A long-time Grateful Dead fan with more than a passing resemblance to Jerry Garcia, Bob Wagner, passed away last week as a result of congestive heart failure. He died surrounded by his family and his passing is mourned by St. Louis' deadhead scene as well.
"I'm not sure what attracted Bob to [local GD cover act] Jake's Leg, or the Grateful Dead," says fellow fan Sara Chrismore, "but his entire being couldn't be more true to the scene. He was kind, funny, generous, happy, and loving."
"What is different about Grateful Dead shows goes back to the Acid Tests," elaborates Bill Hannegan, founder of local organization Keep St. Louis Free. "The Dead was a house band playing background music for the unfolding scene, the Acid Test. Who showed up was as a important at the band. And Bob was one of the coolest people who ever showed up -- though he did get annoyed when people asked for his autograph as if he were Garcia himself."
Wagner's appearance is strikingly similar to that of the deceased Grateful Dead frontman. "The first time my wife went to [former St. Louis music venue] 20 North, she literally believed Bob was Jerry Garcia," Hannegan says.
Tonight, the Gramophone will host a tribute/memorial show in Wagner's honor. Jake's Leg will be performing. The show starts at 8:30 p.m., and according to his friends, his physical absence leaves a tremendous hole.
"I probably saw nearly 700 Jake's Leg shows. Bob was always there and was a great good time pirate to hang out with," says Hannegan. "He could tell the most wickedly funny and amusing stories, often at his own expense. The hardest thing for me is never again going to a Jake's Leg show and seeing him there. I feel the way I felt when 20 North was torn down. The end of an era."
"Jerry Bob's passing is most certainly an end of an era for me," Chrismore says in agreement. "He touched many lives, I'm certain, and made the world a better place for passing through."