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Jerry Garcia played many guitars over the years:

1965 – 1967 (early)  - Garcia played a red Guild Starfire during the very early years. Pictured below: Jerry Garcia with the Warlocks in ‘65 at age 23. This guitar was used on the 1st Grateful Dead album.

Check out this acid-test footage from 1965  or this nightclub footage from 1967


Along with guitars go amps and speakers. Read about them here.

1967- Garcia switched (summer) to black 1957 Gibson Les Paul (shown below). It had P90’s with covers removed and Bigsby tremolo.



1968 - Gold-top Gibson Les Paul with P-90 single coil pick-ups. Three Twin Reverbs, two Fender 4x12 cabinets and JBL D120 speakers:

        San Quentin 1968

Student demonstrations at Columbia 1968

Video: Haight Street 1968

 1968 – A Different Black Gibson (Summer and Fall)

1969 - Red Gibson SG with a Vox Crybaby wah-wah pedal (Below). Played on “Live Dead”:

The Ark – Boston April 1969


Garcia at Woodstock August 1969


Miami Pop Festival December 1969 (Black SG seen later in 1970?)


Video: Hugh Hefner’s Playboy After Dark Television Program 1969


Late 1969 - Early 1970 - Sunburst Fender Stratocaster (’63) with Brazilian Rosewood fingerboard:

Video: Fillmore East 2-14-1970


May 1970 - Back to the Red Gibson SG from the “Live Dead” days:


Summer 1970 – Feb 1971 Gibson SG (New):

Hollywood Festival, England. 5-24-1970 (Above). This is the guitar seen in the movie Festival Express

Video: Canada 7-3-1970    Easy Wind 8-30-1970    Uncle John’s Band 8-30-1970    China >  Rider  Family Dog 1970

1970-1971 Martin D-18 and a ZB pedal steel on Workingman’s Dead, American Beauty


1971 (March and April) - Garcia switches to a custom built guitar by the Alembic project. Looks like a Les Paul neck on a handmade body. This guitar is played in March 1971 in Madison, Wisconsin and Manhattan Center in April:

Manhattan Center April 1971


Unidentified guitar (Looks like a Guild) Wallace Wade Stadium – Duke Univ. April 1971 (Below):


June 1971 Garcia begins playing the Natural 57 Fender Stratocaster given to him by Graham Nash

Video: Chateau d’Herouville France 6-21-71

Summer 1971 - Gibson Les Paul TV (Yellow).

Yale Bowl 7-31-71 (Above)

San Diego Golden Hall 8-7-1971 (Above)

Summer 1971- Sunburst Les Paul. Played at Berkeley Community Theatre on August 14&15, 1971 (shown below):

Here is the list of different guitars (6) Garcia played in 1971 (to the best of knowledge):

--Winter – Festival Express Gibson SG – Portchester NY.

--Spring- Alembic Project Guitar - Manhattan Center photos.

--Spring – Unidentified Guild – Duke Univ. Photo

--Late Spring-Graham Nash Stratocaster (Alligator) – France 6/21/71
--Summer- Double Cut Gibson TV (yellow) - Yale Bowl and San Diego photos.
--Summer- Sunburst Les Paul (Rick Turner Custom) - BCT Aug 1971 Photos.
--Fall - Graham Nash Stratocaster (Alligator) -Gaelic Park, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Felt Forum photos.


Alligator: Late 1971 through Early 1973 (the Graham Nash guitar). It was now nicknamed Alligator for the sticker affixed. This became his primary guitar throughout fall 1971 (Keith Godchaux’s first tour) and thereafter. He didn’t put it down until May 1973. It is the guitar Garcia played on the Europe ‘72 Tour.  

For a comprehensive account of the evolution of Alligator click here

Felt Form – NYC. December 1971


Video: Copenhagen 4-17-1972

1972-1974 the wah wah pedal is a ColorSound “Vol + Wah

Note: in 1972 Garcia bought the first guitar Doug Irwin ever made for $850 (aka 001) and ordered another one custom-made, which would become known as Wolf. Garcia eventually gave Irwin’s 001 to long-time road-crew member Ramrod)  

February 1973 Alembic Wall of Sound Introduced:

May 1973 Begin Wolf I - Doug Irwin delivers the first version of the guitar known as “Wolf” (named for another memorable sticker added below the tailpiece,). It cost Garcia $1,500. It becomes Garcia’s primary guitar through March 1975. Shortly after receiving Wolf, Garcia requested another custom guitar from Irwin, which he would eventually deliver in September 1977.

From Wikipedia:

“Wolf was made with an ebony fingerboard and featured numerous embellishments like alternating grain designs in the headstock, ivory inlays, and fret marker dots made of sterling silver. The body was composed of western maple wood with a core of purpleheart. Garcia had former Alembic employee Doug Irwin replace the electronics inside the guitar, at which point he added his own logo to the headstock alongside the Alembic logo. The system included two interchangeable plates for configuring pickups: one was made for strictly single coils, while the other accommodated humbuckers.”

