Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

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Tiger Tiger, Burbridge Bright

Hey, Oteil. Whatcha doing?

“Jerry Tribute! Seeing my friends, playing some of the Big Guy’s tunes, having a good time!”

You’re a positive dude.

“I am.”

You liking Colorado?

“Parts of it. Parts of Colorado are delightful.”

And the rest of it?

“Alabama with mountains.”

True. You should stay in the back of the bus while you’re there.

“Excuse me?”

Dude, I meant the master bedroom of your luxury cruiser.


How heavy is that thing?

“I think it’s made from a neutron star.”

That’s what I hear.

“Time goes faster when you’re near it.”

Sure did for Garcia.

“Maybe that was it.”

Could be. Or the smoking, heroin, and ice cream.

“A combination of the four.”



You got up to a lot today.

“I stood in literally one place for ten minutes. It’s just that, you know, 85 people took pictures of me and it was on national teevee.”

True. Like the shirt. That’s some good self-promotin’.

“Not exactly out of place here, though. Ads all over everything.”

You should sell the tee-shirt rights to Jeff Chimenti this summer.

“Like, rent out his torso?”


“That could work, yeah. But, uh, what if the internet heard about it?”

Ooh, yeah. Hadn’t thought of that. He’d be wearing a “Hitler Did Nothing Wrong” shirt the first night. Good call.

“Never engage with the internet.”

Nope. Bobby?


You the only person there wearing Birkenstocks?

“I haven’t seen everyone else’s feet yet.”


“Got a call. Hold on a sec.”

“Weir here.”

“Яacecars are for girls.”

“Who’s this?”

“Is Putin.”

“Chuck Putin?”

“Nyet. Vladimir Putin.”

“Did you used to be in the Flaming Groovies?”

“Vat is Flaming Groovies?”

“Are you one of the kids’ teachers? My wife–”

“Natasha Monster, da.”

“–Natasha Monster usually handles that.”

“Nyet, is Putin. Your president.”

“Not my president.”

“Da. Is Electoral College.”

“Vote’s a vote.”

“Illegal voters.”

“Okay, yeah, are you calling for a reason?”

“Da. Ve have kompromat on Mr. Bobby Grateful. Ve show to Deadheads if you do not spy for us.”




“Blackmail. Is blackmail. Ve just say blackmail from now on.”


“Now ve have leverage, Bobby Grateful. You belong to Putin!”

“Okee doke. So, uh, what kind of stuff you got?”


“Deadheads already have tapes, Buttons.”

“Putin. And not those kind tapes. Dirty tapes. Bobby Grateful and women.”

“Not outside the realm of possibility.  And, uh, what kind of things am I doing?”

“Is disgusting.”


“Is so gross.”

“Well, now I’m interested.”

“The girls make the pee-pee on you.”

“Huh. Yeah, see the thing is…wait, I know what’s happening. You meant to call Billy.”


“In those, uh, tapes you got: how’s my hair?”

“Not great.”

“Yeah, you want Billy. But just to save you some time, he’s not gonna care.”

“Ve vill see.”

“Okay. Say hi to the other Flaming Groovies for me.”

“Putin is not Flam–”


“Where were we?”

I have no idea.

The Dire Wolf Collects His Bids

As I discussed with Jim Irsay, Wolf is going up for auction; the guitar was the first of Garcia’s custom jobs from Doug Irwin (Peanut doesn’t count). Garcia started using it in May of ’73, sent it back for a while in favor of the two white Travis Bean aluminum-neck guitars, and then played it again from Fall Tour of ’77 until Tiger’s debut on 8/4/79. Garcia stuck a MIDI unit on it in the late 80’s, and it made sporadic appearances until he got another ridiculously complicated, staggeringly expensive guitar that had the MIDI bullshit all wired in.

This is what Wolf looks like:

Stop that.

Those are some funky Jews.

Yes. Stop fucking around and show a real picture of Wolf.


So creepy.


You know what you did.

May I continue?


And now you can buy it! Well, you can’t. Statistically speaking, you can’t. I am guessing that many of you do not have three million available to purchase dead people’s belongings; if you do, though, and haven’t paid a visit to Donate Button, then shame on you.

