Origin of The Garcia Tiger
By: Thomas Lieber http://www.lieberguitars.com
“The Rosewood” guitar was built by Doug on the speculation that it would spark something in Jerry and he would purchase it. Rosewood was one of the first Irwin guitars Doug built after his exiting Alembic and forming his own company.
To our disappointment, Jerry did not purchase the guitar but to our delight he decided to do a brand new guitar project and allowed us cart blanch in creating it. We were only afforded such design freedom if not for Jerry’s confidence in the fact that we understood clearly his personal parameters and needs as a musician.
When “Rosewood” was shown to Jerry his favorite feature on the the instrument was the tiger inlaid into its electronics cover plate. This was the singular reason for Doug’s incorporating a tiger into the ornamental design scheme for Jerry’s new custom guitar .Though this time its designate was front n center not on its back. A few weeks after our meeting with Jerry, Mountain Girl gave us a cash deposit toward “The Garcia”.
During the years 1974 through the end of 1977, I served an apprenticeship for D Irwin guitars. I was the first luthier apprentice for the company. The Jerry Garcia guitar that in present time is referred to as “Tiger” is one that Doug and I originally coined “The Garcia” our sole intent was one of creating our generations Les Paul. The Garcia body design was one of a series that I designed while at D.Irwin guitars.
Two years later, in 1976, I designed the companies’ deluxe logo for the Pete Sears Bass project.
On the “Garcia” project, Doug spec'ed out the entire inlay design subject matter and wood choice combinations. His artistic eye was impeccable at both. Doug executed all of the re-sawing and dimensioning of the wood components, I later bled the oils from the Coco Bolo and the Vermilion in preparation for lamination. This included neck blank parts and the two body wing halves with their parts for the multi-lam sandwich.
Yes, this design was originally neck through body construction. I had rough carved the full length Western Curly Maple/ Vermillion laminate neck blank and then the project sat for awhile. It wasn’t until I began the Pete Sears project that we realized Jerry’s guitar needed to be a set neck design, eliminating the neck through body intersection which could only interrupt the aesthetic visual beauty of the arched Coco Bolo top.
A subsequent center block was created for the body comprised of the same multi wood laminate schedule, when assembled with the body wings an evident seam resulted, hence the 1/16 inch brass inlaid line that runs parallel to the strings and around the body.
“The Garcia” was my very first guitar design created in collaboration
with Doug. Together we designed a line of models during the years 1974
thru 1977. There was: The Pendulous, The Firedrake and The Garcia (Symmetrical
versions). We had built a few asymmetrical Garcia’s, one bass with an
arched Purple Heart top went to Phil
Lesh. Jerry’s “Garcia” was completed by Doug two years after I had
left D.Irwin and Company.
Setups of The Stars - J.Garcia's Tiger
Guitar Player - April 1, 2001
By Gary Brawer
Jerry Garcia's guitars, built by luthier Doug Irwin, are
as much one-of-a-kind works of art as they are musical instruments. I
worked on Garcia's guitars for years, and I still get questions about
This guitar is called "Tiger" because of the beautiful inlay on the battery/preamp compartment cover. The body is made up of many layers of wood including what appears to be a Cocabola top and back with a maple center section (which may be hollowed out in parts). Sandwiched in between are thin layers of paduk, purpleheart, and brass. The maple neck has a hardwood section (possibly paduk) inlayed in the back and the ebony fretboard has brass binding.
Garcia played with high action--7/64" at the 12th fret, with .030" relief in the neck. At the nut, the strings a were also quite high at about .030" above the 1st fret. The ebony fingerboard has a 16" radius and sports. 105" x .45" frets. The neck and middle pickups are 10/64" from the strings, and the bridge pickup sits 14/64" away. (The bridge was made by Schaller for Gibson, and the tailpiece was custom made for the guitar.) The brass nut is scalloped between the strings, and the spacing--as specified by Garcia--is equal between the edges of the strings (as opposed to the centers of the strings being equidistant, which is more common). Garcia used Vinci strings, gauged .010-.046. but from time to time used an .011 on the high E and a .047 on the low E. --GARY BRAWER, http://www.brawer.com
The aspect of Tiger I am most acquainted with is its electronics. The guitar features a single-coil in the neck position, as opposed to the humbuckers you see on his other instruments. Garcia used a DiMarzio SDS-1 Strat-style pickup in the neck, and DiMarzio Super 2s in the middle and bridge. There is also a coil-cut switch for the middle and bridge pickups.
The guitar's wiring is somewhat unusual. The pickups are
switched by a standard 5-position pickup selector. The neck and bridge
share a tone control, and the middle pickup has its own tone control.
The output of the pickups goes directly into a unity-gain (no boost) preamp
powered by a 9-volt battery. The preamp protects the guitar signal against
high-end loss due to cable capacitance by lowering the output impedance.
From the preamp, the signal goes to an onboard effects loop switch, which routs the signal either directly to the guitar's volume control or to Garcia's effects (via a TRS jack), and then back into the guitar (through the same TRS jack) to the guitar's volume control. From there, the signal finally goes out the main output jack.
The genius of this wiring is that it allowed Garcia to
keep full volume going to the pedals while controlling his output volume
from the guitar. The advantage is that the tone and response of the pedals
would not change with the guitar's output volume, as it normally would
if Garcia plugged directly into them. The wiring also allowed for a true
bypass of the effects when they weren't in use.
Many thanks to Garcia's tech Steve Parish for his years of trust.
--GARY BRAWER, http://www.brawer.com
Tigers Preamp Buffer
Designed, Fabricated and Installed By John Cutler in 1979
Current Owner of Tiger
Indianapolis Colts Owner
Jim Irsay made the winning bid at the Guernsey Auction May 8, 2002 at $850,000, but with "Buyer's Commission" paid $957,500 for Tiger.
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