Thoughts On The Dead

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

Transitional Fossil

lucky number 13 garcia guitar

This is Lucky Number 13, the 13th guitar that Alembic made (was Peanut the first?), and the first one made to Garcia’s specs. It sold for 62 grand back in 2012, and its (comparatively) low cost can be explained by Garcia not playing it on stage. (Although he may have used this for a Jerry Band show; I don’t recall ever seeing a picture of him with it, though.)

Lucky’s definitely a Garcia guitar: look at all the bullshit! There’s TWO plugs! One’s for the power supply! Two switches (which is nowhere near enough switches; by this point, Phil had a bass that was made up entirely of switches) and EIGHT KNOBS, one of which is located directly under the strings, kinda, for some reason.

But it’s an early model, too, obviously. Lucky is to Tiger what a coelacanth is to a tuna: you can see where the design is headed, but it ain’t there yet. The headstock is much too small, plus there are no ornately expensive inlays covering the thing. (The Dead loved their guitar inlays.)

Also, there’s only two pickups. From Wolf forward, Garcia went with three, as that is the most that will fit. The part of a guitar string from the nut to the bridge has to be a certain length, which puts a finite cap on the room you have to jam humbuckers into the thing, although I would feel comfortable in wagering that there were many discussions and sketches about how to get a fourth pickup in there. (“What if we install them sideways?”)

The page from Bonham’s about the auction notes that this item came with a Letter of Authenticity from an unimpeachable source: Bobert Herbert Walker Weir. Now, Bobby is a human and therefore fallible, but if he signs a letter saying Garcia owned the guitar, then Garcia owned the guitar. If you give Billy $40 and a tugger, he’ll sign anything you put in front of him, but Bobby’s signature is his bond.

(It should be noted that the Letter of Authenticity took up most of Bobby’s day. He signed it, and then thought “Well, how will people know that the Letter of Authenticity is authentic?” so he drafted another letter authenticating the first Letter of Authenticity. Then–and maybe you know where this is going–Bobby reasoned, “Well, how will they know that that letter is authentic?” and it went on all afternoon.)

Fun fact: Garcia gave this guitar to Matt Kelly.

Matt Kelly had a mixed and complicated relationship with the Grateful Dead.


  1. If readers can stand a moment without snark, the link to Matthew Kelly’s charity is here
    The guitar was sold on behalf of the charity

  2. Only posting this pic because it shows the curves at the bottom…..

  3. Regarding the recent terrapin crossroads discussion… I believe it was Wolf that was in the line-up on Monday night. Current owner local to the bay area.

  4. Speaking of obsessive/excessive knobs

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