New Edition of Old Grateful Dead Book Revisits the Time Willie Mays Refused to Meet Jerry Garcia

An updated book about the Grateful Dead includes a humorous excerpt of the band interacting — or not — with legendary San Francisco Giants players.

The 20th anniversary edition of "Deadheads: Stories from Fellow Artists, Friends & Followers of the Grateful Dead" by Linda Kelly has just been released via Skyhorse Publishing.

This book excerpt comes from Dennis McNally, who has been the band's publicist for 35 years and is a self-proclaimed Deadhead who has attended over 900 shows:

"Among my favorite moments ever with Jerry Garcia was the day the Grateful Dead sang the national anthem for the Giants, which was April something 1993. There are two things every band has to do: you have to do benefits, and you have to do the National Anthem. It just comes with the territory. And, of course, the Grateful Dead was the only band in world history that had never done the National Anthem, for a number of reasons.

"A guy named Eric Colby was a Grateful Dead production assistant and a maniacal baseball fan. His wife worked in the ticket office for the San Francisco Giants. Jerry was not a sports fan, really. As he put it that day, “I’m just a camp follower. When they get good, I sort of check in, but I can’t take the extra heartache of being a day-to-day fan.” Anyway, Jerry was sentimental about San Francisco. He was sixth generation on his mother’s side, he loved the city, he loved what it stood for.

"So it’s opening day. We do soundcheck at ten, the game’s at one, which meant I had to entertain Jerry, Bobby, and Vince Welnick for three hours because there’s no way I was going to let them leave the grounds. Traffic madness and whatnot. I was cat herding.

"Tony Bennett’s there, and he’s going to sing, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” Jerry and Tony had met before. Tony’s son was a Deadhead, and Tony came backstage at Madison Square Garden a couple of times and said hi. He’s just a gentleman. Very sweet guy.

"So, we’re waiting around for the National Anthem moment, and these veterans—ex-Giants, stars—walk by. One is Willie Mays, one is Willie McCovey, and one is Gaylord Perry. Bobby is a sports fan—he was born here, so these are real heroes. I’m introducing everybody to everybody, and Willie McCovey, who is one of God’s gentlemen, is shaking hands with Jerry and saying hi, and Gaylord Perry and Bobby start verbally jamming. Bobby just loves Gaylord Perry. So that’s all going well, and I turn to Willie Mays, who is legendary for being cranky, and I said, “Mr. Mays, can I introduce you to Jerry Garcia? He’s going to be singing the National Anthem today.” And Willie says, “NO!” and then he yells at the other two guys, “Come on! We have to get to this alumni event. Let’s go.” And they go. And I turned to Jerry, and he was cracking up.

"What I realized with Jerry at that moment was that he was so fed up with people wanting something from him that the idea that somebody didn’t give a shit who he was absolutely made his day."

Excerpted with permission from "Deadheads: Stories from Fellow Artists, Friends & Followers of the Grateful Dead" by Linda Kelly. Copyright 2015, Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

Copyright FREEL - NBC Local Media
Contact Us