Looking through pictures from overnight summer camp a while ago really made me miss, of all things, my old Dead t-shirts. I wore a dead t-shirt consecutively every day between 1997-2000.
Bootleg Grateful Dead t-shirt culture has been written about at large. In my day I competed against CWP counselors for who had the coolest Jerry shit and the best tapes. I held my own.
Today is August 1, Jerry’s Bday: happy birthday, big guy! Love you forever! In honour of it I’d like to catalogue My Dead Ts for posterity, with pictures where possible.
- “Space Your Face”—First Dead T, acquired in 1994. Standard Dead Skeleton with cool space shit inside it. This is me and my younger bro. This pic shows how long I’ve been in the game!
2. “You know our love will not fade away”—Silhouette of Jerry’s face with lyrics from Not Fade Away on the back. Purchased in Vermont by my parents on a trip in ’95 or ’96.
3. “Nothing left to do but smile, smile smile”—This T was given to me by a family friend, herein called The Source, which he got from the parking lot of a Jerry-era Dead show. I got it in 1996, an early long-sleeved gem. Black and purple on either side of the stealie, with a smiley inside and the lyrics from He’s Gone, “Steal your face right off your head,” underneath.
4. Sugar Magnolia T—Stealie with green and yellow on either side of the lightning bolt. Underneath was lyrics from Sugar Mag, “She’s my summer love in the Spring, Fall, and Winter…” Tour dates on the back from Fall 92 Dead tour. Shirts like this get reproduced today, but you can’t find ’em like this anymore.
5. Blue tie dye, Skeleton with Roses—Blue/white tye dye. Acquired from The Source. I’ve seen this shirt on other people, but it was cool! I had the same image on a window sticker that’s still beautifying my parent’s house.
6. Deal T—Jerry-era parking lot T from The Source featuring a cartoon Jerry playing poker against cartoon skeletons, with the lyrics to Deal in bubble letters. Tour dates from 92 Tour on back. This was the best shirt of them all! In 1999 I happened to be wearing this shirt at a Merl Saunders concert, who played keys with Jerry in the Legion Of Mary. Merl sang Deal that night and I was in the front row, pointing to the lyrics on my shirt he was singing. He smiled. RIP, Merl! I wish I had a picture of this T somewhere!
7. VW Busses—Lot shirt from The Source. Dates from 90s tour on back. Everybody who saw me was envious of this BEAST of a shirt, and I’d kill to have it back and in good condition (I wore it to shreds). It was the best shirt I or anyone else ever owned.
7. American Gothic Skeletons—Classic Grant Wood American painting rendered in Grateful Dead styles, a male and female skeleton farmer in tie dyes and overalls, etc. Lot t-shirt given by a good friend’s older brother—Source 2. This shirt was COOL!
8. Yosemite Sam Dead—frosh shirt from early 90s, inherited from Source 2. You can’t see the ‘stache on the skeleton, but it was there alright.
10. Blues for Allah—Dead at the Pyramids Egypt t-shirt, acquired in 1998. “What good is spilling blood, it will not grow a thing.” A friend bought it for me when she visited Israel. I still have this shirt!
11. Warrior skeleton—this low key Dead T-shirt had a pic of a skeleton on horseback wearing native regalia, on his shield was an ad supporting the Rex Foundation, named after a Dead roadie who died. Acquired from The Source.
12. The Wheel—Jerry Bear riding a motorcycle, green tye dye. I gave this to a close buddy and devoted Dead Head. I got a lot of shirts in my day, more than I gave away.
13. Jerrymeister—people think this is a booze shirt, but it’s Jerrymeister. Lyrics from Brown Eyed Women on the back. Purchased at Grateful Fest in Ohio, ’09.
14. “Grateful Dead Ain’t Nothin’ to Fuck With”—Dead and Wu Tang mash-up. Phish show parking lot, SPAC, ’14.
15. San Diego Chargers/ Stealie—Chargers/Dead mashup. Grateful Fest, ’09. Pretty much just a white t-shirt at this point.
16. Ohio Buckeyes/Stealie—Dead/Buckeyes mashup, Grateful Fest ’09. Gave to a beloved friend.
17. Pink/Salmon Jerry Stealie—from Grateful Fest, ’09. It’s a nice thick cotton piece, of higher quality than other bootleg shirts, which you come to appreciate after a while.
18. Jerry Bear—this one was a gift, a friend saw it at The Gap! Weird, but hey. Dead shirts once supported people in need of money to see more Jerry shows and now it’s sweatshops, but this shirt does
19. Sphinx Jerry Bear tie dye—This had a Jerry Bear as a Sphinx, and there was a pyramid or two. I vaguely remember getting it at Kensington in the 2000s. Looking through pics I saw it. I also had another Space Your Face tie dye, and probably some others I can’t remember to be honest.
20. Cats Under the Stars: I got a JGB T-shirt in San Fran in 2012, with the famous logo from the Cats album.
You get to spoon with Jerry every night when this is your blankie. Acquired in late 90s from The Source, who I understand got it from Haight/Ashbury.
Technically this is not a Dead shirt. My good buddy, younger brother of Source #2, is seen rocking a serious tie dye skiing/snowboarding Jerry Bear shirt.