If you’re a baseball fan, you already know who Jake Peavy is. MLB all-star pitcher who won a Cy Young Award, struck out a metric truckload of pro hitters, and won a couple of rings along the way. If that was all he ever did, it would be a fine career for Peavy (who is still going strong with the San Francisco Giants, by the way). He would be able to rest easy knowing he had made a lot of people really happy. But Peavy knew he wouldn’t want to stop working when he would inevitably have to hang up his spikes, so a few years back, he started thinking about what his next act might be. Ideally it would be something that could benefit the communities he has worked in: his hometown of Mobile, AL, and his adopted baseball cities of San Diego, Chicago, Boston, and the Bay Area. Even more ideally, it would involve his deep love for music and the guitar. Thus, the Jake Peavy Foundation was born, and through it, Peavy uses his baseball notoriety to organize charitable events to leave the planet a little better than he found it. Whether it’s playing Bob Marley tunes for sick kids in a hospital, organizing and performing at shows to benefit returning vets, or partnering with any number of community outreach programs, Peavy enthusiastically lends his time and musicianship.
In his stomping grounds of Mobile, Peavy has opened Dauphin Street Sound, a state-of-the-art recording facility that promises to rejuvenate the rich musical history of the Gulf Coast. As an added bonus, clients at Dauphin Street will have access to Peavy’s eye-popping guitar collection (which can be viewed at dsscollection.com).
We caught up with Peavy just before he was to take the stage with some of his fellow Deadheads to honor Jerry Garcia and raise money for social services at San Francisco’s historic Fillmore auditorium. Rocking a blond Tele Thinline at that gig, Peavy and his band (which features Ben Jernigan on smoking hot second guitar) cruised through dozens of Dead songs and were joined onstage by Phil Lesh, Jackie Greene, Cody and Luther Dickinson, and others.
When did you start playing guitar?
My first year in the big leagues, in 2002. I loved music growing up, but never really tried to play until [former San Diego Padres coach and current MLB analyst] Tim Flannery bought me a guitar and told me to bring it on the road. I learned how to tune it and he would teach me how to play it.
Who were some of the guitarists that influenced you?
Being from Alabama, I had a deep-rooted love for country music, and my grandfather listened to a lot of gospel and bluegrass stuff. Tim Flannery is into that Americana, singer/songwriter, Townes Van Zandt-type genre. So my guitar playing grew out of that, and over the course of my playing career, I’ve also been greatly influenced by the towns I’ve been in.
Talk a little bit about your recording studio, Dauphin Street Sound.
I wanted to get my foundation in Mobile off the ground. It seemed like there was a whole lot of untapped talent there that needed just a little help. We want to be a part of the scene and help the culture grow in Mobile, and we’re going to use the studio as a huge part of that. We’re looking into creating music venues as well to help support the artistic community there. We want to spur the culture in ways that we’ve seen in other towns, such as Charlottesville, Virginia and Asheville, North Carolina. All of those scenes have a place for music to be born out of, and Mobile didn’t have that.
You’ve got a really impressive guitar collection. What are some of your favorite instruments?
I’ve always had a love and affection for guitars. Once we had the studio, we thought, why not have a collection of guitars that can come with the studio? None of them are super pristine. Only one or two of them are almost mint, but the rest of them are definitely working-man kind of instruments. Some of my favorites are my ’69 goldtop, a ’59 Les Paul Jr., and my ’55 Tele. I think I might play the Tele at the Fillmore show. My philosophy is this: These guitars were made to be played and not collected and hoarded. And nothing’s worth having if you can’t share it, so anyone who books time at the studio will have access to the full collection to use.
You’re a Deadhead, and you recently had Jerry Garcia’s Tiger guitar at your place. What was that like for you, as a fan, to play such an iconic instrument?
