In celebration of Garcia’s 80th Birthday, the Jerry Garcia Family alongside the Fender Custom Shop are proud to introduce the Jerry Garcia Alligator Stratocaster—a faithful recreation of one of Garcia’s most famous instruments. Master built in the Custom Shop by Austin MacNutt, the Jerry Garcia Alligator Stratocaster is limited to 100 built-to-order instruments.

While Jerry Garcia is perhaps best known for his kaleidoscopic playing with the Grateful Dead, the story of the Alligator begins with a different, albeit equally historic musical act. By 1970, Garcia had earned himself quite the reputation. He was called into the studio by acts like Jefferson Airplane and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young as a session player. That same year, singer-songwriter and co-founder of Crosby, Stills and Nash, Graham Nash, began recording his solo album, Songs for Beginners. Among the roster of rock and roll greats he enlisted to play on the album was twenty-eight-year-old Jerry Garcia. Nash was so impressed by Garcia’s playing that he decided to gift him with a 1955 swamp ash Stratocaster® guitar. Garcia was immediately infatuated with the lightweight guitar. The single coils allowed him to conjure the twang of his country and western heroes, while the guitar’s remarkable high-end response provided clarity even when played through heavy distortion.

But just as Garcia was entering the honeymoon phase with his new go-to axe, the ‘55 Strat® guitar almost met its demise. In November 1971, Garcia had just hit the stage at Boston Symphony Hall when the frigid November weather hit him like a ton of bricks. He hit the first note of his set and just like that, the lower half of the pickguard cracked wide open. As the guitar’s electronics spilled out, Garcia frantically waved his tech, Steve Parish, onstage for a helping hand. Parish started shoving the guts of the instrument back in place while keeping everything together with nothing more than a roll of gaffer’s tape. Miraculously, Garcia and the Strat made it through the rest of the show. Some days later, the pair decided to replace the missing chunk of pickguard with a Masonite plate (replaced with a brass plate in the early 80’s). From there, the modifications just kept coming. By 1972, the Alligator was hardly recognizable from the 1955 Stratocaster® that Graham Nash gifted Garcia back in 1970. However, thanks to the countless personal touches added by Parish and Garcia, it has become one of history’s most iconic guitars.

To honor Garcia’s lifelong devotion to pushing the limits of creativity and this legendary instrument, Fender Custom Shop has recreated the Alligator Strat® with staggering accuracy. Starting with the headstock, the attention to detail is immediately noticeable. This Fender Custom Shop™ Stratocaster® comes with Schaller M6 tuning heads and a disc string tree, some of the Alligator’s® first modifications. The one-piece rift sawn maple neck was fabricated from a digital scan of the original guitar’s neck. Per Garcia’s preference, the neck is a 7.25” radius and outfitted with medium vintage frets.

The body of this guitar is where Garcia’s influence shines through the most. All three iconic stickers, the “police helper” and Harley-Davidson logo on the upper horn and the infamous grinning Alligator in between the neck and middle pickup, have been faithfully recreated. The infamous brass control plate can be found housing the volume pots and 5-way toggle switch. The bridge is also made from custom brass and is reinforced with a rosewood base plate. As far as pickups are concerned, the Alligator Strat® comes equipped with custom wound ‘55 style single-coils, providing classic Stratocaster® bell-like tones with singing mid-range and cutting highs. “This guitar is a piece of American history,” said Austin MacNutt, Fender Custom Shop Master Builder. “There is so much history behind each alteration and modification made to the guitar; to have the opportunity to have the original for a day, take it apart, look inside and replicate it has been an honor.”

For more information, and to purchase one of these special guitars, click here.