Grateful Dead

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

(c) 1969 Jim Wiseman

What word will do
to gesture toward
the dark gathering
of mutual mystery,
said of the unseen
by saying nothing?

Beyond utterance,
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,
unmurmuring Spring,
Autumn unmentioned,
Winter, mute, or that
other season: Humanity
wherein we dwell,
listening, listening,
sometimes ceasing
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


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Joined: Feb 21 2012
Le Bec-Fin

What a class act Jon was, in the midst of everyday chaos. I too was at that dinner, the only 4 star restaurant in the U.S. at that time. They gave us a private dining room, I believe there was 19 of us that night. I asked Jon what the rules were and he replied that we could order anything we wanted just not to waste it if we didn't like it. I had the monk fish and salmon intertwined with a fresh morel mushroom sauce. Harry realized that if they had morels to do the sauce maybe they would make some sauteed fresh morels, so we ordered a side dish of fresh sauteed morels. Thanks Harry they were wonderful. I asked Jon to pick a wine as I knew he had better taste than I. He ordered our group a nice red and he let me try some of their Mouton Rothschild. They offered Cuban cigars at the end of the meal (illiegal then and now) and 125 year old Grand Marnier. And yes when we asked if we could have a special dessert, the staff replied..."We are a FULL SERVICE French restaurant" and came back in 20 minutes with an after dessert surprise. Always the nicest guy on tour and probably the most well read. Sorry to hear you're gone. You enriched this small planet.

mojoman's picture
Joined: Jun 16 2009
Rest in Peace

Mr McIntire

Joined: Jun 13 2007

At his passing I rejoice
as he served as an example
for me in managing a great number
of events of which I lead.
I say rejoice because I have
no other thought of him.

I too have a writing to sher.

For Jon and his
Intelligent Passion:

State of Grace
Bearing no-
doubt, grief or pain

For the Priceless State
of Nothingness as
Red and Yellow
Rose Petals Fall
leaving Stems
a sprinkling Time
dropping Their Seeds
atop Fertile waste

The Lone Cell of Gold
has been Cashed IN
One Last Debt Paid
with Beatless Blood

Best of All Contracts
Signed with No Ink
Ready to go Be...

Refreshed with Delightfulness
Secondless hour Begins
Blues now only a
True Blue Horizon to
Frolic Dance Bliss Into
Sweet Golden Sunsets
Replace Soap
Nightfall a Hopscotch Board
Hammock Moons Give
New Rest Forevermore
CoralReefs Now but a
New Glass to Taste Our
Bittersweet Tears
Washed Away

February 20, 2012 Sherry B

Sincere Gratitude for a Genuine Example
to Govern Affairs By. May Others Follow
with an Openness to the Possibilities,
Possible. Curiosity is Fruitful and Unique.

a Haiku

children doth growing
like Wisteria unfold
only to depart

-Sherry B

Joined: Feb 20 2012
Jon's Work in St. Louis

Folks, Jon worked with RAVEN while in St. Louis. We were a collective of men working with men who batter, trying to contribute to ending violence against women. He did not work with battered women directly, but rather with the perpetrators of violence. It was difficult work. But, to his credit, he chose to join us. And we all loved Jon, too.

Dan R.'s picture
Joined: Jun 9 2007

Hunter is my hero. That's an attempt to reply to the greatest poet and psychedelic educator in the world!

Dan R.'s picture
Joined: Jun 9 2007
reply to hunter

Humanity awake
There is no without you”
Sleeping buddha is an ordinary man

Think too loud,
You fail to see
Who is there within you

Talking and carrying on
Beyond what your eyes say
” you cannot see”

The seeker knows that
Which for he never sought
And here it is

The wonderful Law,
Life's dignified characteristics
And a single personality.

The script is written,
The seed is cast
One conclusion
Forever last.

D. Raznick

Dan R.'s picture
Joined: Jun 9 2007
Hey John!

Now that's a eulogy! Beautifully written, and a genuine treasure of the heart. Please rest now, man. Dennis, Robert.... you guys brought him very much alive for me, and it is inspiring to know how greatly he was appreciated in the world of the history of my favorite band. A real inspiring life right there.

marye's picture
Joined: May 26 2007
and Deborah

New Salem or New Paltz, classic!

marye's picture
Joined: May 26 2007
great story Steve

now that was a moment.

digaman's picture
Joined: Jun 19 2007
How I met Jon

First of all, Dennis, thank you, this is a lovely eulogy for an exquisitely civilized and brilliant man. Well done.

At the risk of ruffling some tie-dyed feathers, I'll share how I met Jon. It was sometime in the late '80s, I believe, and I was marching down Market Street in San Francisco on Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day with a contingent of Deadheads. It was the first time such a contingent had appeared in the parade, and for a long-time Head like me, it was a welcome relief from the usual bar floats, leather, and disco. We represented our contingent in style, too, carrying a banner (meant tongue-in-cheek, of course) that said QUEERS FOR WEIR, with a photo of Bobby Ace himself in full cowboy regalia.

At some point, a handsome, distinguished-looking blond guy ran out from the sidelines with his camera to take our photograph. I noticed that he was in tears. "What's up?" I asked the guy. "This is so beautiful," he said, "I never thought I'd live to see this!" I asked him if he was a Deadhead and he replied, "I'm the band's manager." It was Jon McIntire. I was suitably blown away.

I spoke with Jon a few times after that about what it was like to be gay in a scene that was progressive in many ways, but not in that way. I only wish I'd had the chance to spend more time with Jon -- his casual stories were, of course, the kinds of living, intimate history of the band that Deadheads dream about hearing.

Was Jon ever "out" in the Dead family? I don't know. He's not the only closeted member of the family I've met either. But as we sit here reading an absolutely beautiful obituary for a wonderful man that doesn't mention if he ever had a partner, I have to hope that Jon found love and companionship in the years after I met him, that glorious day on Market Street.

We are everywhere, indeed.

Steve Silberman


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