Last year I posted a story about celebrity adoptees purely for mindless superficial trivia. Recently I stumbled across another one that I’ll share because his life story is so fascinating and, well, I’m a huge fan.
For any Deadheads out there like me, you may or may not know that Bob Weir is the legendary rhythm guitarist to lead guitarist, Jerry Garcia. The oft-described “heartthrob” of the Dead with his boyish good looks (in striking contrast to the band of self-described “gorillas”), Bob could be the Paul McCartney of the band – the cute one.
But he’s also adopted, something he talks about in the last 10 minutes of the well-done, hour-long Netflix documentary, The Other One. Most will see this as a documentary about Bob Weir, which it is, but I saw it as an adoption story.
Bob was born in 1947 to Phyllis Critchfield and Jack Parber, two college students who had a fling in Arizona but came to San Francisco to have the baby. Phyllis used a phony name on the birth certificate and never told Jack. Bob was adopted at birth by Frederic and Eleanor Weir, a wealthy couple who lived in the posh Silicon Valley suburb of Atherton. As Bob said in the documentary, he and his adoptive parents loved each other, and they indulged Bob’s impulsivity to leave school for a rock and roll band. They both died in 1971, old enough to at least have seen Bob and the Dead attain super-stardom.
In the 1980’s, he hired a private eye (his words) to look for his birth parents and learned that a man with the same name as his birth father ran Hamilton Air Force Base in Marin County. He let the matter drop.
With Jerry Garcia (Bob’s best friend’s) death in 1995, Bob described an “empty space” inside him. He married his wife, Natasha, and at her urging, he resurrected his search for his biological parents. At around that time his office got a phone call from someone named Phyllis, who turned out to be Phyllis Critchfield. Bob went to meet her the day after the phone call, only to discover that she had twelve other kids. He said: “I didn’t feel like I was a huge whole in her life to rush right in and fill.” She gave him some information about his biological dad, but as Bob said: “I didn’t want to blow up his life because he probably didn’t know I existed.”
Still, he called his father, Jack Parber.
“Robert Weir?” He went onto say that he’d done some research that could be of considerable interest to Jack.
“Were you perhaps romantically involved with a woman named Phyllis? I don’t know how many kids you have but there might be one more than you know.”
Stunned, Jack asked one of his sons, a musician: “Should I know someone named Bob Weir?” His son replied: “The only one I know plays guitar for the Grateful Dead.”
Bob and Jack met the next day, talking for two hours, at first just sniffing around (Bob’s words). But then they got to like each other and grew very close. Bob summed it up: “He was my brother, confidante and dad.”
Phyllis died shortly after Bob met her in 1997. Jack passed away in April, 2015.
In one of his most revealing statements, Bob noted: “For adopted kids you always want to know where you come from,” a humbling statement from someone with fame, fortune and a loving family, not to mention rock and roll royalty.