The auction house handling the sale is called Guernsey’s, which was named after its founder, Guernica Fontaine. (Guernica was, quite rightly, unhappy with her given name and went by the diminutive.) They have a very fancy website, which you would expect from a fancy place. You can’t be a shmancy auction house with a site hosted by blogspot.

If you don’t have three million American dollars (3.94 CAD), then you’ll have to wait for one of Garcia’s lesser-known guitars to come up for sale. A quick rundown of Garcia’s instruments, and where they are now:

Guild Starfire Big, cheap, terrible thing. Also a hollowbody, so lacked the requisite mass Garcia demanded from a guitar. Played on the first album, but was burned for warmth after the van broke down somewhere outside of Mendocino.

Buncha Les Pauls The black Les Paul that Garcia used for the ’69 Fillmore West shows and Live/Dead was traded to a wandering peddler for magic beans. At the time of his passing, Garcia had almost forgiven Bobby for it. The others are owned by Jim Irsay, except the one that Jim Irsay traded for magic beans.

Alligator The yellow ’57 Strat that you remember Garcia playing at Veneta, even though he played a sunburst Strat at Veneta. Alligator is currently owned by the Garcia Estate, which sounds like a maker of cheap wine. “Garcia Estates: It’ll Get You Sloppy.”

Peanut This proto-Wolf from Alembic was only played at a handful of shows. It is now owned by Jim Irsay, who has played it while naked.

Thumper the Fuckbunny Garcia refused to take delivery of this guitar until Doug Irwin renamed it and changed the decal.

Wolf After Thumper the Fuckbunny was rechristened Wolf, Garcia played it just like I said he did in the first paragraph. Don’t make me repeat myself; you know how much I hate writing paragraphs.

Tiger Also currently owned by Jim Irsay, Tiger was played by Garcia for almost all of the ’80’s, and now gets marched around the country to be fondled by relief pitchers and Woody Hayes.

Harp This was a harp. Garcia was like, “Why did you bring me a harp, man?” And Doug Irwin was like, “I thought you’d like it.” And Garcia was like, “It’s a harp, man.” And Doug Irwin was like, “Yeah, and you owe me twelve grand for it,” and then he and Garcia didn’t talk for a couple of years. Currently owned by Jim Irsay, who uses it to slice provolone cheese.

Top Hat, Rosebud, Lightning Bolt Same bullshit as Tiger, but heavier. Rosebud had a car battery in it. Top Hat and Rosebud are currently owned by Jim Irsay; Lightning Bolt is owned by a guy who plays pinochle with Jim Irsay, and I think you can figure out what happened there.

A Question For You

tiger woody hayes.jpg

Why do we look down on Elvis impersonators, but not this? Is Woody wearing Garcia’s old Fruit-of-the-Looms, too? Maybe he should bang one of Garcia’s ex-wives onstage, with full symphonic backing. Will there be a guy dressed as Parish hitting people?

I don’t have enough thumbs for all this tackiness.

Tiger, Tiger Burning Shore

parish jake peavy tiger

You might remember that Tiger came through town last week or so; a pitcher named Jake Peavy borrowed the thing and everybody took pictures and this one is sweet. There are only a handful of people who can claim any sort of ownership of Tiger. Legally, of course, Irsay is the owner. But that guitar’s got a little bit of Parish in her: he didn’t build her, or play her, or buy her; Parish made sure no one stole it. Tiger was surrounded by intensely sketchy people for most of her career, but she always went home with the right guy.

Also, I’m pretty sure that’s Jason Newsted’s kid.

A Note On Jim Irsay: worse people could own Tiger. He’s got all his guitars–150 or so–in a secure place with the right humidity and whatnot, plus he hired a guy to take care of them. It could be worse, but then again…

irsay tiger

…it probably couldn’t be. Rock and fuckin’ roll, Jimmy.

If He Choogles, Let Him Go

'Tiger' makes its triumphant

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.

Guitar, Solo

Doug Irwin

Enthusiastic at first, Garcia’s feelings about the Make-A-Wish folks became more and more complicated over the course of the day.

