Jerry Garcia Debuts Tiger Guitar With Grateful Dead In 1979

By Andy Kahn May 27, 2016 8:46 am PDT

Late founding Grateful Dead member Jerry Garcia’s famed custom Doug Irwin-built guitar affectionately known as Tiger has had a busy several days this week. Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay – who bought Tiger at auction in 2002 – sent the guitar west in hopes of getting it to the members of Dead & Company. The one-of-a-kind Irwin creation made its way to MLB pitcher and musician Jake Peavy who helped get it to Dead bassist Phil Lesh, but Tiger has not yet returned to the public stage since Jerry played the final notes of “Box Of Rain” at Soldier Field in Chicago on July 9, 1995 as per

According to the official Jerry Garcia website, few adjustments have been made to the 13-pound instrument since its debut, noting:

Throughout the years, not many large-scale modifications were made to Tiger. From the beginning, it was a technically complicated instrument due to the electronics that Jerry was interested in, including a five-way pickup selector and master volume control, two separate tone orbit-controls, and three mini toggles—one of which turned on and off his onboard effects loop.

For this week’s installment of Full Show Friday, here’s a look back at the first show Garcia played with Tiger, which took place on on August 4, 1979 at the Oakland Auditorium in Oakland, California. That night the band utilized frequent opener “Jack Straw” to introduce Tiger and start the first show of a two-night stand. Along with Tiger’s first set debut, the Garcia/Robert Hunter original “Althea” also made its first appearance with the Dead, coming two songs ahead of the “Deal” first set closer.

The second set that night began with the short-lived favorite “Passenger” and saw Jerry showcasing Tiger’s versatility on such songs as a slowed down “Friend Of The Devil,” a funky “Shakedown Street” and a poignant “Stella Blue,” among others. The night ended with a lively “U.S. Blues” as Tiger completed the first show of what would be an 11-year engagement.

Below are two sources of the show from August 4, 1979. First is a crispy soundboard recording that’s missing the opening “Jack Straw,” followed by a nice audience recording taped by Mark Severson that captures Tiger making its debut during the opening song. Stream them here:

[August 4, 1979 | Soundboard]

[August 4, 1979 | Taped by Mark Severson]


Grateful Dead
  • Jack Straw
  • They Love Each Other
  • Mama Tried
  • Mexicali Blues
  • Peggy-O
  • Minglewood Blues
  • Tennessee Jed
  • El Paso
  • Althea
  • Lost Sailor
  • Deal
  • Passenger
  • Friend of the Devil
  • Samson and Delilah
  • Shakedown Street
  • Playing in the Band
  • Drums
  • Space
  • Stella Blue
  • Sugar Magnolia
  • U.S. Blues
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