'Jerry Garcia Day' in Palo Alto, Calif.

Oct. 30, 2004 at 12:37 PM

PALO ALTO, Calif., Oct. 30 (UPI) -- Saturday was "Jerry Garcia Day" in Palo Alto, Calif., where the late singer's roots run deep.

Palo Alto's city historian Steve Staiger said the high-tech city played a big role in Gracia's life in the coffee-shop folk scene of the early 1960s, reported the San Jose Mercury News.

Garcia was born in San Francisco, but lived in Menlo Park during his middle-school years, and returned to Palo Alto after an unsuccessful stint in the Army when he was 17 to live as a beatnik.

"He was still in his teens," said Vernon Gates, the original owner of St. Michael's Alley, a downtown coffee house which is still open today. "He was a nice, dropped-out, down-at-the-heels poet. He'd bring his guitar over and sit with one cup of coffee all afternoon -- with numerous free refills."

He frequented the coffee houses and book stores and made money teaching guitar. In the 1960s, Gracia was a master of bluegrass. In Palo Alto, Garcia, Bob Weir, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan and three other musicians formed Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions.

The jug band jug evolved into the Warlocks and then -- as the counterculture of the 1960s hit its zenith -- the Grateful Dead.

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