously thinking that he was going to be an artist."

Garcia actually did become an artist in later years, creating nearly 500 pieces of art between 1985 and his death in 1995, using watercolor, gouache, pencil, ink, airbrush and digital media.

While he was once quoted as saying that he hoped no one took his art too seriously, he sold hundreds of his original works and thousands of lithographs.

In addition, his designs appear on popular neckties and clothing under the J Garcia brand.

While Jerry was becoming a superstar with the Grateful Dead, building the band into the top grossing touring act in the world at one point, Tiff was living in Fairfax with his wife, Gayle, raising three children and commuting to a post office job as a letter carrer in San Francisco.

"I had some colorful routes that were kinda nice - Russian Hill, Chinatown, North Beach," he recalled in a nasal voice reminiscent of Jerry's. "But when I got home at night I'd be beat. It was killing me."

Did he ever resent his blue-collar life as a letter carrier while his little brother was becoming a rock superstar?

"Not a bit," he said without hesitation. "I'm a morning person. And I don't like show business."

Tiff was so leery of the drug scene around the Dead, for example, that he wouldn't hang out backstage, preferring to sit anonymously in the audience with the throngs of worshipful Deadheads.

In 1988, he quit the post office when Jerry offered him a job in the Grateful Dead's then-new merchandising department.

"I went in there and fit perfect," he said. "It was a short commute to San Rafael. I was home every day at a reasonable time. We started out in a closet, but it all came together.

"And I enjoyed doing what I was doing, just sending people a cup or a CD or a T-shirt or whatever and making them happy. People were always clamoring for new merchandise."

Along with other employees of Grateful Dead Productions, Garcia lost his job when the band shut down its Marin operations in recent years. All of its business is handled by Rhino Entertainment in Los Angeles.

At the same time he went to work for the Dead, Tiff had more time to work on his own art, using artist markers, watercolors and pen and ink. He sells his pieces online at Until now, the soft-spoken Tiff was probably best known among Deadheads for accidentally chopping off half of Jerry's right middle finger.

It happened at their family's Santa Cruz mountain cabin when they were horsing around with an ax as boys.

As it turned out, the missing finger would become a part of Jerry's persona. Jerry was only five when it happened, and handled it better than his sensitive older brother.

"I had to carry that burden around for a while," Tiff said. "And it wasn't friendly. I had a breakdown. I think everyone around me understood that I was traumatized."

Making matters worse, Jerry ended up getting rewarded for an injury he helped cause.

"Each time they changed a bandage, they gave Jerry a new toy." Tiff remembered. "By the time he was down to the last bandage, he had a roomful of them."

The following year, the boys lost their father in a fishing accident. Jerry was watching from the bank when his dad was swept away in a river and drowned.

Tiff was at the family cabin in Santa Cruz and learned of his father's death on the radio.

"I'm glad I had Jerry at that time," he said. "We bonded."

Many of the Grateful Dead family showed up one night last week at the historic Matrix nightclub in San Francisco to support Tiff and launch his new art venture.

Among the crowd was Sue Stephens of San Anselmo, who was Jerry's executive secretary for 23 years.

Asked if seeing Jerry's student art work connects her to him, she said, "No, but it connects me to his brother. People say they're opposites, but I don't see it. Like Jerry, Tiff is a very sweet guy.

"It's good to see him doing this to honor his brother."

Paul Liberatore can be reached at liberatore@marinij.com

Make sure to follow the link to the original site to listen to a few moments of Tiff Garcia messing around on the guitar in his Novato home!

1 Comments:

Anonymous Morgan said...

Such a great article it was which the living room of Garcia's immaculate Novato home one recent afternoon, a vintage Les Paul Custom electric guitar lay in a princely position on one sofa, and a customized Fender Telecaster had its own soft place on a couch under a window overlooking a deck and garden.In which At the same time he went to work for the Dead, Tiff had more time to work on his own art, using artist markers, watercolors and pen and ink. Thankds for sharing this article.

Sunday, February 05, 2012  

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