August 30, 2019

Jerry Garcia Instrument History (Guest Post)

By Michael Clem

    First off, I will clarify a few things about this project.  This endeavor was started because of the lack of really in-depth information on the internet pertaining to Jerry's instruments.  Also, this project was strictly for instruments alone, not at all about the electronics. There is plenty of information on that topic in multiple books, especially Blair Jackson's "Grateful Dead Gear."  I talked with Blair for this project to try to confirm some information that we were questioning. He was as helpful as he could be, I might add, but unfortunately could not answer some of the questions.
     I was assisted on this project by a few other scholarly Heads named Mike Weber and Christopher Martin.  For details on the banjo and pedal steel information, I was helped by my friend Corey Woodcock, who plays banjo and steel.  Also, we were lucky enough to be given access to the photo archives compiled by German Deadologists, Volkmar Rupp and Uli Teute.  They have done extensive work over the last few years compiling a vast archive of photos that is constantly being added to, date-confirmed, and updated. They were as important to this project as the rest of us that participated, and I would like to give them a special "thank you."
     Corrections from Jerry's Brokendown Palaces have been included. 
     The list below is all confirmed through photographic and video evidence. I have tried to make the notes as clear as possible.  This is pretty much a show by show guide to what Jerry played through the years; hopefully you will appreciate it as much as we do. If there are any discrepancies noticed, please feel free to comment.



Danelectro U-1

Sears Silvertone 
(Not pictured.)

Acoustic Guild F-50

Acoustic Martin D-21 

1965 - 5/20/67
Red '62 Guild Starfire III

(He had two. There was a second Starfire III, a '64-65 model, after the first one was broken at the Trips Festival in January '66.)

Acoustic '58-'66 Epiphone Texan

5/29/67 - 10/31/67
1st Black '57 Les Paul Custom

(He had two - the first one bought at Draper’s on 5/27/67. The second, with Bigsby vibrato, bought from Mike McKenna during the Cafe A Go Go shows 6/1-10/67.)

By August '67 he's using the Bigsby tremolo:

Garcia was also spotted with a Gibson ES-355 at least once in '67.
Les Paul Junior Double Cut
This is seen being played off to the side, but we do not believe it was actually played in the show, only the black Les Paul.
(Hand-painted by Garcia. Owned by Peter Grant.)

'52 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop

5/24/68 - 10/18/68
2nd '57 Black Gibson Les Paul Custom

10/20/68 - 10/17/69
'67 Gibson SG Standard

1969 - 1970
Martin acoustics  
A couple different acoustics are seen this year – a 1936 Martin 000-18S guitar in the 1/18/69 Playboy After Dark TV taping:

And a Martin 00-45, used in the Aoxomoxoa/Workingman's Dead studio sessions and later '69 live shows, and apparently in the early 1970 acoustic sets as well.

Guild Starfire XII Electric 12-string
(This was used for Dupree’s Diamond Blues; it was likely played in earlier 1969 shows as well.)

10/24/69 - 4/19/70
'63 Rosewood Fender Stratocaster

By February '70 he's added a flag sticker.

(An unknown Stratocaster is seen on 12/28/69 - it looks lighter but is possibly the Rosewood pre-flag sticker.

4/24/70 - 12/31/70
'66 Gibson SG Standard

Different flag sticker on this one...the third guitar he's put the flag on!

In fall '70 he adds a skull sticker as well.

Summer 1970
Martin D-18 and D-28 acoustic (during Festival Express & American Beauty sessions)

Guild F-50 acoustic guitar
Although not used onstage after 1970, the '42 Martin D-28 Herringbone guitar was spotted being played as late as '72: 

A Small 1970 Mystery... 
Photos from 5/15/70 show an unknown Fender propped up behind Garcia in the acoustic set. It does not seem to be David Nelson's or Bob Weir's, so it's possible Garcia used the Fender specifically to play in acoustic sets. It may be the Strat he'd been using the past few months.

Garcia also plays a sunburst Stratocaster during the June/July Festival Express train jams. This could be the same guitar he'd played earlier in the year (the whole body isn't seen onscreen), or a new one. 

Played in the Festival Express jam with Ian & Sylvia. 
(The Telecaster belonged to Delaney Bramlett, given to him by George Harrison.

Jerry plays an unknown guitar with NRPS instead of pedal steel.
Information from Joe Jupille:
(No picture.)

