Jon McIntire 1941 - 2012
Jon McIntire, manager of the Grateful Dead in the 1970s and 1980s, died of natural causes yesterday, February 16, 2012, in Stinson Beach. He was 70.
Once a promoter really screwed up in front of Jon, and asked how he could demonstrate his sincere regrets. “Pheasant under glass would be nice,” said Jon. He got it, and sat backstage in some dumb coliseum catering area thoroughly enjoying himself. Another night, in the mid 1980s, the Dead traveling party went to an extraordinarily high-class restaurant called Le Bec-Fin in Philadelphia. Dinner – and wine, lots of wine - cost $10,000. As various somewhat cruder members of the entourage got louder and wiggier – party favors were ordered from somebody on the wait staff - Jon presided over the scene like a tall, blond, handsome and benign prince, charming to the core and always terribly civilized. He was a very special part of the Grateful Dead.
He was born August 13, 1941, in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, and grew up in Bellville, across the river from St. Louis. He was a charter member of the Early Music Society of St. Louis, performed as a child pianist, and acted at the Gateway Theater there. He attended Washington University. Joining the early-sixties procession to San Francisco, he attended San Francisco State, concentrating on the history of ideas, studying things like German phenomenology and expressionist poets. He met a fellow student named Rock Scully. “It seemed strange to me,” said McIntire, “that Rock, to me a serious scholar, should be into rock and roll bands.”
McIntire, it turned out, got into Rock’s band too. With his partner Danny Rifkin, Rock was dropping out of State to manage the Grateful Dead. Jon described himself as having a Taoist view – he tended to follow things, and the Dead just “sort of swept me in.” “We were all psychedelic revolutionaries, and we all became great friends during that time,” Jon told The Golden Road magazine much later. “We were willing to try anything.”
Jon had been working as a systems analyst at the Fireman’s Fund insurance company, but then one day in early 1968 his life changed. He’d been anticipating having to return to St. Louis to deal with a court case about a car accident, and then got a telegram saying he didn’t have to go. Suddenly free, he wandered down to the Dead’s brand new venue, the Carousel Ballroom, to help chef Annie Corson clean the kitchen to prepare for opening the place.
He’d just begun when one of the Dead’s many managers at that time, Jonathan Riester, walked in and said, "McIntire! What are you doing?" "Well, Jonathan, I'm going to take this fry grill and I'm going to put it in that water, and I'm going to scrub the fuck out of it." "No no no no no, you can't do that, that's not a job for you." "Why?" "Because you're going to manage this ballroom with me." "Jonathan, I'm an actor. What do I know about managing a ballroom?" "McIntire, I'm a cowboy, what do you think I know?" "I don't know." "Besides, what do you have to do for the rest of your life?" "Well, as of a few hours ago, nothing." "My point exactly."
“At this point,” Jon recalled, “Annie's staring at us with daggers of hate, knowing she's being left in the lurch. We walked out, and I told Jonathan that the only condition was we had to find her two guys to help, no bullshit. And he did.”
And so Jon became one of a number of managers, and by 1970, after the departure of Lenny Hart, the manager. With Rock Scully doing the promotion, he guided the Grateful Dead through the era of Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty. He was sweet, civilized, a little proud of his intellect, and very different from the rowdy crew that set the tone around the Dead, but his graceful intelligence paved the way for much of their success.
When the Dead notified Warner Bros.’ Joe Smith that they wanted to call their 1971 live album “Skullfuck,” it was Jon who told Joe. When Joe cried out “How could you do this to me?” it was Jon who replied, “No, Joe, it’s all of us who are doing this to you.” The result was a meeting in which the entire GD community went down to Los Angeles for a meeting with Joe to discuss it. In the end, they changed the name and got a promotional budget that paid for many live radio shows and made that record, Grateful Dead, their first gold album.
By 1974, as the band grew burned out with their giant sound system, The Wall, and decided to take a hiatus, Jon did too. He worked with Bob Weir’s solo projects, like “Bobby and the Midnites.”
In 1984, Danny Rifkin, who’d been managing things for a while, decided to take a sabbatical in India. Jon returned as manager – cumulatively, he probably ran the GD circus longest of all the managers -and was on board as they found their greatest commercial success with “Touch of Grey” and In the Dark. In the process he’d brought in Cameron Sears to be road manager, and after a period of training, was glad to hand over the reins to him and leave rock and roll. He returned to St. Louis where he acted, and also worked as a counselor for women who were victims of domestic violence. In later years, he worked in the theater in Newport Beach, California and New York City before returning to Northern California in 2011.
“He would always light up a room when he walked in,” said Cameron Sears. He had a sunny, funny, fussy disposition that made him unique in the Dead scene, and he brought a dignified, civilizing elegance to the mix that had a very special impact. When the Dead’s biographer asked him what books would explain the intellectual sources of the Grateful Dead, he listed Friedrich Holderlin, Thomas Mann, Martin Heidegger, Georg Hegel, James Joyce, T. S. Eliot, an unfinished novel in three volumes by Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities, and what he called “the surrealist bible,” Les Chants de Maldoror, by the Comte de Lautreamont (Isidore Lucien Ducasse). He said they “taught us to start from the point of unlimited possibilities. We have not gone into the modern age.”
