Jerry Garcia, much like the band he helped form, The Grateful Dead, has almost a cult following amongst his millions of music fans. One of the iconic guitars he was associated with during his impressive musical career was “Wolf,” a custom guitar built by luthier Doug Irwin. A total of five guitars were created. Three were stage favorites, by Irwin for Garcia including Wolf, Eagle, Rosebud, Tiger, and Wolf Jr. The name of the Wolf guitar was taken from the cartoon sticker that Garcia had applied to the bottom of the guitar under the stop tail piece.
Garcia’s “Wolf” guitar can also be seen in the 1977 film he directed, “The Grateful Dead Movie,” and the cartoon figure adorned many band posters and t-shirts. In mid-May Martin Scorsese’s film documentary on the Dead was also released. At 1.9 million dollars Wolf now holds the record for the highest amount every paid for a Grateful Dead Guitar to date. The original purchase price of the instrument back in 1973 was $1,500.
Wolf’s body is constructed from purple heart and curly maple wood and has an ebony fretboard. Similar to Alembic instruments from this era, where Doug Irwin originally learned his trade, the Wolf guitar has two humbucker pickups and a single pickup in the neck position, but thanks to its onboard electronics, toggle switches, and stereo outputs a myriad of sounds could be achieved with it. As you can see in the images with this article, Garcia’s guitar was truly a work of art with its Eagle inlayed headstock, custom inlayed fretboard, and beautifully flamed woods.