Unknown White Stratocaster

1/21/71 - 4/29/71

Gibson Les Paul Gold Top 
(Garcia played both the Peanut & the Goldtop in this show. A picture of the Gibson from this date was previously mislabeled as 7/8/70.
Guild S100 

5/29/71- 6/21/71
'55 Fender Stratocaster 

This was a gift from Graham Nash, later to become Alligator. It's first spotted in Feb/March 1971, possibly used at a Garcia/Saunders show.

Then it turns up in a Dead show at the end of May '71, but is only used for a couple shows.

7/2/71- 8/7/71
Gibson Les Paul Special - TV Yellow

'71 Les Paul Deluxe Cherry Sunburst

8/23/71 - 7/26/72
'55 Stratocaster (pre-Alligator)

The Nash Strat returns... 

By March '72 it has a couple stickers on it:

 The Alligator sticker is added by June '72:  

'66 Gibson Byrdland
(Previously thought to be a Gibson 175.) The Byrdland Jerry is playing is from an unconfirmed date. The photos are from a Garcia/Saunders show with Tom Fogerty, so it is only a handful of possible shows. We believe them to be 1/72.

8/12/72 - 9/10/72, 9/21-9/30/72
’56 Sunburst Fender Stratocaster (the “Veneta Strat”)
(This might be the guitar Garcia gave to David Hidalgo in 1987.

(Note: although Garcia switched back to the Alligator on 9/15, during the shows at the end of the month, 9/21-30, he was again playing a sunburst Strat, possibly the same one he'd used in August.)

9/15/72 - 9/2/73


11/18/72 – 12/12/72
Erlewine Stratocaster
Known to be played on 11/18/72, 11/19/72, 11/22/72, 11/23/72, 12/10-12/72 (only on two of the nights, but Alligator was also played), and 5/13/73. 

Distinctive as the only known show in which Garcia played three electric guitars (Alligator, Erlewine Strat, 1st Irwin "Eagle").

The "Eagle" was Doug Irwin's first guitar made for Alembic; Garcia later gave it to Ramrod. (This guitar, and the Erlewine Strat, are two that I tried getting more information from Blair Jackson about.)  
Wolf, Tiger, and Rosebud were later made by Irwin after leaving Alembic to work on his own.

9/5/73 - 8/13/75

The Wolf sticker was added in December '73:

'53 Telecaster played with NRPS 
(This was believed to belong to Dave Nelson, but may be the guitar now owned by Bob Weir. Supposedly it was played on Workingman's Dead.)

Garcia sits in with NRPS again, not known what guitar he played.
Info per Corry Arnold of the Lost Live Dead blog:
(No photo.)

9/28/75 - 7/21/76
Travis Bean TB1000A
 Serial #51 purchased in late August 1975.


8/2/76 - 9/3/77
Travis Bean TB500
 Two guitars, serial #'s 11 & 12, given to Garcia after the first TB1000A was damaged and could not be repaired.

9/28/77 - 7/1/79
Wolf (modified) 

Ibanez MC-500 

Also spotted at a JGB show that year: 

(Ibanez designed another guitar for Garcia that year, but he rejected it and never played it onstage.)

Acoustic Guild D-2

12/13 - 12/17/78
Travis Bean TB1000A 
 Serial #715, a replacement for the earlier Travis Beans.
(Briefly substituted for Wolf on tour.)  
8/4/79 - 8/19/89


1980 - 1982 
Takamine EF360S acoustic  
Used from the fall '80 acoustic sets to the June '82 Garcia & Kahn acoustic shows.

Yamaha SC-1000 (borrowed guitar)

1982-1988 - acoustic shows with John Kahn & the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band
Takamine EF360SC acoustic

Garcia had two of these cutaway models, one with light wood and a Martin headstock used from late summer '82 to early '85.

Another '85 EF360SC was used from 1985-88.

Washburn EA20 acoustic 
Only spotted in one Garcia Acoustic Band show? 

Modulus Blackknife (with JGB)
(Photo pending - possibly this one:

Supposedly the Steinberger guitar with no headstock was played at the Palace of Fine Arts "Ritual and Rapture" show.

Gibson ES-335 
(Played with Los Lobos - belonged to David Hidalgo.)

Gibson Les Paul Goldtop 
(Played with Los Lobos - belonged to David Hidalgo.)

(Jerry is also seen in a photo playing a Gibson ES-175 with Bigsby vibrola - photo pending.