For a comprehensive account of the evolution of the Wolf guitars click here

1974 - Wolf I

Video:  Eyes of the World (Grateful Dead Movie) Concert Footage – Winterland, SF October 1974

1975 (early) - Wolf I

SF SNAK Benefit – Kezar Stadium 3-23-75 (Below):


Summer 1975 - Travis Bean MC1000A w/humbuckers. Aluminum guitar designed by Southern California maverick Travis Bean (Seen below @ Lindley Meadow)



1976 - Travis Bean MC500 w/single-coil pickups and fx loop + Mu-Tron III + Mu-Tron Octave Divider + MXR analog delay (Below): 


1977 - Travis Bean TB500 get’s the Unity Gain Buffer /fx loop combo built by John Cutler, placing all effects in front of Jerry's guitar volume knob. This Bean returns for select JGB shows through '78



For a comprehensive account of the evolution of the Travis Bean guitars click here

September 1977- Garcia receives Wolf II from Doug Irwin. Complete with single coils and effects loop. Irwin also replaces the Wolf sticker and Inlays the Wolf into the guitar. He also removes the Peacock on the headstock and adds his signature Eagle logo:

Video: Winterland 12-30-1977

1978 - Garcia continues with Wolf II

Video: Capitol Theatre NJ 11-24-1978


August 1979 – 1990: Tiger

Garcia replaced Wolf with Tiger in 1979. The guitar maker, Doug Irwin, spent more than six years working on it, and though it was probably the heaviest of all of his guitars, Garcia played it almost exclusively for the next 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 road manager Steve Parish. Garcia used the synthesizer attachment to make his guitar sound like a trumpet or other instruments.


Video: Radio City Music Hall October 1980


Video: Oakland Auditorium 12-31-1980


Video: Essen Germany 3-28-1981


Greek Theater 1983


“Tiger” (w/pearl cover plate) Description:

From Wikipedia:

“Nearly seven years after he first requested it, Garcia received his third custom guitar from Irwin in 1979. The first concert that Jerry played Tiger was August 4, 1979 at the Oakland Auditorium Arena. It was named Tiger from the inlay on the preamp cover. The body of Tiger was of rich quality: the top layer was cocobolo, with the preceding layers being maple stripe, vermilion, and flame maple, in that order. The neck was made of western maple with an ebony fingerboard. The pickups consisted of a single coil DiMarzio SDS-1 and two humbucker DiMarzio Super IIs which were easily removable due to Garcia’s preference for replacing his pickups every year or two. The electronics were composed of an effects bypass loop, which allowed Garcia to control the sound of his effects through the tone and volume controls on the guitar, and a preamplifier/buffer which rested behind a plate in the back of the guitar. In terms of weight, everything included made Tiger tip the scales at 13½ pounds. This was Garcia’s principal guitar for the next eleven years, and most played.” More Details

Jerry knew his electronics! (Tiger is the Guitar I saw him play at 90% of the shows attended, Wolf II being 2nd)

THE TIGER – By Doug Irwin
A guitar like none built before...

The Tiger's body core is made of curly western maple, and is laminated with 3/16" vermilion and 1 /28" maple. The top and back are made of bookmatched, carefully selected coca-bola, which was chosen for its grain pattern, integral knots, and red color. The body is constructed from three sections. The center section is about 3 1/2" wide. This allowed me to place a block of wood underneath the part of the guitar that anchors the bridge and the tailpiece.

It is the mass of the guitar which determines, in most respects, its acoustic signature, or resonant characteristics. Any sound we hear can often be identified by its resonant decay pattern. On an oscilloscope we see this as a frequency height attained and characterized by the duration and mode in which the sound decays. In addition to the guitar's mass, other dominant factors that affect its sound are the scale length, the total string length, the angle of the strings as they cross over the string nut and the bridge, or the "speaking string".

The neck of the guitar is flawed fiddleback western maple which has a centerpiece of vermilion with 1 /28" sheets of vermilion and maple on both sides of the vermilion. The peghead is overlaid with cross grain sheets of 1 /28" maple and ebony on the face, and maple and walnut on the back side.

The fingerboard is made of African gaboon ebony. It is bound in 18 gauge solid brass with overlaid frets of Dunlap nickel-silver. The fingerboard inlay is carefully selected Australian mother-of pearl, chosen for its color and unique reflective quality. The 24" fret inlay is cut from a piece that is 50% thicker than the standard .060" I usually work with. It was necessary to do this because the piece is so wide and the fingerboard is deeply rounded. It was also fitting because I carved into it "J. Garcia", the name of the man who gave me license to do this kind of work. The inlay in the peghead face is the deluxe version of my company logo, the eagle circling the earth. It is cut from brass, mother-of-pearl and abalone and this is the first guitar on which I used this image.


The brass filigree that borders all the plates mounted on the guitar and continues around both sides is inlaid into the 3/16" laminate of vermilion of the body core. This 1/16" square brass wire is inlaid into a rounded surface, and I have never before seen work of this nature. The brass wire is slotted at a 45-degree angle at 3/16" intervals. The slotting ensures that the brass remains firmly anchored.
The pickup mounting plate is made of solid brass and continues in the same curve around the arch in the top. This curved plate has brass rings soldered to the underside. The Tiger is inlaid with a solid ebony plate, underneath which is a compartment that houses some of the guitar's electronics. The electronics compartments are shielded from electromagnetic interference by silver print.


The Tiger also has a large oval plate on the back that is made of curly maple and has a marquetry border. The plate is inlaid with mother-of-pearl and abalone in the form of an Art Nouveau flower. This floral motif also includes the guitar's serial number, 050. Beneath the plate, known only to a few, is a hidden compartment.





Garcia w/ Banjo in mid-1960s





A Brief History Of Jerry Garcia’s Electronic Equipment

Live Archive