On August 1, 1942, Jerry Garcia was born in San Francisco, California—and would soon go on to change the history of music as we know it. Here are eight things you might not know about the Grateful Dead legend, in honor of his 75th birthday.
1. HE WAS NAMED AFTER A BROADWAY COMPOSER.
Garcia was destined to be a musician. Born in San Francisco on August 1, 1942, Garcia—full name Jerome John Garcia—was named after legendary Broadway composer Jerome Kern, who wrote more than 700 songs in his lifetime including “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” and “Ol’ Man River.”
2. HIS FIRST LOVE WAS COUNTRY MUSIC.
A love of music was instilled in Garcia from a very young age, and he credited his grandmother with introducing him to country music: “My grandmother was a big Grand Ole Opry fan,” he once shared. “Yeah, I grew up in San Francisco listening to the Opry every Saturday night on the radio without knowing what I was hearing. In fact, my first 45 was a Hank Williams record, a song called ‘The Love Bug Itch.’ It was a really stupid song, but, hey, it was Hank Williams.”
3. HIS FIRST PAYING GIG PAID HIM JUST $5.
Garcia first met his longtime friend—and future Grateful Dead band member—Robert Hunter in the spring of 1961. Shortly thereafter, the duo landed their first paying gig, playing under the name “Bob and Jerry.” For years, it was reported that they were paid $50 for the performance—a fact that Hunter later corrected by stating: “$50 my ass! We got $5. Decided to frame the check (first payment) but within a few days needed to cash it for cigarettes.”
4. A HARD DAY’S NIGHT TURNED GARCIA ONTO ROCK 'N' ROLL.
Throughout his life and career, Garcia was interested in various genres of music. In 1963, he formed a jug band with future Dead bandmates Bob Weir and Ron McKernan. But after seeing Richard Lester’s 1964 Beatles film, A Hard Day’s Night, Garcia and company decided to go the rock route with their band, which was originally known as the Warlocks.
5. THE BAND NAME WAS CHOSEN RANDOMLY FROM THE DICTIONARY.
Garcia once shared the story of how the Grateful Dead band name came to be. “Back in the late days of the Acid Tests, we were looking for a name,” he explained. "We’d abandoned the Warlocks; it didn’t work anymore. One day we were all over at Phil [Lesh]’s house smoking DMT. He had a big Oxford dictionary, I opened it, and there was ‘grateful dead,’ those words juxtaposed. It was one of those moments, you know, like everything else on the page went blank, diffuse, just sorta oozed away, and there was GRATEFUL DEAD, big black letters edged all around in gold, man, blasting out at me, such a stunning combination. So I said, ‘How about Grateful Dead?’ and that was it.”
6. HE WAS DISAPPOINTED WITH THE BAND’S PERFORMANCE AT WOODSTOCK.
In a 1971 interview, Garcia was asked why the Grateful Dead’s performance at Woodstock wasn’t featured in the feature film version of the concert. Garcia’s response was forthright: “Well, we played such a bad set at Woodstock,” he said. “The weekend was great, but our set was terrible. We were all pretty smashed, and it was at night. Like we knew there were a half million people out there, but we couldn't see one of them. There were about a hundred people on stage with us, and everyone was scared that it was gonna collapse. On top of that, it was raining or wet, so that every time we touched our guitars, we'd get these electrical shocks. Blue sparks were flying out of our guitars.”
7. “TOUCH OF GREY” WAS THE BAND’S ONLY TOP 10 HIT.
On July 6, 1987, the Grateful Dead released their 12th album, In the Dark, which featured the single “Touch of Grey.” Though by this point the band had already been around for more than two decades—and amassed a legion of faithful fans—“Touch of Grey” is the band’s only song to make it into the top 10.
8. THERE’S A SPECIES OF COCKROACH NAMED AFTER HIM.
In the late 1990s, a Dead-loving taxonomist discovered a new species of cockroach (a wood roach!) and named it “Cryptocercus garciai” after Garcia. In 1995, just three months after his passing, two astronomers named an asteroid after the late singer as well.
In 1998, HBO—then a network that had not yet completely broken through with hits like The Sopranos and Sex and the City—decided to take on its biggest project ever: a massive 10-hour World War II miniseries executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Three years, more than $100 million, and thousands of work hours later, Band of Brothers was brought to the world. The true story of a single paratrooper company making their way through the last year of the war in Europe, Band of Brothers dwarfed other TV dramas of its era with its budget, its cast, its effects, and its extraordinary attention to period detail. The result was one of the most acclaimed World War II dramas ever filmed.
So, from the sheer scale of the production to the cast’s boot camp to some actors you may have forgotten about, here are 10 things you might not have known about Band of Brothers.
