Jerry Garcia’s fatal heart attack on Aug. 9 sent a shudder through the Grateful Dead’s extended family. Coping meant doing what Deadheads do best—gathering in parks and parking lots for loving communion and giddy goofiness. Some kept vigil. Some kept toking. Bob Weir kept his concert date in Hampton Beach, N.H., where 2,000 fans sustained their own encore, singing the chorus of ”Not Fade Away” for almost half an hour.
Coping in the months following meant sifting the rumors of a 1996 tour and names of Jerry replacements — Carlos Santana, Boz Scaggs, Neil Young, Mark Knopfler, David Lindley, and Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo were mentioned—as well as the spiritual question of whether the Dead should continue as the Dead without Garcia. The attitude of David Kalb, 29, a 200-show veteran, was not unusual: ”I don’t know if it would be moral or ethical or appropriate or cool. What would be cool is if they named the band something else.”
On Dec. 8, one shoe dropped: There would be no more Grateful Dead. ”In various combinations they will undoubtedly continue to make music,” band spokesman Dennis McNally said, later citing the surviving members’ certainty that without Garcia they could never hope to live up to the ”inevitable comparisons.” Deadheads online reached a nearly immediate, agreeable consensus, some even finding cause for celebration. ”They did the right thing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” read one Usenet message. While other band members let the official statement do their talking, in the next day’s San Francisco Chronicle, drummer Mickey Hart explained that without Garcia the band felt they lacked ”the magic that was at the core.
”Of course it was hard,” he said. ”But…we put it to pasture righteously, as it should be.”