As I told you yesterday, Tiger is on walkabout; when Jim Irsay is told of what he’s done three or four days from now, he’s going to freak out. So far, it has been to Terrapin Crossroads, Haight Street, and Alcatraz. (Tiger is a history buff.) As with the last time the showing of a Garcia relic coincided with a Grateful Dead semi-reunion, cries have arisen to get the guitar into Young John Mayer’s hands. This is because we are soft, and life has become so easy as to allow for time in the day to ponder such inanities.
(To list the pros and cons, but not choose a side because–like I implied–this is not something to care about: PRO, Woody Hayes already plays Wolf for those symphony shows, and who cares; CON, it’s so fucking cheesy and tacky and gross, but I don’t care.)
I mean: who gets to decide this legacy nonsense, how we’ll properly beatify the man? Does he? His current opinion is the same as mine: Garcia does not give a shit. Were he alive, it would be a different story. First of all: he would still be in the Grateful Dead, rendering the entire Josh Meyers timeline null and void. It is a certainty that were Garcia alive, and you began to play his guitar, Parish would punch you. Garcia wouldn’t even have to tell him to. And, quite frankly, you should have known better.
Tiger was Garcia’s longest-tenured guitar. It made its debut 8/4/79 at the Oakland Auditorium, replacing Wolf, and Garcia used it exclusively(?) until ’89, when it was replaced by another guitar made by Doug Irwin that was pretty much the same thing with a different piece of art glued to it. (Phil also got an Irwin with the same body, but must not have liked it, as the “devil bass” was abandoned for a passel of four-strings in the early 80’s.)
The instrument was made from nineteen different kinds of wood, four of which were bred, grown, and harvested into extinction specifically for this guitar. The core of the body was made of Oscillating Maple, which is very difficult to cut down because the lumberjacks get dizzy. This was sandwiched by North Korean Elm, which is rare. The tree itself isn’t rare–they’re all over the place in North Korea–but I think you see the problem. There was also ebony, and mahogany, and many other woods that might also be names of Pam Grier characters.
Much more exotic materials were involved in Tiger’s creation: the fingerboard was made of raw paduk, and the core of the neck was cocabola, and the headstock was pure dinglebingle. Tuning pegs were made of zincium, and could only be forged in the heart of a dying sun. The inlays took 3500 man-hours and are made of the finest father-of-pearl.
As much work went into the Tiger’s electronics as its body; if you laid all the wiring out straight, it would circle the planet 2.1 times and probably garrotte a bunch of people. The pickups were hand-wound by hand models, and there was both a pre-amp and a post-amp, plus a number of intra-amps. The electricity used to power Irwin’s soldering gun was generated via orgone.
The famous tiger logo from which the guitar gets its name conceals a hollow; Garcia generally kept a few grand in cash and a passport under the name “Jerry Businessman” in there. Sometimes he would put in some snacks, but then he would eat them, and then there would not be snacks. It was planned to add a miniaturized Slurpee dispenser, but because of the size, the only flavor would be blueberry; Garcia passed.
All of this naturally made Tiger rather heavy; it topped out at 32 tons, fully loaded, and Garcia had trouble with it until March of ’82, when he had a backup spine installed.