Footage: Jerry Garcia’s Levi’s Commercial

by Steve Spohn
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LevisStadiumDead SongMango.comAs The Grateful Dead gear up to play their final California concerts at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, an interesting and ironic footnote exists: In 1987, Jerry Garcia recorded a commercial for Levi’s, the blue-jeans maker.

Levi’s Stadium, home to the San Francisco 49ers, opened in July of 2014 – not far from where Jerry and The Dead started their 30-year run in the 1960s. The stadium will serve as the venue for the two West Coast “Fare Thee Well” shows, June 27th and 28th, as the longest-running jam-band shuts down for good.

When asked about the commercial – a radio spot – the anti-corporate Garcia said:

It wasn’t The Grateful Dead. I make that distinction. Other people don’t, but hey, that’s their problem.

The reason I did it, really, was because I had some friends that needed work. And you know, work for musicians comes, especially for bluegrass musicians, country musicians… It’s a great way to starve.

Really. And I had a lot of them out there starving. And when it’s possible to do something to be able to let some of those guys do some work, hey, you know…

Here’s raw footage of Jerry and Dave Nelson, co-founder of New Riders of the Purple Sage, rehearsing for the commercial in The Dead’s studio, Club Front, in San Rafael, CA. Sandy Rothman, member of the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band, is on the pedal steel. You can hear former Dead tour manager Sam Cutler in the background.

Listen to the radio spot here (scroll down). Garcia starts his bit at 1:16.

More from Jerry on why he did the commercial:

[It was] basically as a favor to my friends who got the gig. Don’t worry. The Dead wouldn’t want get involved in a corporate sponsorship…And I had nothing to do with that Ben and Jerry’s business.

Steve Spohn is a former Saturday Night Live and Nickelodeon Television executive. Growing up near Princeton, NJ, led to a musical addiction, with WMMR in Philly and WNEW in NYC providing the daily dose. When not attending or planning to attend Bruce Springsteen concerts, he's plugging away as a screenwriter in Beverly Hills. Reach Steve at SSpohn@SongMango.com.

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