Jerry Garcia, the Grateful Dead’s leader, at least unofficially, died in 1995. (He was just 53; he’d lived in a way that was hard on his body.)
(For a sweet bit of trivia — although Mr. Garcia was not Jewish, he was named after a Jew. Jerome Garcia was named for the composer Jerome Kern.)
Mr. Garcia left a huge amount of music behind him, as well as a band that in various incarnations has toured until its last stand, last weekend, 50 years after it began. He also left his guitars.
One of those guitars, a prototype Alvarez-Yairi, is at Lark Street Music in Teaneck.
“It was one of Jerry’s main acoustic guitars. He used in the early 90s, when he played it on his collaborations with David Grisman,” Buzzy Levine, Lark Street’s owner and presiding genius, said. “You can see it in several places on YouTube.
“It’s unique, in that it has a graphite composite neck and a peghead shape,” he continued. “It’s very identifiable. You can see him using it in the Warfield Theater in San Francisco, in Squaw Valley in California, in all kinds of venues.
“Alvarez gave Jerry three guitars but the others were not as distinctive looking as this one is.”
David Grisman is the Hackensack-born bluegrass mandolin player and composer who has played with influential, top-of-their-field musicians ranging from the bluegrass-y Doc Watson to the klezmer-y Andy Statman, as well, of course, as with Jerry Garcia.
“The company gave it to him as a prototype in 1990, and Jerry played it for a couple of years,” Mr. Levine said. “David told me that he used it at most of the acoustic disks he and Jerry did — they did a couple of albums together. He used it at festival and in performances.
“Around ’92 or ’93 they were in the studio together, Jerry and David, and Jerry asked the engineer what kind of guitar he played. The guy said a Penco — a cheap $100 guitar — and Jerry said ‘Here, have this one,’ and he gave it to him.
“Why did he give it? Because there wasn’t a lack of guitars in his life, and he was a kindhearted person. The guy, the engineer, had put in a lot of time over the years with him.
“It was a gift.
“Flash forward to today. The fellow who owns it has mounting health care bills. This is the one thing we have that is of value. He has a mountain of bills, so we are trying to sell it for him,” Mr. Levine said.
Of course, he has played the guitar. “It’s deep and resonant and it speaks well,” Mr. Levine said. “Jerry loved it.”