Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: wolf

I Got Five On It

Hey, rich Enthusiasts! Go buy a guitar at a bowling alley! Bring cash, though, because Wolf’s going for over a million.

When Garcia died, Wolf went back to the guy who built it, Doug Irwin. (There was, as you might expect, lawyerly involvement in that transaction.) In 2002, he auctioned it and Tiger off: Tiger went to Jim Irsay for $850,000; an anonymous buyer spent $700,000 for Wolf. Even if the instrument hasn’t appreciated in perceived value–and it certainly has–it’s worth $950,000 now just due to inflation. Million-two sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Plus–and here’s the good part–all the money’s getting donated to the Southern Poverty Law Center. They track hate groups, and when they see one, they point and say, “Look! It’s hatred!” and the hate group calls them fascists for trying to shut down their free speech. They always need money, for they have no oil wells, and they need more money than ever lately.

I just wonder who’s owned it for these past fifteen year.

“Hey! I do! I’m the anonymous buyer man.”

Excuse me? Oh, for fuck’s sake, Jim.


I know it’s you.

“Nah, man. I’m a nonymous. I’m so fuckin’ nonymous.”

Has anyone fallen for this disguise?

“All my employees.”


“You a smart fella. I like that. You wanna coach up my wide receivers?”

Could I telecommute?



“Your loss.”

So, wait. You’re the anonymous buyer? You don’t buy things anonymously. You buy things the opposite of that.

“Shit, yeah. People need to see my stuff. When I buy Wolf, I’m gonna throw a party. What’s that fat boy’s name always plays Tiger?”

Woody Hayes.

“Him, yeah. Have me a regular hippie hoedown in the Lucas Bowl of Oil Stadium Park or whatever the fuck the place is called.”

Hold on. You’re the owner.

“Fuckin’ A.”

And you’re going to buy the guitar?

“Got that right, chief.”

Tax thing?


Being rich is complicated.

“It does have its perks.”


“Speaking of which, you want some percs?”

Yes, I do.

“Let’s get that hoedown started!”

I like you, Jim Irsay.

“Shh. Don’t say my name.”

Oh, right.

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.

The Happiest Man In Indianapolis

Hey, Jim Irsay. You look happy.

“Gonna get me a new gee-tar! YEEEEE-HA! I’m the fuckin’ man!”

Oh, yeah: Wolf’s going up for auction.

“Ol’ Jimmy’s gonna snap that sumbitch RIGHT up! Gonna show it to waitresses, get me some poon.”

You know the proceeds are going to the SPLC, right?

“That’s good. I love animals.”

Not the SPCA. the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“They take drunk driving cases? All the lawyers in Indianapolis are sick of my shit.”

I don’t think so. You’ve made up your mind? Definitely buying Wolf?

“Shit, yeah. I already filled up two gym bags with crumpled twenties.”

Fairly sure auction houses won’t accept that.

“There’s a few dozen vikes under the cash.”

That doesn’t make it better.

“Few dozen vikes makes everything better, boy.”

Yeah, okay.

“Man, been forever since I bought me a Jerry gee-tar. I celebrate special.”

How so?

“Cover myself in baby oil, find me a single mom with flat feet, and road trip to Reno.”

Not Vegas?

“I’m more of a Reno guy.”

You totally are.

“Gimme one second, boy. Gotta drain the lizard.”


“I’m back.”

What the fuck happened!? You were gone 45 seconds.

“Made a pit stop at Fuddrucker’s. Snorted some shots, drank some pills. Had a fajita.”

Who the fuck is that?

“This guy here? This is my fuckin’ guy right here.”

Sure. Why are you wearing that?

“Stopped at Foot Locker and stole it off a high school kid.”

Well, that’s not so bad. Usually people around here take their dicks out at Foot Locker.

“I had my dick out while I was stealin’ the shirt.”

Of course. Enjoy your guitar, Jim.

“I’m enjoyin’ life!”

You seem to be.

Garcia Has Found His Bliss

jerry happy 78

Hey, Garcia. Whatcha thinking about?

“Absolutely nothing.”

That’s the best.


Trixie And The Wolf

TG and The Wolf

“I bid $420, man.”


“Hey, man.”

What are you doing here?

“Is this not The Price is Right, man?”


“I still wanna bid $420, man.”

Stop that. Trixie is not a spokesmodel and Wolf is not a Chevy Cruze with California emissions.

“Was it the grey hair, man?”


“That caused The Price Is Right producers to not hire Trixie to be a spokesmodel, man?”

Trixie Garcia never auditioned to be a spokesmodel for a game show.

“She should, man. Look how she’s holding the guitar: she’s a natural, man.”

You’re not wrong.

“Plus, I feel like spaying or neutering my pets, man.”

Get out.

“See ya, man.”

Call first next time.

