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Jerry Garcia's guitars and controversy

 
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dogstarz
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 1:41 pm    Post subject: Jerry Garcia's guitars and controversy Reply with quote

Free Garcia's Guitars!

GARY GREENBERG
(RS 890 - Feb. 28, 2002)


The long legal battle over the Grateful Dead leader's prized possessions

You could read Jerry Garcia's will and not learn much more about him than how many children he had. The only hint of his life's work -- indeed, the only mention of any specific possession or of any person outside his family -- comes in the fifth paragraph: "I give all my guitars made by Douglas Erwin to Douglas Erwin,or to his estate if he predeceases me."
This gift is a simple and, some would say, fitting close to a quarter-century-long relationship between Garcia and the fifty-two-year-old California guitar maker, whose name is actually Doug Irwin. But spelling was the least of the bequest's problems. Garcia, whom Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh describes as "not the kind of guy to plan ahead," seemed to have forgotten one important detail: The guitars were not his to give away in the first place. Or so said the band's lawyers, arguing that a Grateful Dead tradition of communal ownership of band equipment meant that Garcia's guitars belong to Grateful Dead Productions. The ensuing legal battle has strained relations among the surviving band members and between the band and Deadheads, for whom the guitars are holy artifacts. (Some Deadheads claim to be able to discern which guitar Garcia is wielding just by listening to a tape, or to divine in his choice on a given night what was on his mind or in his heart.) And when Irwin became destitute following a disabling bicycle accident in 1997, GDP was left to defend itself against a potential public-relations nightmare. An agreement to grant Irwin two of the five guitars -- the two Garcia played most -- was reached in January, but the feelings all around are still raw.
Each side agrees on at least one thing: The guitars are exquisite -- "absolutely stunning pieces of art," according to Howard Kramer, associate curator of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, where three of them reside. Irwin started building guitars for Garcia in 1971. Garcia, shopping at Alembic's guitar shop in San Francisco, spied a guitar leaning on a display case. Irwin, who was working in the back of the shop, had built it on his kitchen table. "The guys came back and told me that Jerry Garcia was out there and wanted my guitar," says Irwin. "I thought they were yanking my chain, but finally I went out, and there he was. I sold it to him [for $850], and right away he asked me to build another one" -- this time with electronics specified by Garcia.
Thus began a collaboration that, according to Steve Parish, Garcia's equipment manager, brought out the best in both men. Irwin was "a true luthier, really dedicated to custom-making guitars for Jerry, and Jerry was so able to express what he wanted. We'd sit there for hours and talk about guitars." Garcia got his first Irwin-built custom guitar -- made with curly maple and purple heart and buffed so shiny that, Irwin says, "it looks like a piece of candy" -- in time for the Dead's European tour of 1972. (Garcia played it there only a few times, but it came back sporting a decal that Irwin used as a model for a retrofitted inlay that gave the guitar its name: Wolf.)
Before Garcia left for Europe, he'd given Irwin new, and irresistible, marching orders: "He said, 'Start me another guitar,' " Irwin remembers. " 'Do it any way you want, and don't hold back.' " Irwin began to ponder designs ("I became the Lewis and Clark of my own mind") and to collect worthy materials -- choice pieces of cocobola, vermillion and maple, mother-of-pearl -- and during the next eight years he built a guitar with ivory inlays, brass bindings, a gently rounded body ("It feels sexy," Irwin says), more Garcia-designed electronics and the piece de resistance, a bottom cover plate bearing a gorgeous mother-of-pearl tiger inlaid on ebony, for which it was named. Irwin got $5,800 for Tiger, which Garcia played at what turned out to be his last performance, in 1995.
All told, Garcia had five Irwin guitars: the original (dubbed "001"), Wolf, Tiger, Rosebud and Wolf Jr. Given their sheer beauty, the mystique they have accumulated over the years and the fact that, as Kramer points out, "the Dead have some fans of extraordinary wealth," the Irwin guitars are doubtless very valuable. (Steve Routhier, who assembled the Hard Rock Cafe's memorabilia collection, says that if all conditions are good for Irwin, bidding could take the price of Tiger and Wolf "well into six figures.")