First off, even Garcia could see this was not a child, no matter how many times “Timmy” said “I am a young child,” or pooped in his pants.  The chest hair was another clue, as was the fact that “Timmy” had driven himself to the meeting.

Second, he didn’t look sick. Garcia was a nice guy, so he didn’t say anything because you’re not allowed to call people on that without a shit-ton of evidence. But “Timmy” didn’t look sick: he looked like a shirtless middle-aged man wandering around Garcia’s house fondling things and not wearing a shirt as loud as he could.

Third, even he were a child, even if he were sick, no one had as a dying wish: “Lemme take your guitar out the shed and fuck on it for a while. Good long while. Timmy gonna get his fuck on, Garcia…”

(It should be noted that “Timmy” had not broken eye contact with Garcia for quite some time, nor had he broken hand contact with his own crotch for the same amount of time.)

“Listen, man,” Garcia started, searching for Parish or a bat or Billy. Any weapon would do.

“Garcia, listen to me: my name is Jimmy–”

“Timmy,” Garcia said.

“–whatever, and I am a small male youth who is suffering from a disease and you need to let me take your guitar out to the shed and fuck it in the ass.”

We’re done here.

Just because you’re bored and weird doesn’t mean others should suffer.

Cracked My Spine

jerry tiger headroll

The doctors all said that you couldn’t catch scoliosis, but Garcia never listened to doctors.

Pick Up My Guitar And Play

jerry townshend onstage

Pete Townshend had shown up without his own guitar, and while he was hanging out backstage, he reached for Tiger and said, “Maybe I’ll play this one.”

No one really knows what happened next, but from cobbling together various accounts, we can say with some certainty that Garcia started screeching way louder than a human should be able to: “NOT TO TOUCH GUITAR! NOT TO TOUCH GUITAR!” and then it all turned into the security camera footage from that movie Event Horizon and Pete ended up playing one of Bobby’s guitars fairly poorly.

That’s Who I Am

The Dead were not a Prog-Rock band, as that required hours of rehearsal, which was impossible when the phrase, “Let’s try that one again,” led at least three men to start wildly swinging their fists without even looking to see where they were going. The Dead were like Sinatra: one-take. If you allowed them back at the material after the first try, they would fiddle with it endlessly, eventually disappearing up their own asses entirely.

The Dead were not a Boy Band. Boy bands feature young, girlish men who conform to pre-slotted roles as the Cute One or the Shy One. The Dead was made up of men whose appearances might have been put on cans of stew. Yes, Bobby was the Cute One, but there was also the Locked in the Bathroom One, the Punching One, and Phil. Tiger, yes. Tiger Beat, no.

The Dead were not Alternative. I think it might have been the attitude towards guitars. Since Johnny Ramone threw his plastic Mos-Rite in a shopping bag and carried it into CBGB’s, one of the key signifiers of “cool” in the punk/alternative status game is who can find the shittiest, most obscure guitar. Garcia did not like that game, not one bit.  He chased the dragon with those guitars as much as with his habit. Elaborate, expensive and–most of all-heavy things that he could fuss over. And, as we all know, anything fussed with too much is shit and those last guitars, my god, the pomp and circumference!

Wolf! Wolf weighed–I looked this up–211 pounds.

The Dead were not a Country Rock Jam Band with Delusions of Grandeur. No, no: they were. That is what they were. And, damn they were good at it.

The Dead were not Electronic Music, even though they used to let Phil’s retarded cousin Ned Lagin finger his MOOG onstage occasionally. I’m talking the Ibiza stuff, KLF is gonna house you, that thing where the bass stops and then it makes this WUBWUBWUB sound, that sort of thing. First of, all the darkness would lead instantly to a round of stealthy dickpunching the likes of which this party’s never seen! WHOO! Second, the Dead would, upon seeing the other large, bass-heavy sound systems, immediately go nuclear, leading to destruction.

“Chief, what have those Grateful Deads done this time?”

“Mr. Mayor, they’ve wired the sewer lines and turned the very ground beneath us into one giant sub-woofer!”

“And what happens if something goes wrong?

“Mr. Mayor, do you know what a caldera is?”

The Dead is not Hip-Hop, although there are similarities: the guys whose job title is kinda loose, weed.

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