The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia played lots of different guitars in his lifetime. Now there’s a new one that others will play in his memory.
To celebrate what would have been Garcia’s 75th birthday this month, the Marin-based Jerry Garcia Foundation is unveiling an eco-friendly electric guitar named Ocean, so called because it has one of Garcia’s fish etchings inlaid on the fingerboard.
It was commissioned by foundation founder Manasha Matheson, mother of Garcia’s youngest daughter, Keelin, and designed and built by New York guitar maker Tom Lieber, who apprenticed with the late Sonoma County luthier Doug Irwin, maker of Garcia’s famous Tiger, Wolf and Rosebud guitars.
After searching for two years for someone who could make a plastic-free guitar, Matheson asked Lieber to do it after meeting him at a recent foundation benefit.
“I took Manasha’s concept and vision and ran with it, trying to fulfill her dream,” he says, speaking from his shop in upstate New York.
Tiger, a 13#xbd;-pound monster that Garcia strapped on for 11 years, from 1979 to 1990, was Lieber’s first collaboration with Irwin. It gets its name from the inlay of a tiger behind the tailpiece
“When we designed that instrument, we were thinking that we wanted to create our generation’s Les Paul,” he explains. “It was called the Garcia. It became the Tiger later on, but that was not our original intent. Forty years later, it has kind of become our generation’s Les Paul.”
Not a replica
Lieber makes a Summer of Love model guitar that was inspired by Tiger, but he refuses to build an exact replica out of respect for the late Grateful Dead paterfamilias, who died in 1995. Tiger was the last guitar he ever played.
“I have a moral issue about that,” he says. “We built that guitar for Jerry, and I won’t make that exact thing for anybody. It…