I love my ’55 Tele. I love my little 1955 Martin. That being said, when I got to play Tiger, I don’t know if I was ready for the moment. It was heavy duty when that guitar showed up and the case was opened. I got to watch Jerry’s tech, Steve Parish, check it out and talk about it. To see the Garcia daughters in the same room with it for the first time in a long time was powerful. I have a hard time putting it into words. It was humbling. I was very fortunate to be a part of it. I am very grateful to [Indianapolis Colts owner, guitar collector, and Tiger owner] Jim Irsay and everyone who made that happen.
That guitar weighs in at over 13 pounds, but when you pick it up you don’t really notice how heavy it is.
That’s true. I think the adrenaline rush takes over. Warren Haynes played it the other night at Red Rocks, and the first thing I asked him was, “How was it playing it during the show? Did the guitar feel heavy?” Warren said, “I didn’t even notice it.”
You’ve talked a lot about the healing power of music, both for you when you’ve been injured and for sick kids in hospitals that you regularly play for. What can you say about that?
I was raised in the church—every Sunday morning, Friday night, Wednesday, every time the doors were open. The music would speak to me more than anything. That’s what I related to. It was a form of praise. Music to me is the closest thing to the next level, to that spiritual realm. I’ve felt it in my own life sitting in hotel rooms by myself playing and I’ve seen it playing for others. You walk into a sick child’s room, it’s as humbling an experience as you ever can have. To go in a room with a terminally ill child and start playing music—it’s something that will get you. You’ll see music in a different light in that moment..
I can’t get out of here without asking you a baseball question. You struck out 16 guys in a single game one time.
Twice, actually [laughs].
I stand corrected. What’s it like to be in the zone like that, and can you apply that to playing guitar?
You certainly can. When you possess a talent to do something and you’ve practiced this thing, you can get into this Zen mindset where you’re on autopilot and your body is just doing what it’s trained to do. With baseball, I’ve been blessed to have this god-given talent and ability to just do what I do. Music is exactly like that for me. If I’m trying or thinking about it too much in the moment, it’s not anywhere as authentic and real or as good as it can be. Now, my baseball talent and my musical talent are not comparable. But when I watch truly gifted people get in the zone of playing and singing, I know it’s the same idea. What’s great about music is that, unlike sports, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody regress in music. Every time you see them, they’re a little bit better. That’s what I love about music. It’s something that you have until the day you leave this body.
Ben Jernigan on Working with Jake
Ben Jernigan (left).
Ben Jernigan has worked with Jake Peavy for several years. In addition to being Peavy’s eyes and ears when it comes to adding vintage instruments to Peavy’s growing collection and working at his recording studio, Jernigan also plays guitar in Peavy’s band, bringing his SRV/Allman Brothers/Jerry Garcia-inflected lines to the party.
How did you first get involved with Jake?
We’re about the same age and we’re from the same hometown, but we were in different worlds. I was playing in bands and promoting shows. I had a show and was looking for sponsorships. I had a deal fall apart at the last minute, and a mutual friend introduced us and Jake came in and helped make it a big, successful event. From there, we became friends and figured out what role I might be able to play in his post-baseball plan, and that includes his foundation, the studio, and his band.
You have a deep knowledge of guitars and guitar history, and you research guitars for Jake’s collection, checking them out and acquiring them, right?
When I met Jake, I started showing him interesting pieces that would come along that I thought might fit into his collection. Like the ’55 Tele Jake mentioned—it’s the earliest sunburst known. We found a ’69 Les Paul Deluxe—most people think they didn’t make mini-humbucker Les Pauls until 1970— so that’s a cool piece. There’s a ’63 Strat that’s probably my favorite of the whole bunch. Everything about it was put together right. We look for guitars that move us. That’s what really drives the collection.
It’s got to be a blast to even have access to so many great instruments.
I have the best job in the whole world, hands down. Better than Jake’s, better than anybody’s. I’ve got a front row seat to everything, and it’s unbelievable. I’m just glad to be here.