Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Your Real First Guitar - April Fools Day!

It’s April the first and I usually put together something silly, like making a Hello Kitty guitar out of a 1957 Stratocaster.

But this year I am sort of tardy. Actually I’ve been compiling a lot of real stories about real unique guitars, when I discovered it’s almost April Fools Day and I haven’t written a doggone thing.

So let’s take a look at your first guitar. I mean your real first guitar. The one you got when you were just a pup of three or four. We all started somewhere.

My first guitar came with a built-in backing track. Yep, it was a genuine Mickey Mouse guitar. You could strum it or finger the strings and turn the crank.

♫ Who’s the leader of the club, that’s made for you and me? ♪ ♫

By the time I was five I graduated to a Roy Roger guitar that was made out of finest-kind fiberboard. By then I knew I was going to learn to play guitar.

But there are so many more “first” guitars; and there is a different one for each era.

When I was a teen, the Emenee Toy Company had commercials for the Tiger Sunburst electric guitar with a real amplifier. I already had a Stratocaster and took a pass on that one.

The Mario Maccaferri Guitar, was modeled after the Selmer-Maccaferri “Gypsy” guitar that Django Rheinhardt made famous. This was designed by Mario Maccaferri and he made millions of dollars selling plastic ukuleles and this plastic guitar that actually sounds pretty darn good. It may have cost $29.95 back in the 1950’s, but vintage music dealers are selling these now for $500 and up.

Whatever was popular on television or in the movies seemed to be turned into a guitar.

What was your first guitar?
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)


Friday, March 20, 2015

Burns Guitars

1963 Burns Double Six
In the mid 1960's I spent a lot of time at Dodd’s Music Store in Covington Kentucky. As a new guitar player I was awestruck by the collection of guitars hanging on the walls. Two of them in particular were fascinating. These were the Burn’s Double Six, a twelve string model and its six string companion, the Burns Jazz guitar. Both instruments featured Green-burst finishes and both had the famous Burn’s of London pickups. And both the six and twelve string guitars featured vibrato bars. 

Dodd’s carried a few other Burns models, but none appeared as regal as these two guitars. As a 12 year old boy I was fascinated and wanted to know what a Wild Dog setting sounded like. In later years I discovered it didn't sound that great, but I digress.

Burns of London was originally known as Ormston Burns Ltd. Founded by James Ormston Burns and a partner Alice Louise Farrell in 1960. I cannot find any information about Miss Farrell.

James Ormston Burns
James Burns ran a guitar repair shop in London. Perhaps his first claim to fame was repainting and repairing John Lennon’s Rickenbacker 325.  However most U.K. folks would remember James O. Burns as the “Leo Fender” of London.

Under his ownership and ideas, this little guitar repair shop became the producer of guitars that had a world-class reputation. Like Fender, Burns sold off his company and later re-emerged with a new company and new guitar designs.

1963 Black Bison
James Burns take on the Stratocaster was called The Bison and The Steer. The horns were a little more radical, the neck was glued in, the length was slightly shorter at a 25” scale and its 3 high-output Tri-Sonic pickups allowed different selections including the Wild Dog Sound. The six-on-a-side head stock had the "batwing" design.

Burns Guitars were enormously well received in Britain before the British invaded the USA. As I have mentioned before, in the 1950’s through the 1960’s Britain was paying off a huge war debt. Guitars imported from the United States had a very expensive import tariff, and were out of the financial reach of many Britons. But Burns guitars and other European made instruments were readily available and affordable.





Ike Isaacs
The first commercially produced Burn manufactured guitar was the Ike Issacs short scale model. Issacs was a well-known jazz guitarist. Issacs was born in Burma and came to London as a student in the mid 1940’s. It was there he immersed himself in guitar playing and he really soaked it up. Within a few years he was playing with Stephan Grappelli, Barney Kessel and other well known artists.


The Ike Issacs model was distrubted by the Supersound Company. This was a company founded by a couple with the surname Wooten that specialized in public address and guitar amplifiers from 1952 to 1974. Their company needed someone to build guitars, so they contracted with Jim Burns. Burns introduced the Ike Issacs model in 1958 and shortly afterward introduced the Single Cutaway Bass for the company.

By 1959 Burns was building guitars under his own name, although he did so in collaboration with a fellow named Henry Weill. The result was The Fenton Guitar. Burns forte was wood working. Weill designed the electronics. The original Fenton Guitar looked somewhat like a Guyatone of the same period.

