Tiger (guitar)

Last updated
Jerry-Mickey at Red Rocks taken 08-11-87.jpg
Jerry Garcia playing Tiger (1987)
Manufacturer Doug Irwin
Body typeSolid
Neck jointSet-Neck
Body"Hippie Sandwich" of Cocobolo, Maple, Vermillion, Flame Maple, Vermillion, Maple, and Cocobolo, with brass binding and inlay.
NeckWestern Maple with Padauk "skunk stripe"
Fretboard Ebony with pearl inlay and brass bindings; 25-1/2" scale
BridgeBrass Schaller tune-o-matic style
Pickup(s) One Dimarzio SDS-1 single coil (neck); two DiMarzio Super II humbuckers (mid and bridge)
Colors available

Tiger was Jerry Garcia's main guitar from 1979 to 1989. It was designed and built by Sonoma County luthier Doug Irwin. The instrument was commissioned by Garcia in 1973 following delivery of Wolf, his first major Irwin-built guitar. Upon commissioning the instrument, Garcia enjoined Irwin to "make it the way he thought was best, and don't hold back." [1]


Throughout the design and construction process, it was provisionally designated "the Garcia". The final name came from the tiger inlaid on the preamp cover located on the guitar's top, just behind the tailpiece. The body features several layers of wood laminated together face-to-face in a configuration referred to as a "hippie sandwich" by employees of Alembic Inc., where Irwin worked for a brief period in the early 1970s. The combination of several heavy varieties of wood, plus solid brass binding and hardware resulted in an unusually heavy instrument, weighing 13 12 pounds (6.1 kg). After Garcia began using a new Irwin guitar (known as Rosebud) in December 1989, Tiger became his backup guitar.

On the 9th of July 1995 during a Grateful Dead concert, a problem arose with Rosebud. Tiger was brought out and thus became the last guitar Garcia played in public.

Rosebud, a guitar similar to Tiger Jerry Garcia's Rosebud.jpg
Rosebud, a guitar similar to Tiger


The electronics of Garcia's Irwin guitars are unique, and feature an onboard preamp and effects loop. Much like a Stratocaster, the three pickups are selected with a five-way switch. Signal from the pickups passes through the tone controls, followed by an op-amp based buffer preamp, or unity gain buffer, which is designed to prevent signal loss due to capacitance when long cables are used. From the preamp, the signal could be routed via a mini-toggle on the guitar's face to pass through a Y-cable to Garcia's effects rack, and then back into the guitar. This onboard effects loop serves to send the full output of Tiger's pickups to the effects while allowing the guitar's volume control to vary the final output.

The effects loop could be bypassed by the aforementioned switch, sending the guitar's signal from the preamp to the volume control, and then out to Garcia's preamped (and heavily modified) Fender Twin Reverb into a McIntosh MC2300 solid state power amplifier. Tiger started with DiMarzio Dual Sound humbuckers in the middle and bridge positions with a DiMarzio SDS-1 single coil at the neck. The humbuckers were switched to Dimarzio Super II's in 1982. Each of the humbuckers is equipped with a coil cut switch.

In summation, there is one 5 way pickup selector, one master volume control, one tone control which affects the neck and bridge pickups, and one which affects the middle pickup as well as three mini toggles, two for the coil-cut of the bridge and middle pickups respectively and one for the on-board effects loop on/off.


After Garcia's death, a dispute arose between Irwin and the Grateful Dead regarding ownership of Garcia's Irwin guitars. In his will, Garcia gave possession of these instruments to Irwin; the Grateful Dead challenged whether Garcia had the right to convey title and insisted that the band owned the instruments. The parties reached a settlement where Irwin was awarded Garcia's more famous instruments, and the Grateful Dead took possession of the majority of the guitars. [2] Irwin sold his most enduring guitars, Tiger and Wolf, at auction on May 8, 2002. Tiger was purchased by Jim Irsay for $957,500, including commission. The price for Wolf was $789,500. [3]

In 2017, Wolf was sold for $1.9 million, at an auction to benefit the Southern Poverty Law Center. The buyer was business executive and Deadhead Brian Halligan. [4]

See also

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  1. http://jerrygarcia.com/guitars/
  2. Selvin, Joel (November 6, 2001). "Strings of Gold: There Was Something Special about Doug Irwin's Guitars, and Jerry Garcia Knew What It Was". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved June 4, 2017.
  3. Selvin, Joel (May 9, 2002). "Garcia's Guitars Fetch Record: 'Wolf', 'Tiger' Sold at Memorabilia Auction for $1.74 Million". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved June 4, 2017.
  4. Blistein, Jon (June 1, 2017). "Jerry Garcia's Legendary Wolf Guitar Sells for $1.9 Million at Auction". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 4, 2017.

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