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Here’s Why Jerry Garcia Ties Exist

Having not been born early enough to remember a living Jerry Garcia, I was not aware that Jerry Garcia ties existed, let alone were the most popular necktie in America at one time, until reading about it in Dark Star: An Oral Biography of Jerry Garcia. What I learned is that Jerry was into visual art when he was much younger, in the early 1960s, but when he picked up music he focused solely on that for most of his life.

In Jerry’s later years, starting in the late 80s, he returned to his younger days hobby of painting and visual art. He even created digital art at a time when the process was very new.

According to Jerry’s manager, Vincent DiBiase, Jerry used a program on his Mac called Fractal Design Painter to create his art. Fractal Design Painter is still around today under the name Corel Painter, but Jerry used the earliest versions to create digital art.

By 1992, he had begun selling his artwork. It was around that time that Jerry’s manager, Vince DiBiase also got involved and brought a more business-focused element to the process, after Jerry had approached him and asked him to take it over. Apparently, Jerry was curious to see if he could make it as a painter in his own right.

Nora Sage, a friend of Jerry during this weak point in his life, was responsible for taking care of him and soon became somewhat of a sales representative for his art.

Eventually, Nora reached someone at Stonehenge ties who wanted to manufacture ties based on Jerry’s art. Vince also spoke of this in Dark Star:

Jerry did not want to do the ties. I brought the proposal to him. Nora thought it was a great idea and Jerry said, “Ties? Do you know what I think of ties? This is what I think of ties.” And he pulled an invisible tie up over his head like a hangman’s noose. I said, “Okay. I’ll never mention it to you again.” Then Nora got a lawyer to call him in Hawaii on vacation and Jerry didn’t say no. He didn’t say yes but he didn’t say no. I told them all, “He doesn’t want to do it.” But they ignored me. It was a big embarrassment to him. He didn’t want that done.

Vincent DiBiase in Dark Star: An Oral Biography of Jerry Garcia

When the ties were released, they looked so much different from Jerry’s original artwork that he said he didn’t even recognize the work. They were created with small fractal clip art-type geometric designs, with many different styles. They even made Jerry Garcia bowties.

Jerry Garcia ties were reportedly the best-selling ties in America at one time, with congressmen, senators, and even President Clinton supposedly owning one. I was not able to find any photos of Clinton wearing a Jerry Garcia tie, but I did find one of Jerry standing next to noted Deadhead Senator Patrick Leahy:

Jerry Garcia with Patrick Leahy in 1993.

DiBiase also says that he was approached with a five million dollar offer for Jerry Garcia boxer shorts, but he turned it down and never even told Jerry about it.

Jerry Garcia ties are still manufactured and sold today, though they are not nearly as popular as they were in the early 90s. You can find them at places like Walmart and Kohls.

And as a closing thought, I would like to ask a question: If Jerry were upset about the ties during his lifetime, what would he say now if he saw the Grateful Dead merchandise being pumped out today?