On Friday, July 29, 2005, four days before what would have been his 63rd birthday, a tribute to Chet was held at The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.
The event was called “Chetfest” and it featured a stellar lineup of musicians, including Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Merl Saunders, David Nelson, Big Brother and The Holding Company, Country Joe McDonald, Paul Kantner, David Freiberg, Pete Sears, and T-Bone Burnett, among others. The MC was Wavy Gravy. There were also 14 posters created for “Chetfest” by such notable poster artists as Stanley Mouse, Alton Kelley, Wes Wilson, David Singer and Lee Conklin. Even the late Rick Griffin contributed. Chris Shaw did the lettering and Chuck Sperry did the color for a piece of Griffin artwork that was authorized by his estate. Everyone who attended “Chetfest” was presented with a pack of the 14 posters upon departing the premises.
Chetfest 2005 Poster by: Alton Kelley
Tickets to “Chetfest,” which was also a benefit to pay off some of Chet’s bills, were priced at $50 and they sold out almost immediately. An on-line “Chetfest” auction of rock ‘ roll memorabilia raised additional funds.
Nestled in a corner of the ornate, marble-columned, turn-of-the-century Great American Music Hall, was an elaborate shrine of sorts: a multi-level table upon which was arrayed a collection of framed photos, small statuary and flowers. The 14 posters hung on the walls adjacent to the table. Two large photo portraits were also prominently displayed in the hall: a 1966 Herb Greene photo of Chet, wearing his preacher-like, black frock coat, and a 1997 Jay Blakesberg shot of Chet in a floppy, fisherman’s hat.
The crowd was shoulder-to-shoulder, the mood was festive and the music was energetic, loud and good.
Chet, wherever he was, had to be smiling.
And dancing his ass off.