July 19, 2024


Marsh Gas

After creating T-shirts for the Grateful Dead, a rock ‘merch’ entrepreneur moves business to Mill Valley


When he was a pre-med college student at the University of Vermont, Jeffrey Levine created rock T-shirts that he and his higher education buddies would provide in the parking heaps of Grateful Useless concert events to receive plenty of cash to journey from demonstrate to clearly show as part of the band’s legions of Deadheads.

Although Levine had been airbrushing his designs on jean jackets and T-shirts because he was in large faculty in New York, his goal was to come to be a plastic surgeon, not a T-shirt mogul. But sector forces experienced one more profession path in mind for him. His Grateful Dead illustrations or photos, which he designed when doodling in his science and organic and natural chemistry lessons, were so preferred and prized that he before long experienced groups of Deadheads hawking them at exhibits.

As aspect of its hippie ethos, the Grateful Lifeless famously gave its tacit consent to the underground overall economy that flourished at its live shows. But providing a few of veggie burritos was one issue. Producing a killing in the T-shirt organization was really a different.

“We experienced a whole lot of types that were being selling like nuts,” Levine remembers. “We had 20 or 30 fellas out in these parking tons. It was doing the job genuinely properly until finally we received a got a stop-and-desist letter from the Grateful Lifeless.”

Somewhat than shut his operation down fully, though, the band considered Levine’s graphics have been amazing sufficient to offer you him a licensing deal to officially create and sell merchandise for the Grateful Useless as properly as the Jerry Garcia Band.

‘A wild ride’

Levine, who graduated with a degree in organization, jumped at the option, moved to San Francisco and toured Europe with the Useless in 1990, managing the band’s “merch” at reveals in France, England, Sweden and Germany.

“It was a wild journey,” he remembers. “It was crazy.”

When a senior structure director for Levi Strauss & Co. occurred to see a single of Levine’s T-shirts on someone at a gym, it led to him staying hired for the company’s hipster-oriented “Button Your Fly” ad marketing campaign for 501 denims in the 1990s. He went from being a self-described “long-haired hippie with a shoebox full of T-shirts” to heading up a San Francisco manufacturing unit that employed 130 individuals and produced an preliminary get of 30,000 T-shirts for Levi’s. Other denims businesses arrived contacting — Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Karan, DKNY.

The hip-hop neighborhood also took detect. Levine was hired to create gear for the likes of Ice-T, Snoop Dogg and Jay-Z. In 1998, he bought his enterprise, Turbo Productions, to Winterland Productions, the leisure goods corporation started off by the late rock promoter Monthly bill Graham.

In 2009, Levine co-founded Golden Products (goldengoodsusa.com), a enterprise that layouts and manufactures promotional apparel for corporate clientele and the reemerging audio merch field. The enterprise a short while ago moved from San Francisco into a high-ceilinged space in a professional developing nestled in a redwood grove at 38 Miller Ave. in downtown Mill Valley. Portion showroom, warehouse and business workplace, the place is packed with all method of T-shirts, hoodies, tank tops, jackets, hats, trousers, totes, blankets, h2o bottles, pillow situations, you name it.

Its customers array from major boys this kind of as Google, Salesforce and Instagram to nearby folks like Outdated Mill School, Marin’s Camp Funderblast and the current Mill Valley Audio Pageant. Right after many years 15 decades in the retail manner business, Levine has developed a apparel line with a sort of distressed classic look that will come in a selection of washes, treatment options and shades. On his LinkedIn site, he describes himself as “a classic lifestyle enthusiast.”

Amazing issue

“He noticed a niche in the industry for higher-high-quality, tremendous-delicate, retail-excellent branded attire that people did not want to get rid of soon after carrying it a person time,” says 41-year-outdated sales director Mara Mustola, who life in Mill Valley and is the daughter of Arne Frager, previous proprietor of the Plant Recording Studios in Sausalito. “We want our outfits to be the very first thing men and women get to for in the morning to put on because it’s the coolest thing they personal.”

Genuine to his rock ‘n’ roll roots, Levine, 53, is busily producing merch for the bands Metallica and Jane’s Addiction as nicely as for music festivals that are making a comeback right after two decades of pandemic shutdowns. The organization designed it via all those difficult situations by making and providing personalized cotton jersey masks with slogans like “Stay Positive” on them.

When I spoke to him, Levine was in Southern California overseeing a pop-up booth at the BeachLife Festival in Redondo Seashore just after starting the period with the Stagecoach Pageant in Indio. Coming up are BottleRock in Napa, Existence is Lovely Competition in Las Vegas and Stern Grove Pageant and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Francisco.


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