Inside One Deadhead’s Quest to Identify Jerry Garcia’s Backup Singers

For two decades, Joe Jupille sought to identify the backup singers from the Jerry Garcia Band's 1982 gigs

Jerry Garcia with the Grateful Dead perform at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, California on July 15, 1984. One fan recently spent many years trying to figure out Jerry Garcia's back-up singers from the early 80s.
Jerry Garcia with the Grateful Dead perform at the Greek Theater, circa 1984
Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Deadheads are notorious for their obsessive attention to detail, but this is a new level: a new Wall Street Journal profile chronicles one fan’s 20-year quest to glean some new information related to a Jerry Garcia Band tour from the early 1980s.

According to the Journal, Joe Jupille — who founded the Institute for Jerry Garcia Studies with four friends —has been seeking the answer to one question since 2001: Who were the backup singers with the Jerry Garcia Band in October and November of 1982?

For years, he’d pursue leads during family visits to his parents in San Francisco, chasing down former Garcia associates while, the publication notes, “His wife resented him.” (Jupille and his wife have since divorced.)

“I get it,” he said. “She has a right to not be stuck with four kids and her mother-in-law while I go to talk to some hippies.”

After several dead-ends (no pun intended), Jupille called former Garcia roadie and tour manager “Big” Steve Parish for help in 2010, identifying himself by saying “I am the world’s greatest expert on the Jerry Garcia Band.”

That didn’t go over too well. “I’m the f—king guy that knows more about Jerry than anybody on the planet,” Parish told Jupille, adding that he knew the names of the backup vocalists but wouldn’t share them because he thought Jupille’s search to find them was “the stupidest” thing he had ever heard.

Eventually, however, earlier this month, he finally had a breakthrough: a storage unit near a garbage dump in Marin County included a box of files from late 1982. Among those files was a receipt from a Philadelphia Marriott that listed Garcia, other musicians, Parish and the two backup singers — Elisecia Wright and Shirley Faulkner.

You can read more about Jupille’s journey to identify Wright and Faulkner here.

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