Vibra Artist Deluxe
With the onset of Skiffle music and rock n’ roll in the UK the guitar was become a very popular instrument. Cliff Richard introduced the first Fender Stratocaster to the UK and Europe. Burn’s followed suit by producing the Vibra Artist and Vibra Artist Deluxe. These guitars featured what Burns called the rolling tremolo. Both guitars came with two pickups.





1963 Burns Bison
Burns also offered six versions of the Bison series. These characteristic guitars featured a symmetrical body with two long horns that mimicked the appearance of a bison skull.





1963 Burns Split Sonic
Jim Burns also created the Sonic series which included the Sonic, Split Sonic, Sonic Vista and Nu Sonic. These may have been vaguely based on a Gibson SG, but all had unique shapes. All were equipped with a tremolo.

Though Burns created two models he dubbed Jazz Guitars, it is doubtful most Jazz player would equate them to this music style, for these resembled Stratocasters and came with two or three Tri-Sonic pickups and a tremolo. However they were sweet looking guitars.

Cliff Richard and his band, The Shadows were extremely popular during this era. Jim Burns was honored to be asked to create guitars and a bass for the group with their name featured on each instrument.


Burns Marvin
Instead of the six-on-a-side style, Burns created a scrolled violin style head stock. Right under the scroll was a clear plastic bison head-shaped emblem.

Burns Shadows Bass
This announced it was a Marvin or a Shadows Bass. A twelve string version was also launched with the longest head stock I’ve ever seen. Though it was a Marvin, it eventually became known as the Double-Six.

TR2
Burns also launched a line of “half-resonance guitars”. These were thin hollowbodies and were designated the TR2, the Vibraslim, the GB65, GB66 and GB66 Deluxe Virginian.


Vibraslim
The TR2 and the Vibraslim looked alike.





GB65 (Baldwin)



The GB65  looked like a jazz guitar with F holes. The GB66 was a double cutaway version.



GB66 Virginian D
The GB66 Deluxe Virginian was a totally different guitar.


It had a round faux sound hole on the front that had two pickup on the upper and lower sides of the sound hole and like an acoustic guitar from the front.

However it featured a tremolo unit and if you saw it sideways you could see it was a thinline instrument.

Originally Burns had signed an agreement with Ampeg to distribute their instruments in the United State. So you may run across a Burns of London guitar with the name Ampeg on its pickguard.


You would think the British Invasion would have brought bountiful sales for Burns, however quite the opposite happened. Popular British bands were using American made guitars. Burns sales plummeted and Jim Burns was very short of capital.

It was around this time, 1966, that Cincinnati, Ohio based Baldwin Piano Company was also experiencing a slump in piano and organ sales due to the popularity of the guitar. The company made an offer to buy the Fender Guitar Company, but was outbid by CBS. They then set their sites on Burns of London and purchased the company and all of its assets for just under £ 400,000. ($380,000 USD)

Pickguard & controls are changed
The easiest way to change a Burns to a Baldwin was to remove the pick guard that said Burns of London. This was helpful, because initially there was a large quantity of unsold Burns stock that was shipped to the United States. Baldwin removed the section of pick guard that said Burns and replaced it with a different one that announced it to be a Baldwin guitar.

Baldwin later swapped necks or used a similar one on all models. Generally this was the one with the carved scroll on the head stock.

The State of Ohio planned to build an interstate route where the Cincinnati Baldwin property existed. Baldwin decided to move its manufacturing facility to Arkansas. This is where they began manufacturing new Baldwin (and Gretsch) guitars.

The Baldwin Company did not count on the humid Arkansas summers and the adverse effect this would have on the guitars paint and varnish. Baldwin employees spent a lot of time refinishing guitars that had been returned due to the paint or varnish being damaged. Due to a number of factors the brands popularity tanked and Baldwin Guitars shut down in 1970.

Although James O. Burns sold the tradename Burns of London, he did not totally get out of the guitar manufacturing business. He started a new company called Ormton in 1966. Initially his goal was to market pedal steel guitars made by the Denley Company. This venture lasted until 1968.


At this time Burns decided to create and original guitar which went on to be distributed by Dallas-Arbiter under the brandname Hayman. The line lasted from 1969 to 1973.