Fender Jazzmaster 
(Played during a performance with Elvis Costello - was Costello's guitar.)

Black Stratocaster with MIDI during Space 

By 7/12/89 Garcia started using the Wolf in Space instead of the Strat. 
9/29/89 - 12/30/89

12/31/89 - 6/26/93


Older guitars continued to be used: Wolf appears on 7/23/90 & 2/23/93 (among others), Tiger and Wolf in the Nov. 1991 JGB run.

Alvarez Yairi DY Virtuoso acoustic guitar (played 9/24/94, and in shows with Grisman) 

(Garcia had five different models of the Alvarez-Yairi.)

1990s - Grisman studio sessions
1939 Gibson Super 400N (along with a Martin D18 and D28)

8/7/93 - 6/4/95
Lightning Bolt 

Lightning Bolt was made by Stephen Cripe, and was the first guitar he built for Garcia, prior to "Top Hat" (which was ordered in 1995 and never made it to the stage). Bolt made its first appearance at the 8/7/93 JGB show.

Bolt and Rosebud were both used in the last two years - Bolt in fall ‘93 and ‘94, and spring ‘94 and ‘95; and Rosebud on the ‘94 and ‘95 summer tours, and in the spring JGB shows.
Rosebud and Tiger were both played at the last show, 7/9/95.


Unknown banjo traded in for a Weymann (traded in 1963 along with Sara's Martin)
'30s Weymann banjo from 1963-1974
A second Weymann gifted from David Crosby (unknown year)
'50s Gibson RB250 Bowtie
'37/'38 RB12 Top Tension Gibson
RB 3, 4 or 75 Mastertone
Marshall Freelands 1937 TB-7
Top Tension (played with Grisman)
These were used from 3/73-5/74 while playing with OAITW & GASB.
Gibson RB800 was played for Garcia/Grisman shows in the 90s.


Fender pedal steel 
(Supposedly sold to Lowell “Banana” Levinger of the Youngbloods, but Banana doesn't recall this.

5/69 - 4/15/71
Zane Beck ZB Custom D-10 pedal steel

(Purchased in April '69 at Guitar City in Lakewood, Colorado; started playing it immediately with John Dawson thereafter; started playing it at Dead shows on 6/20/69; later gave to Peter Grant.)

In fall '70 he put a flag on it... 

4/24/71 - 4/72
Emmons D10 pedal steel

MSA White Mica Classic D10 pedal steel


(From a Scotty's Music Store newspaper column on 10/26/72: “Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead was in St. Louis last week and he is [now] the owner of a new MSA steel guitar. That makes the fourth steel guitar he has bought. He has an Emmons, Sho-Bud, and ZB, plus his new MSA.”
The ZB was given to Peter Grant. The Emmons was later sold at Scotty's Music Store in St. Louis. The Sho-Bud is otherwise unknown.)

MCI pedal steel (played with Bob Dylan)



The Guild S100 in 1971 and Irwin Eagle in 1973 seem to only have been played the one time each that are mentioned. The Ibanez in 1978 also appeared in a JGB show, believed to be sometime in 6/78, but cannot confirm the date. Again Blair Jackson could not provide any details as to why it vanished.

In 1979 Garcia gave a '66 Gibson Byrdland with a Gretsch Bigsby tailpiece to guitarist Perry Lederman. Whether Garcia had ever played it is unknown. 

Garcia appeared with the California Brothers in the Lone Star Cafe, NYC on 4/6/87, and played a borrowed Stratocaster that was set up for him. (Info from Corry Arnold.)

Garcia participated in a Guitar Player magazine "Garage Jam" in Cupertino, CA on 6/16/87, and apparently played another borrowed Stratocaster, as well as his Takamine. (Information on this provided by Corry Arnold (found in a 1987 Relix) and Joe Jupille.)

For more on Garcia’s equipment and guitar history, see:


These guitars were never played onstage, but were spotted in Garcia’s hands at one time.

National Tricone steel guitar (jam at 710 Ashbury)

(Comment: "It was Pigpen's. He bought it off Curly Jim, before whom it belonged to Jorma Kaukonen.")

Micro-Frets Spacetone (in Scotty’s Music Store, St Louis) 

Fender Telecaster Thinline (backstaqe at Princeton)

Stratocaster (studio rehearsal)

1959 Sunburst Stratocaster  
(Played in the "Blues for the Rainforest" video.)