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Talking Jerry Garcia and Auction with Longtime Grateful Dead Publicist Dennis McNally

by Rockin' Rich Lynch

Attention Dead Head Nation! We have just received word from friend of the site and longtime publicist for the Grateful Dead Dennis McNally that there will be a very special auction taking place next month featuring many rare items associated with their now immortal and still much loved co-founder, Jerry Garcia and his famous bandmates. We caught up with the author, music historian and man behind one of the craziest scenes in rock history and asked him to collect his thoughts on Grateful Dead collecting and the current state of the Company store.


Photo courtesy of Dennis McNally. (Photo credit Susana Millman)

SP: Are you yourself a collector of G.D. memorabilia?

DM: Not really. I gave 99% of my G.D. stuff - backstage passes, laminates, my files, tapes of interviews - to the G.D. archive at Santa Cruz. I have a very few things on the wall, most noticeably Rick Griffin's tour poster (from Frankfort, I think) from the 1990 tour. And some art from Jerry. The thing I cherish the most and would never sell is off the wall. I once gave him the draft of a press release about a tour and he wrote "OK - JG" on it. Whether it was just sort of automatic pilot or a conscious joke, I never asked. But he certainly never did it again.

SP: What do you think is the most valuable of all the Jerry Garcia items - included or not in the upcoming auction?

DM: Well, of course the most valuable of those items are the guitars. I know that John Pritzker gave one of them to the Southern Poverty Law Center to be auctioned off, and I have no idea what it got, but surely in the millions. I know Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, has one. But there are others, still in the possession of the family, I think.

SP: The Dead did a fair amount of merchandising over the years. Did any of those get the "limited edition" treatment that might render them more valuable as time went on?

DM: To a limited degree. There were boxed sets of music that were sold in limited numbers, and originals of those might well appreciate in cash terms over time, but they were still in the thousands, so I don't see them being valued in very large figures.

SP: Bobby's been collecting configurations of Dead related bands with the most recent being "Dead and Company" where the guitar player, singer songwriter and certifiable rock star John Mayer has stepped in and transformed them once again - for better or worse - depending on who you ask. What do you think? More importantly, what would Jerry think of these modern day developments?

DM: I finally saw Dead & Co. this summer and was deeply impressed. Mayer fills the parts without trying to be Jerry and does it beautifully. He's revived Bobby's interest in the music. Oteil is a fantastic bass player, Jeff Chimenti is a wonderful pianist, and the drummers are playing together better than I've heard them in years. I'll answer about Jerry in the next question.

SP: Dennis, in your opinion what is the state of the Grateful Dead brand today?

DM: Truly amazing. I assumed that the scene and interest in the music would dwindle over time, but "Fare Thee Well" re-ignited it. There are more Dead Heads now than there were in 1995, and a large percentage of them now never saw Jerry - and are just as much Dead Heads as those of us who did. It's a genre all its own. As Bruce Hornsby said, the songs are "hymns" - which means that it's the music that counts, not who's playing it. It can be Dead & Co. or JRAD or my favorites, the Garcia Birthday Band in Portland (Oregon) or whoever. The music lives as never before - and I think Jerry would be very pleased by that. I sure am.

Donley Auctions, a renowned auction house located in Northern Illinois, recently announced an upcoming auction of priceless Grateful Dead memorabilia on Saturday, September 8th at 10:00am Central Standard Time at the company's headquarters in Union, Illinois. A preview event held Friday, September 7th from noon to 8:00pm will provide interested buyers with a sneak peek at the amazing collection. Interested buyers can bid online or in person.

The auction features memorabilia from former Grateful Dead employees Annette Flowers and Sue Stephens and staff member Len Dell'Amico, and includes original artwork from Jerry Garcia. The auction features signed posters, handbills and rare original documents, including Garcia's death certificate, which provide a glimpse into the extraordinary lives of the band members. The collection also includes art from Stanley George Miller, better known as "Stanley Mouse," an American artist, who created iconic cover art for the Grateful Dead, Journey and other bands.

"This auction is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Grateful Dead fans to bring home a piece of history from the band," said Randy Donley, President of Donley Auctions. "It's a great collection of pieces - all from the Grateful Dead team members' personal collections. This auction gives Dead Heads and music collectors the opportunity to own treasures you would find in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame."

Additional highlighted items from the auction will include:
• Duster overcoat worn by the band members during their "Throwing Stones" music video
• Personal canceled checks signed by Garcia
• A Rolodex of phone numbers from Garcia's personal files
• Fender Stratocaster Squire guitar signed by legendary Grateful Dead guitarist Weir

This auction is the second Grateful Dead event run by Donley Auctions. The first auction, in April 2015, was a massive success and featured the original written lyrics to "He's Gone," the last book Garcia ever read, the original copyright notice for the band's name, and hundreds of other remarkable pieces of history. For more information, please visit www.donleyauctions.com.


Related Links: For more information on the GRATEFUL DEAD AUCTION and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- Auction Contents | Dennis McNally | Dead and Co. at Folsom Field




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