"He slept with these instruments," said equipment manager Steve Parish, who handled Garcia's guitars for more than 25 years. " You could lose amps. You could break things, and sometimes we did. But I could never look Jerry in the eye and say, 'I don't have your guitar."
Jerry had about 25 guitars, but 70% of his time in the spotlight he played just 3, all custom built by the same luthier.
His first was a Danelectro (age 15). His acoustic in the days with Robert Hunter prior to his switch to the banjo is uncertain.
With the Warlocks
in '65 age 23 he played a red Guild Starfire,
also used on the 1st Dead albumn.
1967-Guild and then
in the summer he switched to a black
1957 Gibsons Les Pauls
with P90's with covers removed and Bigsby tremolo
1968 - Gold-top Les Paul with P-90 single coil
p/u's. 3 Twin Reverbs, 2 Fender 4x12 cabinets, JBL D120 speakers
1969- Gibson SG with a Vox Crybaby wah-wah pedal.
Played on Live Dead
By May 1970 he's back on the Gibson SG like
1971- Sunburst Les Paul
March and April Jer switches
to a custom built guitar. Said to be a Alembic project
1972 -Alligator -the
Graham Nash guitar
June switches back to Sunburst Strat no American
and switches back to the Strat that Graham Nash
gave him, with Alligator sticker.
By this point, his silverface Fender Twin amp was already a central part of his sound. He continued to use the preamp from the Fender amp through 1993. From the late '70's to about 1993 he didn't use the power amp & speakers of the Fender, instead using three JBL D120/E120 speakers in a vertical box powered by a McIntosh solid state amp (note that this probably made the power amp Class A, which is not the Class AB power amp that the Fender normally has). It was miked with a Sennheiser 421 mic.
1973- Jerry continues using Alligator
May '73 he received the his first custom Doug Irwin (Sonoma, CA)--the "Wolf" he
(Garcia gave Irwin's 001 to original Dead road crew member Ramrod.
Garcia gave away a lot of guitars.)
*1972-1974 the wah pedal is a ColorSound "Vol + Wah"
1975- Travis Beam TB 1000A
1976- Travis Bean TB500 w/single-coil
pickups and fx loop.
77- Fall Jerry get's his modified Wolf back from
Doug Irwin. Complete with single coils and effects loop.
-Reconstruction- Keystone -Ibanez Musician
1988-89 Jerry started playing a Black Strat w/
Midi during space,... Here comes digital Jer
1989- Fall tour (notiably the Hampton Warlocks show) Wolf briefly came out of retirement as a guinea pig for MIDI synthesizer experiments. In the 1989 Jerry mounted a GK-7 synth interface on the Wolf. Mated to the GK-50 controller. After a Roland synthesizer was successfully attached to Wolf, San Francisco repair expert Gary Brawer later retrofitted it internally. Tiger went back to the shop for retrofitting. Garcia used the synthesizer attachment to make his guitar sound like a trumpet or other instruments.
1990- Rosebud Irwin delivered his
$11,000 masterpiece, Rosebud, with MIDI controls built in. "Everything
learned about guitars went into Rosebud
1994- Summer Tour Jerry brings back out Rosebud but in the fall back to Lightning Bolt.
1995- Lightning Bolt was in the shop on the last tour. In his final show at Soldier Field in Chicago on July 9, 1995, Garcia started out playing Rosebud, but midway through the show, the guitar developed problems. Garcia strapped on the tour's spare guitar -- Tiger, out of mothballs for the occasion -- and finished his final concert on his old trusty ax.
Martin D-18 "American
Beauty", "Wokingman's Dead"
Chandler Stereo Digital
More guitar info:
65,66 - Guild -
More info on guitars
Garcia began playing electric guitar with the Warlocks, before the band changed its name to the Grateful Dead. He used an inexpensive cherry-red Guild Starfire. He played that instrument for several years and used it on the band's early recordings.
But as early as 1971, Garcia expressed dissatisfaction with factory-made guitars, even though he played models favored by other rock guitarists -- the Gibson Les Paul and the Gibson SG. Until he walked into Irwin's Sonoma studio in early 1972, he had been playing a vintage '57 Fender Stratocaster, a classic rock 'n' roll guitar given to him by Graham Nash, with an alligator decal on the body that gave the guitar its name, Alligator.
Garcia bought the first guitar Irwin ever made for $850 (known as 001) and ordered another one custom-made. Irwin delivered Wolf, named after its distinctive inlay of a wolf, in May 1973 for $1,500. (Garcia gave Irwin's 001 to original Dead road crew member Ramrod. Garcia gave away a lot of guitars.)
After a brief dalliance with an aluminum guitar designed by Southern California maverick Travis Bean, Garcia replaced Wolf with Tiger in 1979. The guitarmaker spent more than six years working on it, and Garcia played the heavy 14-pound guitar for 11 years.
Irwin mixed exquisitely detailed, intricate brass work with dense, exotic hardwoods in his designs. He also incorporated a lot of special features Garcia himself devised, like a loop that ran the signal back through the guitar so he could control his special effects with knobs on the body of the guitar or a built-in pre-amp hidden beneath Irwin's inlays. "Jerry knew more about his guitars and equipment than anyone," said Parish.
Wolf briefly came out of retirement in 1988 as a guinea pig for MIDI synthesizer experiments. After a Roland synthesizer was successfully attached to Wolf, Tiger went back to the shop for retrofitting. Garcia used the synthesizer attachment to make his guitar sound like a trumpet or other instruments.
In 1989, Irwin delivered his $11,000 masterpiece, Rosebud, with MIDI controls built in. "Everything he had learned about guitars went into Rosebud, " said Parish.
Garcia's next guitar arrived in the mail at the Grateful Dead office in 1993. Stephen Cripe, a 39-year-old Florida woodworker who spent years building custom interiors for Caribbean yachts, decided to try his hand at making a guitar. Using a few photos and a Dead video, he knocked off Irwin's design of Tiger with a few flourishes of his own, like carving the body out of a piece of East Indian rosewood recycled from a 19th century Asian opium bed.
Garcia was floored. He gave the piece to San Francisco repairman Gary Brawer to fix the electronic guts, but it was a miracle guitar.
"Garcia was amazed when it came around," said band mate Bob Weir, "at the guesswork he had to make -- and got right -- to give that guitar Irwin's look and feel. It was astounding."
He pronounced the piece "the guitar I've always been waiting for" and began playing the instrument exclusively. It came to be called Lightning Bolt. Garcia met with Cripe briefly backstage at a Florida concert and commissioned a second guitar for $6,500, known as Top Hat, although Garcia almost never played it. Cripe, whose hobby was making fireworks, died in May 1996 when his work shed blew up. He used an exploding firecracker as the insignia on his guitars' headstocks.
Lightning Bolt was in the shop on the last tour. In his final show at Soldier Field in Chicago on July 9, 1995, Garcia started out playing Rosebud, but midway through the show, the guitar developed problems. Garcia strapped on the tour's spare guitar -- Tiger, out of mothballs for the occasion -- and finished his final concert on his old trusty ax.