On June 23 at Citi Field in NYC, John Mayer played Jerry Garica’s famous Wolf guitar onstage with Dead & Company. This was the first time Mayer performed with one of Garcia’s instruments. “It wasn’t time until it was,” he said in an Instagram post. “NYC, we were all holding Jerry’s guitar tonight. I cherished the responsibility.”
The guitar was built by California luthier Doug Irwin and first used by Garcia at a private party for the Hell’s Angels in NYC in 1973. The instrument was made with a purpleheart and curly maple body, a 24-fret neck and an ebony fingerboard inlaid with African ivory (except for the first fret which is mother-of-pearl).
Irwin built the guitar with a plate system for mounting pickups so Garcia could experiment with traditional Fender Stratocaster pickups and humbuckers — the guitar now has humbuckers in the bridge and middle positions and a single-coil in the neck. To control the pickups, the guitar has a five-position selector, tone controls for the front and middle pickups and a master volume control (two mini-toggle switches control pickup coils). The guitar also has two output jacks: one went directly to the amp and another went to an effects loop (another mini-toggle switch brought the effects loop in or out).
Garcia used the instrument throughout the ‘70s and then used it to experiment with MIDI synthesizer technology in ’89. He last played it onstage with the Grateful Dead in Oakland in 1993.[embedded content]
In 2017, the guitar sold for over $1.9 million at a Guernsey’s auction benefiting the Southern Poverty Law Center. Brian Halligan, the Boston-based CEO of HubSpot, placed the winning bid with intentions that the guitar be played. “I think it is best served by being played, so I plan to do so,” he told Rolling Stone. “I plan to lend it out to the Garcia family whenever they want it.”