The Palo Alto home where the Grateful Dead chose their iconic name is up for sale. Take a look inside.
1012 High Street is where Jerry Garcia—high on DMT at the time—came up with the band’s new (and eventually world-famous) moniker
The Warlocks had a problem.
The ragtag group of local musicians had formed just a year earlier in Palo Alto during the cultural shift of 1964 America, and already they needed a new name. Their bassist Phil Lesh had recently been flipping through 45s at a nearby record store when he encountered a single by a different group calling themselves The Warlocks (who were, oddly enough, likely a precursor outfit to either The Velvet Underground or ZZ Top). The Palo Alto Warlocks were still just playing gigs around the Peninsula, and though they were starting to settle into their sound, they were still a ways out from cutting an album.
On the afternoon of November 12, 1965, Lesh invited the other band members—Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Bill Kreutzmann—over to the bungalow where he was living on 1012 High Street to find a new band name.
Jerry smoked the powerful psychedelic drug DMT before coming over. The rest of the band was sober. The weather was dismal. The name-finding process took a while and the goal was arrived at by random (or perhaps—cosmic) means.
1012 High Street is currently for sale. Yes, the Palo Alto home formerly occupied by a young Phil Lesh and which had once hosted a key moment in Grateful Dead history is on the market to the mind-altering tune of $2.4 million.
It is a 100-year-old wood-shingled Craftsman two-bedroom home in the Professorville neighborhood, within walking distance to downtown shops and restaurants. It has a one-car garage (wired for electric car recharging), a large porch (perfect for smoking DMT with friends) and clocks in at 1,008 square feet on a 5,250 square foot lot with redwood and oak trees.
Michael Repka of DeLeon Realty, who is brokering the sale, sees the home’s colorful history as a compelling hook, though not a big booster to the price. “It definitely adds some value,” Repka explains. “It’s such a nice, charming house to begin with, but then when you add in this piece of history it just draws more people in.”
Repka suggests the history attached to the location could add three to five percent, though he doesn’t see the home as “something that the Grateful Dead fan club is going to swoop in and buy to preserve as a museum or something. It’s more just interesting background.” (See the full listing for the home here.)
Members of the Grateful Dead had been bouncing around Palo Alto (and East Palo Alto) for years during the early 1960s, beginning with Garcia, an SF native, couching surfing and sleeping in his car after being discharged from the military in 1961. Other (more formal) local residences related to the band include a place at 436 Hamilton Ave in downtown Palo Alto, a Victorian home known as The Chateau on Santa Cruz Ave in Menlo Park that operated as a sort of early hippie commune, as well as Ken Kesey’s place on Perry Lane near the Stanford golf course. These were just a few living quarters among many over the years, on the Peninsula and elsewhere.
“God knows how many different places the band lived in during the course of their really long history,” says Grateful Dead historian (and former publicist) Dennis McNally, whose book A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead contains a few big chapters on the band’s early days around Palo Alto.
Despite all the many locations tied to the band over the years, McNally still acknowledges the High Street home as a “place of real importance to the Grateful Dead” because of the curious tale of how they landed on their name. “It’s a hell of a story,” McNally says, “it’s all true and it happened at 1012 High Street in Palo Alto.”
Sitting on the couch during that cold and fateful afternoon in November of 1965, Jerry Garcia proposed calling the band “Mythical Ethical Icicle Tricycle.” Kreutzmann pushed for “Vikings” or “Crusaders.” Bob Weir suggested “His Own Sweet Advocates.” Nothing seemed to fit. The band flipped through a copy of Bartlett’s book of quotations, proposing and then rejecting a vast number of possible names.
The previous summer, the band had actually begun to find their sound during a six-week opening slot residency at a club in Belmont called the In Room, which McNally vividly described in his book as “a heavy-hitting divorcee’s pickup joint, the sort of swinging bar where real estate salesmen chased stewardesses, and single women got plenty of free drinks.” It was an odd match, but as the band played hour-long sets six nights a week, they began to settle into their element. Of course, when the club’s manager finally grew tired of their sound and let them go, he told them, “You guys will never make it. You’re too weird.”
Regardless, they now had a sound developing but still needed a new name. Frustrated by the process, Garcia picked up a Funk and Wagnall’s New Practical Standard Dictionary, randomly flipped to a page and then just stuck his finger down to land on the term “grateful dead.” Lesh loved it, Weir thought it was morbid. The term was referenced as a type of folktale ballad, in which a hero spends his final funds to secure proper rites for an unburied corpse. Later the hero is aided in his quest by the spirit he had helped. Essentially, it is a story of karma.
As McNally wrote in his book, the name was a strange and perfect fit: “It confused some and appalled others—and what could be better for a rock band? It implied layers and layers of depth, unique among all rock band names in that era, and suggested that something very powerful indeed happened on High Street that day. In the end, they did not choose their name. It chose them.”
See the full listing with DeLeon Realty for 1012 High Street, with photos, video and a 3-D Tour.
For more on the history of the Grateful Dead in Palo Alto (and everywhere else too), check out Dennis McNally’s book, A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead.
Also, check out PaloAltoHistory.org for their article “The Grateful Dead: Making the Scene in Palo Alto.”
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