Irwin was expecting to get his windfall as the will got settled, so he was surprised when the lawyer for the estate told him that it didn't have the guitars and had no plans to seek them from Grateful Dead Productions, which held them in storage.
This news came at a time when Irwin needed money. In 1997, he was struck by a car while riding his bicycle near his Northern California home. By the time he got out of the hospital, where he underwent brain surgery, his shop had been closed and his equipment stored away. Unable to raise money for a new shop, he moved into his seventy-nine-year-old mother's trailer home.
Irwin hired a lawyer, and as 2001 began and motions were filed, the case became a cause celebre among Deadheads. The subject lit up cyberspace, especially in places like the Well, a San Francisco Deadhead-heavy online community, and Dead.net, the Dead's official Web site, where the discussion generated more than 4,000 entries. Sentiment ran heavily against GDP, and a David and Goliath tale in which the heartless corporados were subverting the hippie ethos and the last wishes of the demigod Garcia -- and deepening the suffering of a destitute man in the bargain -- began to take shape.
In the meantime, squabbles within the Grateful Dead family threatened to merge with the guitar dispute -- especially after bassist Phil Lesh contradicted GDP (and his band mates) in a deposition last April. According to Irwin's lawyer, Lesh testified that corporate ownership of the instruments was a tax strategy.
For his part, Lesh says, "the concept of collective ownership of instruments was never brought up during Jerry's life, and if it had been, I believe it would have been laughed out of the room."
A settlement attempt last October seemed to only worsen matters. The agreement gave Tiger and Wolf to the Garcia estate (and thus to Irwin), but it also required Irwin to give the Dead the right to match whatever price the guitars fetched, to participate in a joint press release stating that the case had been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties, and forever after to keep his peace on the matter. Irwin was willing to settle for only two guitars, but the press release and gag order were a different story. "Those guys knew the guitars were Jerry's," he says. "How can they expect me to say his wishes had been done?" He refused to sign and sent out a press release of his own, accusing the Dead and its lawyers of trampling his free-speech rights.
At the beginning of 2002, the Dead backed away from its conditions and granted the two guitars outright to Irwin. "The only strings attached will be guitar strings," says Irwin -- and the requirement that any sale will be public so that GDP can bid on them. But he's still not satisfied. He thinks the settlement is "about forty percent of what it should be," and, as he prepares to sell Tiger (and perhaps Wolf, as well), he continues to rail against the Grateful Dead for "stealing" his guitars.
GDP, through its lawyer, insists that "even though [Garcia] had no right to do this, they didn't want to go against his wishes. They wanted to find some way to address what Jerry had intended -- that Doug Irwin would be taken care of."
Grateful Dead publicist Dennis McNally says the Dead will try to buy Tiger and Wolf and then make all the guitars available to the public -- something that won't happen if the guitars disappear into a collector's vault. (The guitars at the Hall of Fame are located -- at the Dead's insistence -- in an area not subject to an admission fee.)
Lesh, however, is unconvinced. "I don't agree that justice has been done to Garcia's wishes," he says. "For him to do something that specific in the will means that he wanted that to happen." Lesh would have preferred an agreement that gave Irwin all the guitars and the Dead access to them. But "since Jerry died," he says, "consensus has degenerated into democracy, and I was outvoted." In the end, he says, "Now that Jerry's not here to play them, I don't care if they go into someone's vault."
Evidently, Garcia didn't care, either, at least not as much as he cared about returning his guitars to their maker. Now it is up to his musical brethren -- who on any given night would have followed Garcia's guitar off a musical cliff -- to save Tiger and Wolf from the abyss of the open market, regardless of what he may have wanted.

