Grateful Dead Family Member Passes

Article Contributed by Dennis McNally | Published on Thursday, September 3, 2020

Jerilyn Lee Brandelius, one of the most colorful and beloved figures in the greater Grateful Dead family and the San Francisco rock and roll community, died August 31st in San Francisco from complications of a life well lived.  She is survived by her son, Creek Hart, three younger siblings—Ken, Susie and John Brandelius, a number of nieces, Margarite Legate, Frankie Norstad, Alicia Welch, Erica Brandelius, nephews Lars Gobel, Dylan and Riley Brandelius, and a slew of “grandkids," including Colin, Benjamin, Milo, Phoenix, Freya and Oscar.

Born on June 25, 1948 in La Jolla, CA, to marine Edwin Carl Brandelius II and homemaker Dorothy Anne Reid, Jerilyn contracted polio as a child and spent her 8th year of life in the hospital.  At 16 she gave birth to Christina Nanda and at 19 welcomed Creek into their family of three.  

Jerilyn was an early participant in the ‘60s rock scene in San Diego as part of Translove Airways Productions, which ran the Hippodrome Ballroom, an early “hippie” rock dance hall.  There she connected with a number of the San Francisco bands who ventured away from the Bay Area, including the Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, and the Sons of Champlin.  In 1969, she moved to the epicenter of California’s rock scene, San Francisco, and went to work for Chet Helms and the legendary Family Dog, first at the Avalon Ballroom, and then at the Family Dog on the Great Highway.

Around 1972, she was hired by the Warner Bros. record company to coordinate a record release party for the popular East Bay soul powerhouse Tower of Power.  The celebration took place at “The Ranch,” an essential part of the Grateful Dead’s mythology, located in Novato.  The band member in residence, Mickey Hart, later remarked that he liked the “way she handled a clipboard.”  Jerilyn and Hart remained closely connected for a decade, with Jerilyn’s children adopting Hart’s surname.

In the 1980s, Jerilyn helped kick off what would become a landslide of publications, creating The Grateful Dead Family Album, a rich trove of photographs and memorabilia concerning the band and its wide circle of friends and intimates, with characters ranging from the toughest Hell’s Angels to the distinguished researcher Dr. Stanley Krippner.

Shortly after being graced with a new liver in her sixties, Jerilyn weathered the premature loss of Christina due to complications from asthma.  Jerilyn spent her sunset years caring for a host of friends in need, including Chet Helms and, most notably, the Dead’s lyricist John Perry Barlow.  Bob Weir serenaded her deathbed with an acoustic rendition of “Brokedown Palace”—“Fare you well, my honey”—as masked loved ones surrounded her.  She was a vortex of love, joy, and hustle, and will be achingly missed by many.  In the late Robert Hunter’s words, “May the four winds blow her safely home.”