A little about the photographer

There are a couple short stories I’d like to share with you regarding my experience with the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia.  I first saw the Dead the summer after my senior year in high school at Alpine Valley in East Troy Wisconsin on June 29, 1986.  Between that first show and Jerry’s last performance I ended up seeing about 60 shows.  Granted this is nowhere near as many shows as some of my friends but I’m happy to have seen them as many times as I did, which covered about the final 1/3 of the Dead’s career with Jerry at the helm.  At college in Madison, Wi I met a great group of folks who also enjoyed everything Grateful Dead.  We all built a wonderful community of friends from Dead and Jerry shows that we saw from coast to coast.  It was really a wonderful time of my life. 

As it turned out Jerry’s final show happened to be in my home town of Chicago.  In all the years I saw the Dead I never got seats as close as I did the night they played on July 9, 1995.  I still have my ticket for that show as I do with all the other shows I saw. I “officially” was sitting in Sec A Row 13 Seat 20.  That night at Soldier Field once you were in Section A it was not a problem walking up to the stage if you felt the need to see the band closer.  From time to time I had brought my camera with me to shows.  I actually have some nice images from 89 and 93 but that’s a story for another day.  So knowing that I had pretty sweet seats for this show I decided to bring my camera. 

It was around the time that they played The Promised Land that I decided to make my way up to the stage.  I could have gone to the first row to take photos but since the stage was so high I found the second row to be best.  Of course everyone was standing and dancing so I just found an empty seat right in front of Jerry, stood tall and began to click.  It wasn’t long before I heard someone to my right shout “hey you with the camera!”.  In the aisle I saw an angry security guard yelling in my direction.  Now I had always been under the impression that the Dead were cool about people taking photos and also of course audio recordings at shows.  So I was quite surprised that this was actually a problem.  Don’t ask me why I did what I did after that though.  From behind me I hear someone say to me, “doooode ruuun!”  So I ran!  Sure that wasn’t too smart but that’s what I did.  Of course I didn’t get far before the guard cornered me.  Next thing I know I’m being escorted out of Soldier Field during the set break.  I don’t remember what I said to him but somehow I not only convinced him not to kick me out of the show but to also let me continue taking photos.  In retrospect what a tragedy that would have been to get tossed out of the final Dead show with Jerry.   There was one catch though to my agreement with the guard, I could only shoot for one song.  When the Dead came back after their set break, I too returned to my spot to continue taking photos (much to the amazement of the folks sitting in that area).  The song that I took photos was their first song of the second set, Shakedown Street.

A year after Jerry passed my wife and I decided it was time to do something with all these great photos I had taken of the Dead over the years.   It was then that we formed our own mom and pop shop;  Jevou’s B’shert, Inc.   We sold my Dead photos at street festivals and also had them on consignment in 7 stores around the Chicagoland area.  From the beginning we had wanted to sell these images legitimately.  Therefore we had sent a letter to Grateful Dead Merchandising in hopes of working out some kind of licensing agreement.  Granted we were going about it backwards since we were already in the process of selling them.   So we told them about our operation and the fact that we kept records of all our sales and that we’d be happy to pay them their due.   Much to our dismay we received a Cease and Desist form letter.  So that was when we stopped selling our photos of the Dead and Jerry.  Our inventory of images would remain in boxes collecting dust for years to come. 

So there we were with a company that had no product to sell.  As the wise profit Bob Marley once sang, “When one door is closed, don't you know other is open?”  This is so true, and so began our foray into web design and development (http://jbinteraction.com).   We continued to operate our company and are still doing so today some 14 years later.  It was around 2002 when a friend mentioned that the Jerry Garcia Estates wanted people to contact them.  They wanted to get in touch with people who owned Jerry’s artwork or had photos of him.  Sure 8 years is a long time to “negotiate” a deal but it was kind of a relaxed form of negotiations.  :)   So here we are today and we finally have authorization from Jerry’s family to sell this one image and possibly more images in the future.  As far as I understand, this is the only photo from Jerry’s final performance that has been authorized by the Jerry Garcia Estates for distribution.  My agreement with the Garcia family is only a one year trial arrangement.  Also I can only sell the inventory we produced back in 1996, we cannot make any additional prints at this point.   So please pass on the good word and let’s make this a great year so we can move this arrangement from trial to permanent.

Jeffrey Veltman

16" x 20" | 8" x 12" | wallet | photographer