On May 31st, Jerry Garcia’s “Wolf” guitar was auctioned for an astounding $1.6 million to benefit the Southern Poverty Law Center, which fights racism and hate crimes. Just before the bidding started, Jerry’s daughter Trixie told the audience about how happy her father would be to know his guitar was supporting such a great cause. She then coined the phrase “Competitive Philanthropy” to describe the type of generosity that the guitar inspired. As HeadCount prepares to auction guitars this weekend at the Wrigley Field Dead & Co. concerts to support various charities, we thought we’d have an in-depth conversation with Trixie about this novel concept.
HeadCount: Let’s go back to that moment onstage at the Wolf auction. I’m sure those words floated out without a lot of preparation and will be hard to capture again. But can you recall your thoughts and what was on your mind that night?
Trixie: Thanks. It was obviously like a huge honor to even have Jerry’s legacy be connected to such generous, charitable action. In our capitalistic, really shallow, disposable society, everyone is spending their money, you know, competing with each other and on all of these platforms that are totally superficial. So what if, you know, we were using all that money on donations, on charitable giving?
I know you felt that Jerry would have been really proud that night. What were you feeling that night in relation to him and his legacy?
The Southern Poverty Law Center is right up Jerry’s alley as far as the things that he cared about. I mean there’s so many things to care about in the world: civil rights, freedom of speech, and the things that they stand for. Justice for Black communities too. These are real American things that I know he’d be really honored to have contributed to.
When you were a kid, what kind of conversations would you have with Jerry about these ‘higher calling’ kind of things?
Anyone that knows about Jerry knows that he wasn’t really into being a leader or being preachy or anything like that. But he had a sort of natural and effortless sense of what was fair, you know? He was very sensitive to being oppressive or confrontational. He kind of lived that in a way. Also, as far as philanthropic influences go, I have to bring up Wavy Gravy and mention his documentary called “Saint Misbehavin’,” which is another example of giving in our community that’s really inspiring.
When you said those words onstage about 'competitive philanthropy' - that really struck a chord with me. Some people have a great power to give, and our job [with the guitar auctions] is to give those people a fun way to support all the different organizations in the community.
Yeah, absolutely. People want to participate in whatever it is that made them feel so welcome and at home. So it’s like a pay-it-forward. People probably showed up to shows and got free falafel and a blanket or something and it was like the best thing that ever happened to them. It’s just the little things. I guess my point is that its scaled, right? If you have nothing, then at least you have a smile, right?
And I’ve been gifted crystals and flowers and hugs, there’s so much and we’re all very lucky to have the extra income and even the time to enjoy music.
That’s such a good point because the Grateful Dead parking lot was always a place of giving, of “Miracles,” in small increments. You know, this is a value system, this is what is ingrained in the Dead community and luckily the most successful people seem to take that value with them. They haven’t forgotten that.
Maybe, I mean, you know all those books about like "Everything I learned About Marketing, I Learned from the Grateful Dead"? You know maybe there’s one that could be "Everything I Learned About Giving I Learned from the Grateful Dead." That's why as we become Wall Street bankers or inherit our parent’s fortunes, when we give back it’s proportionate. [Editors Note: Brian Halligan, co-author of "Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead", was the winner of the Wolf auction]. And I think that HeadCount has done... your work has been really uplifting and changed the stereotype of the Deadhead. So thank you for that.
It’s my honor, we deserve no thanks. All we’re doing is channeling what was already there. Hey, did you hear at all about the Positive Legacy action days that happened on this tour?
It was really nice, an organization called Positive Legacy did three action days around the tour where people signed up and they just did positive things in the community.
Hey, you in touch at all with Manasha [Garcia, one of Jerry's former wives] and what she’s doing with the Jerry Garcia Foundation?
Yeah! We are in touch. We’re trying to collaborate and we’ve worked together on having these commemorative plaques installed in San Francisco. We’ve already put one in, which the Jerry Garcia Foundation paid for, and we’re going to put in the second one on the morning of Jerry Day which is August 6th.
I gotta tell you, they did such a good job with this tour. They were on Participation Row under the Jerry Garcia Foundation banner but they brought in different organizations. It was a really meaningful addition to Participation Row. Manasha really gets what we are trying to do with Participation Row, and has been able to tell the story as well as we ever could.
So what’s next for you, what do you have going this summer?
We have an event on August 4th at Red Rocks, its Jerry’s 75th birthday celebration. It’s gonna be a reunion of the Jerry Garcia Band and Bobby’s coming out with the Campfire Band and a whole slew of other people. Just a nice evening and tribute and some special surprises. Then there’s the annual free concert a couple of days later in San Francisco at McLaren Park where Jerry grew up which is always really nice. It was started by kids in the neighborhood and has turned into a tradition so that’s always nice.
The final guitar auction of the Dead & Co. 2017 summer tour takes place at Wrigley Field this weekend, inside Gate H near section 110