Garcia's illness leaves Dead's future in clouded

August 14, 1992|By San Francisco Chronicle

Despite official denials by the Grateful Dead's office, the illness of Jerry Garcia apparently leaves the future of the band very much in doubt. His condition appears to be far more serious than official reports of "exhaustion."

Although the group still plans to mount an 18-city East Coast tour starting Sept. 9 in Washington, the group's lead guitarist continues his recovery at home.

Symptoms of Mr. Garcia's recent collapse apparently include an enlarged heart and fluid in his lungs, symptoms doctors call strongly indicative of heart failure.

Mr. Garcia, who turned 50 last week, canceled appearances by his solo band last weekend in San Francisco. Concerts scheduled to take place at the end of this month were canceled earlier this week. Sales of tickets for the East Coast shows were suspended pending Mr. Garcia's continued recovery.

Dead drummer Mickey Hart reported that Mr. Garcia is now exercising and has stopped smoking. His previous concession to health was to switch from unfiltered to low-nicotine cigarettes.

"I'm not hysterical and I don't know anybody who is hysterical," Hart said. "He's been better, but he's been worse."

Mr. Garcia, who entered a hospital in 1986 in a diabetic coma and was placed on a dialysis machine, is known for poor health habits. In addition to cigarette smoking, he is overweight and indulges his fondness for chili dogs and milk shakes, a potentially fatal combination for a diabetic, according to doctors.

The Grateful Dead, who emerged from the Haight-Ashbury rock scene 27 years ago, are currently the leading concert attraction in the country, having earned more than $30 million last year at the box office and selling out all the appearances they've made this year. Mr. Garcia plays such a key role in the band that the group won't consider performing without him.

According to the Dead office, an announcement on the East Coast dates will be made next week.

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