Some Mate For Life

bobby wolf
We can all agree that if Bobby had done this while Garcia was alive (which Bobby wouldn’t have, by the way: look how uncomfortable he is in the picture,) then Garcia would have punched Bobby in the heart with a knife. You don’t rub another man’s rhubarb, you don’t fuck with his car, and you don’t play his guitar.

Jimmy Page still hates Robert Plant for this bullshit right here:

robert plant double beck

“Ooh, look at me: I’m Jimmy Page and I’m daaaaaaark and scaaaaaaaary.”

“Put that down, Percy.”

“I’m so good at guitar, I play two at once.”

“If you were literally any other human being on the planet, I would literally have you beaten to death.”

“Yeah, but I’m me, so: WHERE’S ME VIOLIN BOW?”

Fence Of Sound

jerry amps wolf

This was Garcia’s practice amp.

A Broken Angel

jerry studio wolf

Not many other bands contained such unabashedly bespectacled members. Most musicians would rather squint through the show.

Garcia, on the other hand, enjoyed seeing what he had accidentally burned down.

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.

Another Dick’s Pick In The Wall

The Wall of Sound. Sweet heavenly Jesus: the Wall of Sound. These befuddled men asked themselves, “How much Sound do we need?” The answer–apparently–was, “A Wall’s worth.”

The problem was not really with the Sound so much as it was with the Wall. It was also an intractable problem, due to the fact that the very definition of ‘wall’ is something you cannot move easily, if at all. Hadrian’s Wall? Great Wall of China? All still there, mostly because of bunch of longhairs and bikers didn’t drag them around the midwest for months at a time. That a wall not be portable is its sine non qua is obvious with even my cursory knowledge of siege warfare, all entirely gleaned from 8th grade World history and whichever Lord of the Rings movie had the big castle fight scene. You know the name: it was the one with the little gay hobbits and the monsters and dragons and it lasts for nineteen fucking hours.  (Although, seriously, what kind of nimrod builds a castle with a drainage canal thing in the FRONT, where is easily accesible to your enemy, provided your enemy is a monster, WHICH HE TOTALLY IS AND YOU KNEW THAT GOING INTO THIS, SO WHY DIDN’T YOU BRICK THAT THING UP, GRAND MOFF TARKIN?)

It took 12 hours to set the Wall up. The Amish can knock off 6, 7 barns in that amount of time. If something takes you twelve hours to build, it should be permanent. These facts, though, pale in comparison to the fact that they chose to do this during a gas crisis. You cannot haul 75 tons of anything around during a gas crisis and expect to turn a profit: it’s one of the first things they teach you at Wharton, right after, “mention Trump and you fail.”

The Wall didn’t stop at the speakers, all of which were custom-built at a special facility in Daly City, CA that lights its workshop with burning cash. No, the boys also had new space-age instruments made up for themselves, most famously Garcia’s Wolf. Phil also got a new bass, so heavy and laden with doom it looked like the melee weapon of Phil-Garr the Grateful.

I will break my own iron held rule about research to quote at length:

Phil is using a new quadraphonic bass, the electronics of which were designed and built by George Mundy and the body and pickups by Rick Turner. The new bass has the same versatile qualities as the old bass: three pickups (bass and treble pickups covering all the strings, and a quad pickup which has a separate signal for each string); on each of the bass and treble pickups there are controls which enable him to select 1) the band-width of the filter, 2) the center frequency of the filter, 3) the kind of filter being used and 4) mix unequalized unfiltered direct sound with the filtered sound. The variety of sounds which can be achieved on the bass is the result of the many different combinations of these variables which can be used. The new bass has a frequency response with a crisper tone, and two quad pickups instead of one, the new one being a frequency-detector pickup. The main addition to the new bass is a Digital Decoding Circuit such that ten push buttons on the bass allow Phil to select any one of sixteen quad spatial arrangements of his speakers, and eight in stereo mode

I DARE you to make sense of any of that. And then factor in the fact that this is all to play Chuck Berry tunes. You can see how the Hiatus was, maybe, a necessary and inevitable thing–what comes after the wall of Sound, after all? The band made a brief and desultory attempt to build an exact replica of Versailles out of speakers, drugs, and promissory notes, but after spending $200,000 and Mickey burning down the model, the boys lost interest.

It all sounded different after they came back. The music held less secrets, but it would have been good to hear the Wall with Mickey, too. Imagine this Samson coming through a sound system that in Olden Days would have been worshipped as a god, perhaps even two gods and a saint. The Wall had that much impressive in it: pilgrims would often leave notes in the cracks of the Wall, which was a horrible, horrible idea for two reasons. First, members of the band would invariably mistake the folded-up paper prayers for bindles of narcotics and savagely knock you to the ground trying to get to them; second, Steve Parrish had a strict policy about punching anyone who touched the Wall.

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