When singer-songwriter Graham Nash first gifted Jerry Garcia a Fender Stratocaster back in 1970, neither knew that the guitar would become one of the most iconic instruments in Grateful Dead history. The guitar eventually became known as “Alligator” for a large reptilian sticker on the pickguard, and through countless customizations, it became Garcia’s go-to guitar in the early 1970s and on the Dead’s legendary 1972 European tour. Now, thanks to the Fender Custom Shop, fans can get their hands on an exact replica of Jerry Garcia’s Alligator guitar.
Designed by Master Builder Austin MacNutt, the Jerry Garcia Alligator Strat Relic was made from the precise specifications of the original guitar, which current owner Andy Logan graciously loaned to the Fender workshop. It was there that MacNutt deconstructed the entire instrument and learned a few interesting facts, including that what was long believed to be a 1958 Fender Stratocaster was actually produced in 1955.
“It’s a piece of American history,” MacNutt said in a promotional video for the guitar. “And there’s a lot of things on it that are not Strat DNA.”
The iconic instrument went through a great many modifications as it sat on the workbenches at Alembic, the Owsley Stanley-founded bass, guitar, and preamp company that served as the Dead’s personal outfitters. The original that gets passed around to venerable musicians today is barely recognizable from what Nash first gifted Garcia in 1970, including “new Schaller tuning pegs and gears, a series of bridges (Gibson ABR-1 Tune-o-Matic and an Alembic custom), a new control plate (hammered brass), taller frets, and an in-board post-volume ‘blaster’ boost,” per Fender. MacNutt went so far as to recreate the cigarette burns in the headstock.
“The Alligator, when I see that, it’s a tribute to everything that we stood for and everything we did and the achievement of Jerry’s playing and also represents, to me, a slight shot at all the technical way we went so deep into everything,” Garcia’s longtime roadie and Jerry Garcia Band manager Steve Parish said. “But this was a bridge between the primitive years of rock n’ roll and then as it became an industry and you had to have reliable guitars and reliable amps and Fender made it the whole way, and it’s still there.”
Check out the promo video for the new Jerry Garcia Fender Stratocaster Alligator replica featuring Steve Parish, product tester Daniel Donato, and Master Builder Austin MacNutt. The guitars are limited to 100 and are priced at $20,000. For a full list of specs visit the Fender Custom Shop website.
Jerry Garcia Alligator Stratocaster | Dream Factory | Fender