1. THE BUDGET WAS UNHEARD OF AT THE TIME.
When Band of Brothers began its journey to the screen in the late 1990s, one of HBO’s chief concerns in agreeing to produce the series was its budget. Today, in the age of Game of Thrones, it seems natural for the network to foot the bill for such an epic, but at the time the amount of money called for was almost unheard of. When discussions first began, it became clear that the miniseries would cost at least $125 million to produce, which meant $12 million per episode. That’s a figure that dwarfed even the most prestigious and popular TV dramas at the time, and it didn’t even factor in the massive marketing budget (at least $15 million) the network was considering to promote the event. So, what convinced HBO to put up the money? A number of factors, but having Hanks and Spielberg on board certainly helped.
''I'm not saying they didn't bat an eye,'' Hanks toldThe New York Times in 2001. ''Oh, they did bat an eye. But the reality is this was expensive. You had to have deep pockets. And HBO has deep pockets."
2. JEEP HELPED PROMOTE IT.
The promotional campaign for Band of Brothers was almost as massive as its budget, with HBO attempting to draw the curiosity of as many non-subscribers as possible. One of the ways they achieved this was by forming the network's first ever partnership with another company to launch a series of commercials. That company was Jeep, which was celebrating the 60th anniversary of its signature vehicle at the time. The classic military Jeep figures prominently in Band of Brothers—it appears more than 1000 times throughout the series—so it was a natural fit.
Together, HBO and Jeep shot a series of six commercials tying into the series, filmed on Utah Beach in Normandy, France (not a place commercials are usually allowed to shoot). The spots aired on broadcast television, allowing HBO a rare chance (at the time) to get its products before an audience that large.
3. IT CAUSED SOME CONTROVERSY IN THE UNITED KINGDOM.
Though Band of Brothers was largely well-received by audiences both in the United States and abroad, it did cause some controversy in the United Kingdom before it even aired there. According to The Guardian, the furor was stirred up by The Daily Mail, which published a condemnation of the miniseries for its lack of British soldiers. The series, of course, is meant to follow a single company of American troops as they navigate the last year of the war in Europe, but that didn’t stop The Daily Mail from decrying the show’s narrow focus. The publication called forward various British veterans who declared Band of Brothers "an absolute disgrace and an insult to the millions of brave Britons who helped win the war,” the implication being that the series essentially depicted only Americans as winning the war in Europe. The controversy, while noteworthy, was short-lived.
4. THE PRODUCTION WAS MASSIVE.
Band of Brothers, a 10-hour miniseries set entirely during World War II, would be a massive undertaking even now, but it was particularly gargantuan when it was produced. Some figures that prove just how big it was: According to the documentaryThe Making of Band of Brothers, the production required 2000 American and German military uniforms; 1200 vintage costumes (that’s not counting the newly made ones); more than 10,000 extras; more than 14,000 rounds of ammunition a day; and 500 speaking roles. The special effects alone were so massive that, by the time the third episode was completed, the production had already used more pyrotechnics than Saving Private Ryan, which is particularly impressive given that much of the first episode is taken up by boot camp sequences.
5. IT WAS LARGELY FILMED IN ONE LOCATION.
The story of Band of Brothers takes the men of Easy Company across half the European continent, through several different countries and even seasons. Despite the vivid depiction of all of these varied places on the journey, the miniseries (aside from certain location shoots) was largely filmed in one place. Thanks to a large tax break from the UK government, the production was headquartered at the Hatfield Aerodrome, an old British aerospace factory that had been converted into a massive, 1100-acre backlot. The various hangars from the factory were used to house the costumes, props, weapons, tanks, and other equipment used to shoot the series, and some hangars even housed various sets.
6. ONE VILLAGE SET PLAYED NEARLY A DOZEN DIFFERENT TOWNS.
Because Band of Brothers was mostly shot on the Hatfield backlot, the crew had to make certain accommodations to portray much of Europe in a small space. One key factor was the 12-acre village set constructed on the lot. A set that size is a massive undertaking anyway, but to depict the various places Easy Company visits, the village had to be constantly redressed to show England, Holland, Belgium and other locations. In all, the village ended up playing 11 different towns throughout the miniseries.
