When he was just shy of five years old, future guitarist Jerry Garcia was chopping wood with his older brother, Clifford. Jerry held the wood while the boy everyone called ‘Tiff’ wielded an axe. The procedure went swimmingly, until Tiff miscalculated and chopped off the middle finger of his younger brother’s right hand. Despite the disfiguring accident, Jerry went on to master another sort of axe as lead guitarist for seminal jam band, The Grateful Dead. Jerry Garcia died August 9, 1995. On September 10, 2017, Tiff Garcia joined his brother in death.
As Jerry described the story to Rolling Stone, the Garcia family was camping in the Santa Cruz mountains when the life-altering mishap occurred.
“We were up in the mountains at the time, and my father had to drive to Santa Cruz, maybe about thirty miles, and my mother had my hand all wrapped up in a towel. And I remember it didn’t hurt or anything. It was just a sort of buzzing sensation. I don’t associate any pain with it. For me, the traumatic part of it was after the doctor amputated it, I had this big cast and bandages on it. And they gradually got smaller and smaller, until I was down to like one little bandage. And I thought for sure my finger was under there. I just knew it was.
“And that was the worst part, when the bandage came off. ‘Oh, my God, my finger’s gone.’ But after that, it was okay, because as a kid, if you have a few little things that make you different, it’s a good score. So I got a lot of mileage out of having a missing finger when I was a kid.”
Clifford Ramon Garcia was born to Jose Ramon “Joe” Garcia and Ruth Marie “Bobbie” Garcia in San Francisco’s Excelsior district in 1937. Tiff’s brother, Jerome John “Jerry” Garcia, arrived August 1, 1941. Both boys inherited their father’s musical talent, but Tiff did not share his brother’s interest in being in a band. While Jerry Garcia built the Grateful Dead, Tiff Garcia was a family man living in Fairfax and delivering mail in Russian Hill, Chinatown, and North Beach, San Francisco.
As Tiff told the Marin Independent Journal in 2006, he was a morning person who wasn’t fond of show business. When Tiff attended Grateful Dead shows, he eschewed the backstage scene, preferring to hang out in the audience with other “Deadheads.” In 1988, Tiff quit his Post Office job and started a stint in the merchandising department at Grateful Dead Productions in San Rafael, California where he remained until the company transferred operations to Los Angeles based Rhino Entertainment in 2006.
Clifford “Tiff” Garcia— Jerry Garcia (@jerrygarcia) September 11, 2017
December 20th, 1937 - September 10th, 2017 pic.twitter.com/0AdFXw1nRh
Tiff Garcia’s death at age 79 was confirmed by Relix magazine. As of the time of this writing, the cause of Garcia’s death is unknown.
[Feature image by Igor Meynson/Thinkstock/Getty Images]