Come see this instrument and all of the others that have been spotlighted on the Wall of News in the Dusty Strings Exhibit at Skull and Roses this year.

Jerry Garcia received his 1943 Martin D-28 sometime in 1970. It is possible it was early in the summer of 1970, though we don’t have that information yet. Prior to this period, Jerry played a Martin OO-45 for the acoustic sets, such as at Harpur College. However, some speculate the Martin was recorded on for Workingman’s Dead and there was a liner note stating a D-28 was used on Black Peter, which would mean he would have had it by February. Jerry first appears in public on the D-28 in June and July 1970 on the famous Festival Express tour.

Festival Express | AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo

The Festival Express tour, originally billed the Transcontinental Pop Festival occurred in late June of 1970 into early July on a train by the same name traveling for gigs between Toronto and Vancouver. The Grateful Dead were joined by NRPS, Janis Joplin, The Band, Buddy Guy, Flying Burrito Brothers and more. The song Might as Well recalls the fun had by all the performers singing and jamming all night on the trip. In 2003, a documentary, The Festival Express, depicts the joy and mayhem on the train and there are clips of Garcia on his beloved D-28.

Festival Express | AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo

The Grateful Dead continued to play acoustic sets later that summer and for much of the fall to NYE before primarily playing electric from 1971 and on. Jerry is pictured multiple times playing on his D-28 for the acoustic sets in the second half of 1970. In September of 1970, the D-28 was also used to record American Beauty and the legendary intro to Ripple. During the live acoustic sets, Jerry first played Rosalie McFall, To Lay Me Down, Brokedown, Operator, Ripple and Truckin’ on this D-28. It was also on stage for the last Cold Jordan and likely for Pigpen’s last Katie Mae.

We have not seen photo evidence of the guitar on stage with Jerry past 1970. However there are pictures of him playing it up to 1972 and we know it was present at the Garcia-Grisman recordings in 1991, though do not yet know if it appears on any tracks. There are images of Jerry playing his D-28 with David Crosby and Paul Kantner in Bolinas in 1971, by Henry Diltz, and another with Garcia playing it with Weir and NRPS during the Europe ’72 tour.

Jerry, Crosby, Kanter in Bolinas1971 | Photograph © Henry Diltz

Incredibly, Peter Rowan calls the guitar “The Old & In The Way Guitar” because he played it in that band and toured with it through 1973. It was also recorded on the album Old And In The Way. Peter shared that Jerry told him to go for it when he was checking out the guitar while the and was forming and when the band stopped touring, Garcia asked for it back. This is notable as Garcia was extremely generous with his instruments, yet he did hold on to his trusted Martin D-28.

The Old & In The Way Guitar | Photograph © Roberto Rabanne

More specifics about the instrument:

Jerry’s 1943 Martin D-28 is a wartime model, so it has an ebony truss rod in place of steel. Apparently, all D-28 guitars from 1943 and 1944 had ebony in place of steel. Like all from this era, it has herring bone binding, an Adirondack spruce top and Brazilian rosewood back and sides. Jerry’s guitar is easily identifiable by the black stripe on the sides. It is also easy to spot due to the fills, on top and bottom of the sound hole and on the face, where an old pickup and its controls were placed, most likely long before Jerry had it. It does have a microphone that was added, likely in the late 70s or 80s. We do not know if that was for a show or for recordings. The Martin has replacement tuners, bridge pins, saddle and nut. There is a faint residue of transparent tape on the top behind the saddle, and that same piece of scotch tape can be clearly seen in a photo by Henry Diltz from Bolinas in 1971. There are a couple of large scratches on the guitar as well and here is the backstory.

From Rob Bleetstein on 10/9/21 
“So Dawg (David Grisman) called me and I mentioned the guitar and he brought up the origins of the scratch. So during a Garcia/Grisman session, engineer Dave Dennison accidentally knocked the guitar over and put a tiny scratch in it. Feeling terrible about it, upon Jerry’s return to the studio, he apologized to him for it and that’s when Jerry proceeded to take an object and embellish the scratch even further, showing how much he felt about such things!”