One of Garcia’s most recognizable musical gestures was fanning, that quick, high atomic strum that was so often the peak of his Sugaree solo(s) or, especially, the climax of Morning Dew. It’s not that difficult to do, actually: as far a sheer manual technique is involved, all it requires is a wrist movement all men over the age of 15 have mastered. but like the old joke about the plumber, it’s knowing when to do it that made him Garcia.
Garica’s playing was, for all its brilliance, as reliant on context as the rest of the band’s: none of his solo stuff sounds as good as he when he played with those three other guys. Is Mickey here? Who’s on keys? Doesn’t matter: the core four made that sound.
He was famously attached to his guitars, not only playing the same one for the whole show, but also taking it home with him and grabbing it before his morning coffee and first unfiltered Camel. It showed up in the sharp technical runs and those little triplets all the way up the neck where angels fear to tread, but Bobby’s slide seems to need to be.
His solos (and there were one or two of them) weren’t flashy, which might explain his absence from the Pantheon of Motherfuckin’ Guitar Gods, Man that Jeff Beck and Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen have been confined (consigned?) to. None of his guitars had a whammy bar, which is the ultimate symbol of six-string silliness. Garcia didn’t do dive-bombs or sound effects; he didn’t own a goddamn talk box, mostly because any plastic tubing left around backstage was immediately plugged into a nitrous tank.
Bobby tried doing that two-handed tapping thing that Eddie Van Halen does once in ’81 and Phil chucked a mic stand at him.