Jerome John “Jerry” Garcia (August 1, 1942 – August 9, 1995) was an American musician best known for his lead guitar work, singing and songwriting with the band the Grateful Dead.

Though he vehemently disavowed the role, Garcia was viewed by many as the leader or “spokesman” of the group.

Garcia performed with The Grateful Dead for their entire three-decade career (1965–1995). Garcia also founded and participated in a variety of side projects, including the Saunders-Garcia Band with longtime friend Merl Saunders, Jerry Garcia Band, Old and in the Way, the Garcia/Grisman acoustic duo, and Legion of Mary.

Garcia co-founded the New Riders of the Purple Sage with John Dawson and David Nelson. He also released several solo albums, and contributed to a number of albums by other artists over the years as a session musician. He was well known by many for his distinctive guitar playing and was ranked 46th in Rolling Stone‘s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.

Garcia was sometimes ill because of his unstable weight, and in 1986 went into a diabetic coma that nearly cost him his life. Although his overall health improved somewhat after that, he also struggled with heroin addiction, and was staying in a California drug rehabilitation facility when he died of a heart attack in August 1995.


In late 1972, Jerry came across the first guitar Doug Irwin made for Alembic and bought it on the spot for $850. At the same time he asked Irwin to personalize another one for him. This was the beginning of Wolf. She was made of maple with an ebony fingerboard and twenty four frets. The first version carried a peacock inlay which he later modified with Irwin’s eagle logo. A bloodthirsty wolf sticker that Jerry placed under the tailpiece served to give the guitar its name and was later inlaid into the body by Irwin.


Tiger was Jerry Garcia’s main guitar from 1979 to 1989, and was designed and built by Sonoma County luthier Doug Irwin. The instrument was commissioned by Garcia in 1973 following the delivery of Wolf, his first major Irwin-built guitar. Upon commissioning the instrument, Garcia simply told Irwin to “make it the way he thought was best, and don’t hold back.”

Throughout the design and construction process, it was nicknamed “the Garcia,” but the final name came from the tiger inlaid on the preamp cover located on the guitar’s top, just behind the tailpiece. The body features several layers of wood laminated together face-to-face in a configuration that combined several heavy varieties of wood. Throw in a solid brass binding and you have an unusually heavy instrument, weighing close to 13.5 pounds. After Garcia began using a new Irwin guitar (known as the Rosebud) in December 1989 , Tiger became his backup guitar. But during the Grateful Dead’s final concert on July 9, 1995, a mechanical problem arose with Rosebud. Tiger was brought out and thus became the last guitar Garcia played in public.

Jerry loved Tiger for the wealth of sounds it gave him to play with. In an interview he said: ” There are about twelve possible sounds that are all quite different… This gives me a bunch of basically different tones. And that’s just the electronics; the rest is tact. I mostly work with the middle pickup…and I can get almost any sound I want.