Burns Flyte Guitar
In the 1970’s Burns could not use the name Burns for a trademark. But this did not stop him from using and producing "Burns UK" guitars. These were sold starting in 1974 and ending in 1977. Burns UK guitars were manufactured in Newcastle upon Tyne. Only one model seemed to gain any interest. This was called The Flyte. It appeared about the same time as the Concord airplane was showing some popularity. Several popular musicians began to use it.

In 1979 Burns tried a different trade name, Jim Burns Actualizers Ltd. These guitars had more of a resemblance of a traditional Burns guitar. He also made a semi-acoustic guitar called the The Burns Steer, which gained some popularity through its use by singer Billy Bragg. 

However this business closed in 1983 and was James Ormston Burns last venture as owner of a guitar manufacturing business.

Burns Guitars was restarted in 1992 by former Burns employee Barry Gibson and Jim Burns was hired as a consultant to the company. The company's initial goal was to resurrect replicas of famous Burns guitars from the past and hand build each. This brought some accolades from performers of the day including Steve Howe from Yes, who is himself a guitar collector and very knowledgeable.



Marquee
By 1999 Burns Guitars, as it was known and still is today, began building a budget line called The Club Series. These instruments were manufactured in Korea under strict supervision of the Burns management.

The Club Series expanded quickly and many Jim Burns designed guitars such as the Marquee, the Marvin, the Steer and the Bison were resurrected.

A bass/baritone guitar called the Barracuda was introduced. Burns Guitars also worked with Queen guitarist Brian May to build a reproduction of his home-made Red Special, which was originally built by May and his father using 3 Burns Tri-Sonic pickups.

In 2004 production was moved to China and two new models emerged in the line up. The Cobra and the Nu-Sonic short scale (30”) bass. The Nu-Sonic features the bat-wing design on its headstock. The Cobra resembles a Stratocaster and even has a strat-style vibrato. The three pickups on it are known as mini-Tri-Sonics.

James O. Burns passed away in 1998.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)





Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Grateful Dead - Jerry Garcia's Guitars

This weekend marks the final shows for the Grateful Dead. What a long strange trip it has been. The appeal of the Grateful Dead has always been their live music, their prolonged improvisations and their audience, the so-called Dead Heads, that has remained loyal for years, and followed them from city to city as they have toured. Perhaps the best known guitarist in the band was Jerry Garcia.  His taste in sound, instruments and innovation helped this band become legendary. Beyond that, The Grateful Dead changed the ground rules for not just for rock concerts, but for sound support systems for all venues. This feature is mainly about Jerry's Guitars.


Jerry Garcia played some very unique guitars over his long career with the Grateful Dead and with The Jerry Garcia Band. How he came to acquire each of them is equally unique.

Doug Irwin's Wolf guitar
Garcia was in a San Francisco music store when he came across a very unusual guitar and inquired about it. He was told it was built by a guy named Doug Irwin. Garcia came back a few days later to buy that guitar.

Irwin tells the story that he was in the back of the store putting pickups on that particular guitar.

Wolf with modifications
Irwin says a couple of guys from the store came to the back room and told him that Jerry Garcia wants to buy your guitar. He thought they were joking. They came back a couple of times to get him and Irwin finally brought the guitar to the front of the store. Jerry told him that he liked the way the neck felt and he asked him to make another guitar. This Irwin built guitar came to be called The Wolf. Doug Irwin would go on to build four guitars for Garcia.

Garcia with Guild Starfire III
Like many of us, Jerry started learning guitar by playing a Danelectro through a small amplifier. During the early 1960’s he delved into Bluegrass and Folk music. Eventually he made his way to rock. And by 1965 he was playing a Guild Starfire III with a group called The Warlocks, which would eventually become The Grateful Dead.

He graduated to playing Gibson guitars, usually a Les Paul with P-90 pickups through 3 Fender Twin Reverb amplifiers that were driving two cabinets, each of which was equipped with 4 twelve inch JBL D120 speakers. By 1968 Garcia was playing a 1967 Gibson SG standard that was equipped with humbucking pickups and an American flag sticker.

Garcia played this guitar until 1970 when he was given the Stratocaster he called Alligator. While play concerts with Delaney and Bonnie, Garcia played the rosewood Telecaster that George Harrison had given to Delaney Bramlett. After that Garcia was hooked on the feel of Fenders.




Alligator
The Stratocaster that came to be known as Alligator was made up of a 1957 Strat body that was paired with a 1963 Strat neck. It was Graham Nash who had purchased this guitar at a pawn shop for $250. He gave this guitar to Jerry for doing some guitar work on one of Nash’s recording sessions.