7. THE BASTOGNE SEQUENCES WERE ACTUALLY FILMED INDOORS.
One of the most harrowing segments of Band of Brothers takes place in the sixth episode, “Bastogne.” Caught in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge and low on supplies, Easy Company faces its toughest challenge yet as they try to hold off a massive German force even as they’re starving and freezing to death. It’s a powerful episode, but most of the time the actors were faking the hardship. The sequences in which the company is huddled down in foxholes, scrounging for whatever food and medicine they can get, were largely filmed on a massive indoor set constructed in one of the hangars at Hatfield. The production used real trees and numerous fiberglass trees (which could be broken apart to simulate German shells) to create the forest, and paper mixed with various polymers to create artificial snow. It’s estimated that more than a third of a million pounds of paper were used to make snow throughout the sequence, and it took four weeks to completely cover the set.
“It’s the biggest amount ever used on one set, for anything,” snow effects supervisor David Crownshaw said. “It should be in the Guinness Book of Records.”
8. THE GUNS WERE THE REAL THING.
Every major character in Band of Brothers wields at least one firearm throughout the entire production, and many of the men of Easy Company are never without their trusty M1 Garand rifles. The World War II-era weapons were key to the production, and Hanks and Spielberg insisted on authenticity, so they went to an arms dealer and picked up 700 authentic period weapons for the production. Numerous other guns (including pistols largely kept in holsters) were made of rubber, but very often when you see the men of Easy Company firing their rifles at the enemy, they were firing the real thing.
9. THE CAST INCLUDES SEVERAL YOUNG ACTORS WHO WENT ON TO BECOME MAJOR STARS.
Because Band of Brothers includes hundreds of speaking roles, including dozens of American soldiers, the production had to recruit a virtual army of young actors, many of whom were relatively unknown at the time. If you go back and watch the series now, you’ll see several young faces that are now recognizable as major movie stars. Among thenow-big names: James McAvoy, Tom Hardy, Simon Pegg, Michael Fassbender, Colin Hanks, Dominic Cooper, and Jimmy Fallon.
10. THE CAST TRAINED TOGETHER, AND BONDED, IN A 10-DAY BOOT CAMP.
To develop a better understanding of the military culture their characters were involved in, and to get them in the right physical and mental shape for the miniseries, the cast portraying Easy Company embarked on an intensive 10-day boot camp before shooting, training 18 hours a day under the watchful eye of Captain Dale Dye.
Dye, a former Marine and Vietnam veteran who came to Hollywood after he left the military to become a technical advisor, served as the senior military advisor on the production and also portrayed Colonel Robert Sink in the series. Dye led the boot camp and even helped direct key battle sequences in an effort to get the cast as close to real soldiers as possible. According to the men who portrayed Easy Company, the experience brought them closer together, and made them more like a real unit.
“You hit walls in boot camp," Scott Grimes, who played Sergeant Malarkey, said. "You hit these personal mental, physical walls that you have to go over, basically. There were guys the first night at boot camp that cried themselves to sleep that I was there for, and they were there for me.”
In addition to boot camp, the Easy Company cast also undertook a version of paratrooper training to ensure authenticity. Among the challenges: jumping out of a mock-up plane fuselage, while strapped to a harness simulating a parachute, from a height of 40 feet.
With streaming quickly becoming the new standard in movie-watching, the majority of today’s youngsters will never know the joy that came with a Friday night visit to the local Blockbuster Video store. Nor will they understand the inherent drama such an outing could bring: “Ooh, look Hocus Pocus is on VHS! Oh no, that kid got the last copy!” That already-tiny number is about to shrink even further with the announcement that Alaska’s North Pole Blockbuster, one of only an estimated eight stores left in the U.S., is closing its doors.
The announcement was made on Monday afternoon via the store’s Facebook page, which thanked its employees for their service:
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner spoke with Kevin Daymude, the store’s general manager, who pointed to declining sales as the reason for the shuttering. “Do we have a great clientele? Yes, without a doubt,” Daymude said. “It just declined.”
While Blockbuster Video filed for bankruptcy in 2010, the brand continued to license its iconic blue-and-yellow ticket stub logo to franchisees, the bulk of which are located in Alaska. Why Alaska? Lack of broadband and high Internet price tags in the state mean that streaming content isn’t as simple as just pointing and clicking.
“A lot of [the stores] are still quite busy,” Alan Payne, a Blockbuster licensee-owner who owns a handful of the few remaining stores in the U.S., toldThe Washington Post in 2017. “If you went in there on a Friday night you’d be shocked at the number of people.”
Earlier this year Payne was forced to close his Edinburg, Texas store, the last Blockbuster in Texas, which had been operating since the 1990s. But Alaska won’t be Blockbuster-free anytime soon. Even with the North Pole store’s closing, there are still four remaining locations in Alaska.
While the North Pole store ceased its rental operations on Sunday, it will remain open through April while it sells off its inventory of movies and fixtures. The only question is whether there’s a VHS copy of Jerry Maguire somewhere in there.