The Garcia Tiger Origin Story – Recollections From The Luthier

About the Iconic Garcia Guitar

This is a re-envisioning of a legendary guitar by one of its original creators. Lieber’s Garcia brings with it a large slice of history as well as a lifetime of seasoned craftsmanship.

An iconic guitar made famous by its celebrated owner. The Garcia is known worldwide for its elegant body design, beautiful inlays and unmistakable sound.

Recollections From The Luthier

Origin of The Garcia Tiger

“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 speced 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 and Asymmetrical 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.

Following my departure from Irwin, I spent a few months working with Steve Klein who was gracious enough to put up with me while I was birthing an acoustic Spider Grinder Bass with an asymmetrical Kasha brace system.

This is the prototype that my first patent is based upon (no pun intended) July 17, 1979 Body for Bass Guitar U.S. Utility Pat. #4,161,130

Read about the Garcia as featured in Relix Magazine.


Custom Builds Available