Garcia proceeded to make numerous modifications on the guitar. The finish was sanded off the guitar to reveal the original swamp ash wooden body. Garcia did not use the guitars vibrato bar and wanted it gone. In its place he wanted a built in effects loop. An effects loop is a device placed between the preamp EQ section and the power amp of an amplifier.

A lot of guys were using effects loops back when the amps did not have Gain controls; i.e. old Fender amps, though Jerry is the first I have heard of to have this mounted inside his guitar.

How an effects loop works

Some effects, such as reverb and modulation loose their natural sound when placed in front of an amplifiers power section. A solution for this was to utilize an effects loop, which is a device that would allow the signal to be interrupted between the two sections of the amplifier. So the dry signal would first then go to the preamp, then to the effects loop and then out to the power amp section. This made the effected signal cleaner and more pronounced.

2 output jacks
Jerry’s guitars generally had two output jacks. One carried the regular guitar signal to the pedal board effects and then to amplifier. This is the same arrangement most of us use. Although Jerry did have this modified with the addition of a line device called the Alembic Strat-O- Blaster.




Alembic Strat-O-Blaster circuit
The Strat-O-Blaster was a small, built-in pre-amp, which boosted the guitars signal. These were the days before wireless transmission of guitar and microphone signals. Jerry and the Dead used long guitar cables, which caused the signal to diminish by the time it got to the amplifier.

The other output jack went to the amplifier between the preamp section, and the power amp section.

Note the Reverb In and Reverb Out
Amp builders eventually put this feature on amplifiers. However when you think of old Marshall and Fender amps, this feature did not exist. The tremolo was built into the circuit. The reverb on old Fenders did have an IN and Out jack on the back side that was hooked for the jacks coming from the Hammond reverb unit. This essentially was an effects loop.

This may be a good time to point out the changes that The Grateful Dead brought about to the live music industry.

The Beatles - House Sound System
Think back to the early days of rock when the performer showed up with their instruments; guitar, bass, amp, and drums and depended upon the house or auditorium public address system.

They may have been great performers, but the sound heard by the audience was a crap shoot.

The Grateful Dead Sound System
It was the Dead demanded that the live sound heard in concert by their fans need to be the absolute best. They were one of the first bands to travel with their own state of the art public sound system.


The instrumentalists and sound engineers working for the band made demands on the industry. So companies like Furman Sound, Meyer Sound and Alembic guitars and basses are in business to this day making musicians sound better than ever because of the Grateful Dead.

Another Grateful Dead first that is now common place in the industry are rack mounted systems, such as power amplifiers, equalization, compression and effects.





Alligator 
Getting back to Jerry Garcia' Stratocaster; he wanted the effects loop to be mounted internally on his guitar. So the vibrato/bridge was taken out of the Stratocaster and the routing was enlarged to make room for an internal effects loop. This was covered up with a wooden plate.

Because the guitar now needed a bridge/saddle Garcia got one from the Alembic guitar company. This bridge was a modified tune-o-matic type with sliding individual saddle units, for intonation. It was made completely of brass and was placed in front of the wooden plate. A brass plate with indentations on the distal end to lock the ball ends of the string was anchored just behind the wood plate.



Replica with Strat O Blaster Circuit
The pickguard was modified and another brass plate was crafted to house the controls. Jerry chose different knobs from the original Fender knobs. Jerry also wanted an Alembic blaster circuit to be tied in with the guitar’s jack.



To make this modification, the original route were most Strat output jacks are placed was elongated. To cover up the defect, another brass plated was used. A brass nut was also installed to give Jerry’s guitar a brighter sound. Jerry found some stickers at a truck stop including the one with an alligator holding a knife and fork that he placed on the guitars pickguard. Thus, the Alligator was born.

Jerry played this guitar between 1971 and 1973. It is estimated that Garcia owned around 25 guitars that he used while playing with The Grateful Dead.

Doug Irwin made Wolf guitar
From 1973 to 1993 Garcia played the guitar created by Doug Irwin and called Wolf.

Irwin had just started building guitars at Alembic. This was a company run by Ron Wickersham, an electronics and sound expert that previously worked for Ampex, Rick Turner, a luthier and guitarist, and Bob Matthews, a recording engineer.

The company started in a rehearsal room for the Grateful Dead, so there was an immediate connection between Alembic and the band.

