1 Min ReadBy Mike Duffy
Custom Shop: Unlocking the Secrets of the Jerry Garcia ‘Alligator’ Strat
One of the legend’s most recognizable guitars, this Stratocaster has some serious mods faithfully recreated by the Custom Shop.
Arguably nobody in the history of rock & roll has more main-character energy than the guitars of Jerry Garcia.
“Wolf,” “Tiger,” “Rosebud.” All of these were trusted partners with their own narratives tied to the history of Jerry Garcia and countless other collaborations.
But the full story begins with his first signature guitar, “Alligator,” which was gifted to Garcia after being purchased by Graham Nash in 1970.
This Stratocaster accompanied Garcia through what is widely considered the most revered tour in Grateful Dead history and was used heavily on their double live album, *Europe ’72*. Instantly recognizable with an Alligator decal on the pickguard, it’s clear why this guitar has a reptilian nickname. But for those in the know, there are so many more modifications.
Luckily, the Fender Custom Shop had the chance to recreate this legend by having the original in-house, as Master Builder Austin MacNutt found out a few things not previously known. “It’s a piece of American history,” said MacNutt. “And there’s a lot of things on it that are not Strat DNA.”
Widely believed to be a 1957 model, one of the first things MacNutt noticed was a signature on the neck that identified it to be from 1955.
Alligator was modded extensively by Alembic via Ron Wickersham’s innovative preamp and Rick Turner and Frank Fuller’s wiring, custom wood/brass tail piece, brass bridge mounted into a brass block, scalloped nut and hammered brass pickguard and jack plate.
Each of MacNutt’s 100 Custom Shop pieces faithfully recreate the original, complete with the alligator decal, other replica stickers, hand-wired ’55 Strat single-coil pickups and replica “hat” control knobs.
Fans can feel the full vibe of the Jerry Garcia Alligator Stratocaster in the demo video above, featuring guitar maestro Daniel Donato. And to get your own limited-edition model, click here.
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