The Army Didn’t Want Him, so the Visionary Became a Palo Alto Success Story.

The Podcasting Store
3 min readMar 9, 2023

A Musical Mystery by Drew Holmes

As is the case with so many like him, the visionary had trouble fitting in. He had dreams of creating connection and unlocking the power of the human mind, but the constraints of high school classrooms were not his style. So, when he was not in trouble for fighting, he often skipped school altogether preferring to spend his time on pursuits he deemed more worthy of his attention.

This did not sit well with his mother, so she moved the family away from the city. This did not sit well with the visionary, so later that year he stole her car. The ensuing application of justice gave him a choice: go to jail or join the Army.

He chose the Army over incarceration, with predictable results. His commanding officer reported: “…he had no desire to improve himself as a soldier, and that a change of duty assignment or even a change in unit assignment would have no bearing on his present defective attitude toward military life, and that he was only interested in getting out of the Army as soon as possible… in my opinion, (he) should be eliminated from the service … without delay.”

After nine months of military service, the visionary was given a general discharge. Now free to pursue his dream, he did what many of the day were doing: he moved to Palo Alto, California. Penniless, he relied on the hospitality of friends and alternated between couch surfing and sleeping in his car.

But being around the vibrant, creative culture of the Bay Area was worth these inconveniences. It allowed him to meet other likeminded people who also wanted to create connection and unleash the power of the human mind. His startup was not yet off the ground when he and three friends were in a horrible car accident. He sustained a broken collarbone and was ejected through the windshield. One of the passengers died.

This accident was a wakeup call for the visionary, who later said, “That’s where my life began. Before then I was always living at less than capacity. I was idling. That was the slingshot for the rest of my life. It was like a second chance. Then I got serious”

He put aside his drawing and painting, distractions from the serious work he envisioned, and got down to business. After a few years he formed the team that would take him to the next level and make his dream a reality.

Not knowing what they should name this collaboration, the visionary opened his Funk and Wagnell’s Dictionary and found words that struck him as powerful. The team didn’t like it at first, but reluctantly agreed and when word hit the street of their moniker, it stuck.

Like so many other Bay Area startups, they exploded onto the scene, riding that train until the death of their visionary founder 30 years later. Continuously touring, they kept on truckin’, playing 2,314 live shows in all, opening minds, and fostering connection.

When he founded his collaboration, the visionary could not have known he was creating a thing of American beauty. Even now, decades after his death, his group is still one of the most influential bands in history, continuing to open minds and create connection. A visionary named Jerry Garcia, and the Palo Alto startup he called The Grateful Dead.

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