Eagle
As the story goes, Doug Irwin was recently hired by the Alembic company and was building electric guitars for them and he also built some for himself. The first one that Jerry Garcia purchased was known as The Eagle.

This was the guitar that Jerry found when he came from the music store that where Irwin was employed. This guitar had humbucking pickups. At the time Garcia preferred the sound of his Stratocaster with single coil pickups.

Garcia asked him to build him another guitar. Irwin took a cue from this and created The Wolf, which he sold to Jerry Garcia in 1972 for $850. Garcia played this guitar for more than 20 years.

Wolf with 3 single coils
Garcia asked Irwin to optimize Wolf with three single coil Stratocaster pickups. This guitar was made of purpleheart wood and curly maple. The fret board was ebony with 24 frets; longer than Fenders, which at the time only had 22 frets. The first version had a peacock inlay made of abalone, but in subsequent years Irwin changed this to an eagle.

A blood-thirsty cartoon sticker of a wolf adorned the body. This gave the guitar its name.

In later years the middle and bridge single coil pickups were swapped out for humbuckers. This was an easy change because Irwin configured the pickups on a metal plate. In fact it was Irwin who created both plates for the guitar.

The pickup selector is the five position strat type. The guitar features a master volume control and a tone control for the middle and front pickups. Two mini switches on the guitar are pickup coil switches, to choose between humbucking and single coil. There are two ¼” phone jacks. One goes to the amp and the other goes to Jerry’s effects loop. There is also a mini switch to toggle the effects loop on or off.

The electronics are accessible from a plate on the guitars back side and they are shielded.

The tuning machines are Schaller’s and made of chromed nickel as is the bridge. This was the first guitar Irwin built that had the D shaped headstock that he used on other guitars he made as his trademark. On the headstock was the inlay of a peacock done in mother-of-pearl.


While at a concert the guitar fell about 15 feet off of the stage and this caused a small crack in the head stock. Doug Irwin took this as an opportunity to replace the head stock with ebony veneer and a mother-of-pearl inlay of an eagle, which by now had become Doug Irwin’s signature. Jerry Garcia used the three single coil pickup plate up until 1978 when he had the single coil neck pickup and twin Dimarzio Dual Sound humbuckers for the middle and bridge positions.

Almost immediately after Garcia received The Wolf he commissioned Doug Irwin to design another guitar. This new guitar is the one that would come to be known as The Tiger. It was six years before Irwin delivered the guitar and it earned him $5800. The first time he used The Tiger was on August of 1979 in concert at Oakland Stadium.




Irwin made Tiger guitar
The Tigers body was a sandwich of heavy laminated woods; cocobolo, and maple. The laminated neck is made of maple and vermillion. These woods combined with the solid brass binding and hardware made this a very heavy guitar weighing 13 ½ pounds.

Once again, the pickups were a single coil in the neck position; the bridge and middle pickups were DiMarzio Dual Sound humbuckers. Jerry could get 12 distinctly different tones from that guitar and he loved that. Jerry loved the fact that he could control his guitars sounds with the flick of a switch on the guitar.

Irwin did many modifications to this guitar throughout the years, including changing the original Fender style single coil to a P-90 style single coil. The guitar included a five-way pickup selector switch and a master volume control, two separate tone-orbit controls and three mini toggle switches; one was to turn off the built in effects loop and the other two were coil taps.

In keeping with what Jerry liked, both the Wolf and the Tiger had brass tune-o-matic style bridges and saddles and brass plates to secure the strings. Like his other instruments, this guitar featured two input jacks mounted on the guitars top on a brass plate. One went directly to the amplifier and the other came from the built in effects loop to Garcia’s effects.


The Tiger featured a mother-of-pearl inlay of a white tiger on the guitars face that was framed in brass. The head stock feature an ebony veneer surface with the signature Irwin mother-of-pearl eagle

Doug Irwin made Rosebud
Rosebud was the next guitar that Doug Irwin built for Jerry Garcia. It was delivered to him in the latter part of 1989. This guitar was Irwin’s best effort yet. He put everything he knew into the making of Rosebud.







The Saint aka Rosebud
Irwin called the Dancing Skeleton that he inlaid on the guitars body, The Saint. This skeleton image was meant to be doing a dance to repel death. The design had a rose in its hand and a pendant with the Egyptian “ahnk”, which was a symbol for life. When Garcia received it, he named the skeleton Rosebud and that name stuck.




