The Jekyll Jerry Garcia

The Jekyll Jerry Garcia

Eddie Pickett has used his music to forge a deep sense of community on the island.


When Eddie Pickett first stepped foot on Jekyll Island in 1986, he knew he’d come home. Fresh out of the U.S. Navy, the Virginia native wanted to settle down somewhere along the Golden Isles coastline. “I looked at Brunswick, Savannah, and St. Simons Island and then just fell in love with Jekyll,” he says. “It felt welcoming.”

Nearly four decades later, Pickett is ingrained in the island community and is perhaps its most prominent musician. Locals know him as the “Jekyll Jerry Garcia.” With his flowing gray beard, burly build, long ponytail, wire-rimmed glasses, and tie-dyed t-shirts, Pickett bears a passable resemblance to the late Grateful Dead guitarist and vocalist. He also is a member of the St. Augustine-based Grateful Dead cover band, One Good Ring.

Pickett formed his first island band in 1987 when he and his brother, Dave Besley, played as The Seiners. It was then that Pickett met a former nurse and budding glass artist named Kristen who later would become his wife. That same year, the tennis pro from the Jekyll Island Tennis Center came to one of Pickett’s gigs. They chatted and Pickett wound up helping build the facility’s original 13 clay courts. He worked there as an assistant pro until 2008.

Music remained Pickett’s passion. His main band, WharfRatz, debuted in 1992 at the now-shuttered Latitude 31 bar at the Jekyll dock. The group was named for the Grateful Dead song “Wharf Rat,” with a “z” added to represent another of Pickett’s heroes, Frank Zappa. WharfRatz played the Sunday Sunset Party at the bar from 1993 to 2014.

Pickett at the Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival.

In 2011, Pickett’s imprint on Jekyll grew when he created Ace Music & Arts with his wife. Kristen Pickett headquartered Gypsea Glass, her growing glass art business, and Eddie operated a music shop. (That closed in 2018, though Kristen still operates Gypsea Glass in the Picketts’ mountain home in Virginia.) Eddie took on the job of booking some of the music acts for the Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival in 2012, a position he still holds today. 

In 2015, he and Kristen became part-owners of the Wee Pub Beach, a hybrid Irish pub and sports bar in the Beach Village. Pickett performs there every Monday and Tuesday, and with the WharfRatz every Thursday. His repertoire includes songs by the Dead, the Allman Brothers Band, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Buffet, and Otis Redding. “It’s mostly in the Southern rock, blues traditions,” Pickett says.

He subscribes to the Jerry Garcia philosophy that music spreads love and builds community. “You play a gig and you never know who’s going to walk through the door,” Pickett says. He recently played a Widespread Panic after-party in St. Augustine and in walked two members of Panic, along with the guitarist husband-and-wife team of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. During a break, Trucks walked up to him and said, “Hey, I really enjoyed your set.”  That validation from one of the world’s great guitar players remains a highlight of Pickett’s musical life.

Music has helped Pickett find his place on Jekyll, the place he chose as his home. “I love the tranquility,” he says. “And the sense of community; you know everybody and neighbors look out for each other. It’s almost Mayberry by the Sea.”

This article first appeared in Volume 7 Number 1 of 31•81, the Magazine of Jekyll Island.

Enjoy the read?

Subscribe to receive future issues of 31•81, the Magazine of Jekyll Island. 

Subscribe to the Magazine of Jekyll Island

Have each future issue mailed directly to you, at no cost. By subscribing to the magazine, you will also receive email updates from Jekyll Island to stay up to date on special events, programs, and offers from our partners.

Report a Wildlife Incident on Jekyll Island