He did his level best to help the Grateful Dead do just that.
Dennis McNally, author of A Long Strange Trip/The Inside History of the Grateful Dead, was the Dead’s publicist from 1984 on.
For Jon McIntire, a Word or Two
What word will do
to gesture toward
the dark gathering
of mutual mystery,
said of the unseen
by saying nothing?
hoping to be heard
by a keener ear,
before any word
was ever spoken,
dies broken like night
by a single shaft of sun.
Silence past Summer,
Winter, mute, or that
other season: Humanity
wherein we dwell,
to mere appearance.
Not far to go,
a simple step
into forever. . .
Off then, goodnight,
into sheer light
beyond any season
known to the moon.
February 16, 2012 Robert Hunter
Here is my "bootleg" recording of McIntire's memorial, held 5/15/12 at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley.
I first met Jon at a friend's place in Paris. I was 17. He had bought an exquisite limited edition book of Erte prints for a friend of his and as I flipped through it, I imagined having a friend who would know me well enough to buy me this kind of gift. Jon was this kind of a friend to so many. The following spring my friend and I arrived in the bay area and Jon picked us up in his vintage roadster driving us hell for leather up to Stinson Beach. He was the consummate host, opening to us his home, his heart and his well stocked freezer full of things any teenage in the early 1970s could ever dream about having an unlimited supply of. His hospitality and generosity was legendary, but his true gift to the world was teaching us all that eccentricity is an art form and can be an elegance that is something to strive for. I have only good memories of every subsequent treat laden encounter with him... what a guy... what a ride... the world is a better place for have had Jon in it... RIP Jon McIntire... you earned it!
@Paul, That was a really nice get together in San Rafael in March of 2011 just about a year ago...especially when Jon showed up just to have lunch and joined us. What a wonderful lunch!
A couple of months later I was at Pacific Catch waiting for a To-Go order and in walks Jon to also pick up a To-Go order...we ended up having a really nice talk for almost 30 minutes (we were picking up cold fish dishes so it didn't matter.)
When he came in he said, "Hi, Stevie," and gave me a big hug. He told me that he hadn't been feeling well, but didn't go into any real detail, so I didn't know how bad it really was...
We promised to get together for lunch at Pacific Catch "sometime in the future," but "sometime" never came...
I really do miss you.
Yet another spoke in the wheel driving by the fire and rod, gone to join the one turned by the grace of God.
Two days after I landed in San Francisco in August 1975 at the age of 19, I saw Jerry with the Keith and Donna band at Great American Music Hall. (Yes, my phony ID worked.) Hitchhiking back to Marin late that night, who should pick me up but Jon McIntire! In the short space of time between Lombard Street and my Mill Valley turnoff, we managed to talk about the Dead's just-completed show at the GAMH ("The best I've ever seen them play," Jon stated), Owsley, Neal Cassady, the Haight, and what it felt like for me to be stepping into what I considered a veritable wonderland. How kind and considerate he was, and funny, too, all in the space of a few minutes,
Over the next few months, I saw Jon several times at JGB and Kingfish shows around the area, and he did me the great favor of sitting next to me at Phil's "Seastones" show with Ned Lagin at the Palace of Fine Arts that winter. I finally summoned up the courage to ask him for a job with the band; I'd have swept floors for food. He smiled and said, "Dead Heads (the fan club) is full of guys who've already asked."
I knew he was right, of course, but he said it with such understanding and a little bit of sly humor, quietly acknowledging that although I was one of many, nonetheless I was as worthy of his time and attention as anyone else who might happen along.
Years go by, but we don't forget people like Jon. If one way to measure the worth of a man's life is by how many lives he himself touched for the better, then Jon McInitire was good as gold.
I met Jon at the Paramount Theater 7/25/72. My brother and I were on the guest list and Jon met us, helped us out. He beamed his great smile and welcomed us. He had the vibe of benificent leadership. Of the other folks, roadies, management within the G.D. family Sparky Raicene also stood out as a kind soul.Bless all of the crew anyways as Grateful Dead became a huge and at times giant ship in rough seas. Again thank you Jon for your help.
From all of the comments and stories it seems Jon was a kind soul who helped steer the ship! Thank you my friend for all you made brighter, it was a great ride!!! R.I.P.
A friend of the Dead is a friend of mine......R.I.P. Jon.
A true friend, never ever without open arms, a smile, and as often as not, a guffaw -- as we saw each other at shows or Rex Foundation meetings.
Indeed, from the first time we met, he greeted me with kindness as if we had known each other for years.
I will surely miss him dearly.
God bless this Man and his Family, Jon McIntire, May the light shine in your heart like the sun daily and honor this brother with good health and well being each and everyOne of us, In the name of Love. amen
and Mr. Robert Hunter, You are so Beautiful, be so good to yourself please always.... You are very Precious, Loving Light. amen
Every human that reads this; I Love you with everything that i am, naturally this is inside all life, the air and water and planet needs looked at, our planet needs everyone to buy electric cars and don't bother with the looks, you'll still be the coolest around! In Gods pure heart, this i believe. Loving Peace for you and yours and generations to come forever. amen ...or three! i like three!!!