I also have pictures of Mr. Garcia's guitars from the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame that I will post as soon as I have time. Interesting side note: Photography is not allowed at Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. Yet in the lobby you are allowed to take as many pictures as you want. Jerry's guitars are in the lobby. So I guess that keeping with the trading policy "once we are done playing the music it is yours" they put his guitars there.
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cheesebeer



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2009 9:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So what has happened to Garcia's guitars since then? Anything? I remember reading this when this article came out and thinking Garcia had a heart of gold but was surrounded by people with money/kindness issues.
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Kochman
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2009 9:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

cheesebeer wrote:
So what has happened to Garcia's guitars since then? Anything? I remember reading this when this article came out and thinking Garcia had a heart of gold but was surrounded by people with money/kindness issues.


Yeah, they now run the show, trying to prevent people from getting SBDs in MP3 format even, etc... a shame really.
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dogstarz
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2009 9:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I will have to do a follow up to this story. Someone must know what happened.
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finster



Joined: 21 Dec 2008
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 8:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm pretty sure that there was an auction a few years ago. I believe GDP was the high bidder.
I vaguely recall Phil talking about some kind of contest a few years back..(maybe 2004 when they all last toured together), where the lucky winner would have an opportunity to play Jerry's "wolf" guitar. Pretty sure it was some type of talent contest.....send in a demo tape kind of thing and we will pick a winner.
Not sure if this was a charity fundraiser type thing or what. Don't know if the winner got to jam with the boys or exactly what it was all about. My memory is a little hazy.....

Google...here I come......
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snow_and_rain
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 9:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

finster wrote:
I vaguely recall Phil talking about some kind of contest a few years back..(maybe 2004 when they all last toured together), where the lucky winner would have an opportunity to play Jerry's "wolf" guitar. Pretty sure it was some type of talent contest.....send in a demo tape kind of thing and we will pick a winner.
Not sure if this was a charity fundraiser type thing or what. Don't know if the winner got to jam with the boys or exactly what it was all about. My memory is a little hazy.....

Google...here I come......


That's weak, if true. Is nothing sacred?
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Kochman
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 9:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The way people behave about getting "goodies" in general from the decease makes me mad.
When my grandparents died, much of my family got very greedy and accusatory towards the others. It disgusted me. At least that is stuff we were supposed to get...

The whole controversy over Jerry's Estate is very upsetting too (of course, the dollar amount is WAY higher), but whatever he put in his will... that is how it should go.

The remaining members of the GD, claiming, well, it wasn't really his guitar...
That is just absolutely pathetic, the first strike amongst several in my mind (others including pulling the SBDs from Archive, while not releasing them faster than a trickle; playing the Metallica cover; and making the hitherto apolitical band political). It doesn't really matter that I have these bad feelings toward them, at least to them... but I just wanted to state it.
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snow_and_rain
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 9:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kochman wrote:
playing the Metallica cover


come again?
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Kochman
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 10:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dogstarz told me they covered some Metallica song, can't remember which one... as well as U2.

U2 is one thing... but Metallica?
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snow_and_rain
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 10:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kochman wrote:
U2 is one thing... but Metallica?


Both are outrageous. What U2 song was it?

It was okay when Johnny Cash did it, but he gets special consideration for being Johnny Cash.
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Kochman
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 10:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If I recall correctly... "One"
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snow_and_rain
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 10:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kochman wrote:
If I recall correctly... "One"


Funny.. that's the one Cash covered. His version was excellent.
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cheesebeer



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PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 11:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have been meaning to start a Cash covers thread, he is perhaps the ultimate cover artist, elevates the song to higher ground when he does it.
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Kochman
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 11:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

cheesebeer wrote:
I have been meaning to start a Cash covers thread, he is perhaps the ultimate cover artist, elevates the song to higher ground when he does it.

Cash was the man...
I can think of another band, which was AMAZING, who did that well too... Their name started with a G, and ended with a D... two words...
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chinarider79



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PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 12:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One(U2)>One(Metallica) would have been interesting.... Rolling Eyes
.....Warren sang Nothing Else Matters with The Dead in 2004

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dogstarz
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 4:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Dead also covered A Love Supreme and Milestones. I guess those two make up for the Metallica cover. Which I actually listened to today. Its um...lets just say the only person that wanted to do this was Warren. You could tell the entire band was pretty bored with it.
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finster



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PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 8:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is a link to an article I found online in regards to the auction of Wolf and Tiger....

Only registered users can see links on this forum!
Register or Login on forum!

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Ramblin_Joe



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2011 6:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The winning bidder (and current owner) of WOLF remains annonymous. This guitar surfaced recently when the owner let Phil Lesh borrow it for few PL&F shows when Barry Sless and Ryan Adams had a chance to play it. I personally believe that Phil Lesh is the annonymous owner of this guitar but that info will never be acknowledged.

Jim Irsay (owner of Indiannapolis Colts) was the winning bidder for TIGER and I believe he still owns it. Supposedly he brought this into his local Guitar Center store and let a few people play it. Irsay also owns an Elvis acoustic and a George Harrison SG.
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