Fender Announces the Jerry Garcia Alligator Stratocaster

The painstaking homage to the Grateful Dead legend is faithful all the way down to the unusual string-retainer bar, cigarette burns, and pickguard sticker.


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.

Every detail of the Jerry Garcia Alligator Stratocaster is meticulously recreated, from the carefully measured contours and radii of the one-piece ash body to the hammered brass control plate, replica pickguard and body stickers, and custom replica “Blaster” clean-boost output jack assembly. Master built in the Custom Shop by Austin MacNutt, the Jerry Garcia Alligator Stratocaster is limited to 100 built-to-order instruments.

All three pickups are Josefina hand-wound ’55-style single-coil Stratocaster pickups replicated from the Alligator itself, along with five-way switching, standard vintage Stratocaster wiring and replica “hat” control knobs on a three-ply parchment pickguard. Premium features also include a Relic lacquer finish, one-piece rift-sawn maple neck with a profile scanned and replicated directly from the original guitar, 7.25” fingerboard radius and 1.625” brass nut width, 21 Medium Vintage frets, custom brass bridge and tailpiece with rosewood base plate, Schaller M6 tuners, disc string tree with custom retainer bar, and custom birdseye maple back plate. Custom hardshell case included.

Jerry Garcia Alligator Stratocaster | Dream Factory | Fender

$20,000.00 USD. For technical specs, additional information on new Fender® products and to find a retail partner near you, visit www.fendercustomshop.com. Join the conversation on social media by following @Fender and @FenderCustomShop.

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