Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead) had about 25 guitars, but 70% of his time in the spotlight he played just 3, all custom built by the same luthier Doug Irwin (Sonoma, CA). Doug worked at Alembic guitars for a year and half or two. The guitarmaker spent more than six years working on it, result: Garcia’s favorite guitar for the next ll years & most played. He 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. 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 1990 Garcia changed guitars when Irwin completed “Rosebud” named for the inlaid dancing skeleton on the ebony coverplate. Lighter than the Tiger, it became his fulltime Dead guitar, but he used the Tiger in the JGB for a another year. Tiger and Wolf were named for the exquisite mother-of-pearl and ivory inlaid animal images Doug Irwin created on the guitar bodies. After Jerry’s death, the guitars returned to Doug Irwin, the master guitar maker who’s work Jerry Garcia so admired. In his will, Garcia left the guitars to Mr. Irwin who had devoted many years of his life creating them. Irwin sold his guitars, the Tiger and the Wolf, at auction on May 8, 2002. The Tiger was purchased by Jim Irsay for USD 850,000.
There’s a bootleg where Ryan Adams explains that he went to the Hall of Fame and saw Garcia’s guitars hence the lyric: “Rosebud shipwrecked up on the Ohio, behind a Wall of Glass, telling me to take care of myself, and my friends”.