Jerry Garcia’s Heavily Modified Fender Guitar Is Up for Sale

Garcia’s guitar of choice from ’71 to ’73.


On December 10, Jerry Garcia’s heavily modified Fender Stratocaster, called Alligator, will go to auction at Bonhams in Los Angeles. This 1955 Strat, Garcia’s guitar of choice from ’71 to ’73, has a swamp ash body, maple neck and a number of modifications performed by Frank Fuller and Rick Turner of Alembic. The instrument was gifted to Garcia, sans mods, in 1970 by Graham Nash as thanks for Garcia’s studio work on Nash’s album Songs For Beginners (apparently Nash bought the guitar for $250 at a pawn shop in Phoenix).

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The Strats modifications include replacement Schaller tuners, a customized brass control plate and a brass sustainer block mounted on a wood riser. It was once fitted with a custom preamp and some of the wiring has been altered since Alembic’s work on the instrument — but these changes happened while the guitar was in Garcia’s possession. The guitar still has several stickers: ‘Harley Davidson’ and ‘Policeman Helper’ on the body, and a cartoon alligator holding a knife and fork on the pickguard (the source of the instrument’s name).

Garcia played the guitar on the Grateful Dead’s 1972 European tour — hear it on Europe 72 — and on studio recordings including Working Man’s Dead and American Beauty. It is expected to sell between $250,000 and $400,000.

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