Rosebud
This guitar weighed 11 ½ pounds, just two pounds lighter than The Tiger. Jerry used this guitar as his main instrument with the Grateful Dead and the Jerry Garcia Band from 1990 to 1995. Rosebud had most of the amenities of The Tiger, except that the guitar’s flame maple core was hollowed out to reduce the weight. Also gone was the brass framing the guitars body.

The other features were similar to The Tiger, although Rosebud was not as fancy. It was topped with 3 DiMarzio pickups. The only modification ever done to it was swapping out the pickups. Jerry felt the magnetic field did not last long and the high end sound would become lost. This was done every one or two years.

Wolf Jr.
Irwin made one more guitar for Jerry Garcia, but he never used it in concert. This is a headless guitar, in the spirit of Steinberger guitars. It came to be known as Wolf Jr.

The fifth guitar that Jerry Garcia used was built by Stephen Cripe. Cripe had spent years designing and installing woodwork for yachts and decided to try building guitars. Garcia hardly knew Cripe. But Jerry really liked Cripes work.


T
Lightning Bolt
The Lightning Bolt was Cripe’s copy of The Tiger. It was made from recycled wood that was originally harvested in Brazil. This was used for the fret board. Particular attention was made to the guitars upper register. Recycled East Indian rosewood was used for the top and bottom of the body. Interestingly enough this wood was taken from a bed used by opium smokers.

The body has a core of light walnut. The 9 ply laminated neck runs through the length of the body. There is a rather large volute on the backside of the neck near the headstock break. The builder claims this added structural strength and balance to the guitar.

The lightening bolt design is made from mother-of-pearl. The headstock not only has an unusual shape, but an unusual design as well.

Cripe was not an electrician and handed that job to a San Francisco electronics expert named Gary Brawer. Brawer had the task of making this guitar midi compatible. Midi or musical instrument digital interface was coming into vogue on synthesizers. The Roland Company applied this technology to guitars, by using a special type of pickup and special wiring. To accomplish installation of the electrical work, Brewer had to remove the inlay and attach it to a cover plate. It was then put back on the guitar.

Note the large neck volute
Jerry played The Lightening Bolt from 1993, first used at a Seattle show for the Jerry Garcia Band in August of that year. The last show he played this guitar was with The Grateful Dead at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View California in June of 1995.

When he first laid hands on it Jerry remarked, “This is the guitar that I’ve always been waiting for.”

Steve Cripe made "Top Hat"
The final guitar, also made by Stephen Cripe was Top Hat. He asked Cripe to make a back up copy of The Lightening Bolt. Cripe was somewhat hesitant about this because he had never photographed or measured The Lightening Bolt. A member of the Dead’s staff told him to just wing it. With these directions the Top Hat was built.

The body consisted of a walnut core with a laminate cocobolo back and top. The headstock also has laminated cocobolo wood veneer and Cripe’s signature headstock design.




The 9 ply neck was made of laminated maple and rosewood and topped with a bound ebony fret board with mostly ivory double block inlays. The inlay at the 9th fret is a single block. The ivory came from recycled ivory. The top hat inlay that adorns the front of the body is made of warthog tusk. This is actually a cover to conceal the batteries. The Schaller hardware on this guitar has a black finish.

Top Hat
Cripe called the top and bottom cutaways on his guitars rose ears. Like the Lightening Bolt, the Top Hat has an extra large volute at the neck break. The scale is 25 ¾”.

Cripe sent the finished guitar to Jerry’s staff with a note asking them to pay him what they thought it was worth. He received a check for $6500. Like the Lightening Bolt and most of the Irwin guitars, this guitar featured DiMarzio pickups; three humbuckers in this case. The Top Hat weighs 10.4 pounds.

Top Hat Guitar


This guitar is currently on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is on display in Cleveland along with some of Garcia’s other guitars.


After the death of Jerry Garcia, in 1995, his will directed that his Irwin-made guitars be returned to Doug Irwin. This prompted a legal battle because the remaining Grateful Dead members stated these guitars were owned by the band and not Jerry Garcia.


The parties eventually settled and agreed that Doug would receive Wolf and Tiger and the Grateful Dead would keep Rosebud and Wolf Jr. Irwin took possession of the instruments and sold them at auction. Wolf sold for $789,500 USD and Rosebud sold for $957,500, which up to that time was a record high price paid for a guitar.

The Eagle guitar that was the first Doug Irwin guitar built for Jerry, but was never played was auctioned off at Bonham’s in 2007 for $186,000.