Famous Rock Guitars Part 6

This is the 6th edition of this series. In Part 1, Part2, Part 3,  Part 4,  and Part 5. We covered Brian May’s Red Special, Willie Nelson’s Trigger, George Harrison’s Rocky, Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstrat, Bruce Springsteen’s guitar, Neil Young’s Old Black guitar, John Lennon’s Casino + a Bonus, Keith Richards Telecaster, Paul McCartney’s Bass, and Eric Clapton’s Blackie.

Today it’s Jimmy Page’s Gipson EDS -1275 Guitar and Jerry Garcia’s Alligator

Jimmy Page’s Gibson EDS-1275 Double Neck Guitar

Jimmy Page on the 'Swagger' of Led Zeppelin's 'Physical Graffiti' - Rolling  Stone

This guitar was born out of necessity for Page. They had just recorded Stairway to Heaven and Jimmy played a  12-string in the song after the intro. To play the song live without a 12-string would not work. He was the only guitar player in the band so to replicate that part they either needed another guitar player or a way for Jimmy to switch to the 12 string while playing the song.

The solution came in the shape of a Gibson double-neck. A 6-string and a 12-string on the same guitar. Jimmy had seen pictures of American guitarists with a double neck guitar… Grady Martin with a Bigsby double-neck, Joe Maphis with a Mosrite. He also saw a strange band named Family with a guitar player  named Charlie Whitney with a double neck guitar.

Gibson first introduced the doubleneck guitar in 1958 with the EDS-1275’s forerunner the “Double 12”. The body and hardware specifications for the EDS-1275 include a solid mahogany SG-style body, a dark cherry finish with walnut filler, chrome hardware, a chrome ABR Bridge with chrome tumblewheels, Schaller strap locks, a five-play pickguard, two volume and tone control knobs, a three-way pickup-selector switch and a three-way neck selector switch.

Jimmy played Les Pauls and wanted to get another Gipson. By the time Page wanted an EDS-1275, they were no longer in production so he ordered a custom-made cherry guitar.

Page’s EDS-1275 has a slightly different body shape from that of the then current model. Page’s also has one-piece mahogany necks rather than the current three-piece maple, and has tailpieces positioned near the bottom of the body, reportedly increasing sustain, and Patent No. or T-Top humbucking pickups.

Jimmy’s EDS-1275 made its live debut in March 1971, allowing him to play 12-string and six-string parts without swapping guitars and it certainly did become iconic.

Page recently donated a later model EDS-1275 for charity, but it was not the famous one he used with Led Zeppelin. That guitar remains firmly in his possession.

Jimmy Page: “I asked to get one from Gibson, because I knew it was the only way,” “I knew I couldn’t do Stairway…, but it was essential to do it. So it became iconic, didn’t it? If a little tough on the left shoulder…Yeah, though I’ve got heavier guitars! But nevertheless, it was pretty weighty.”

Jerry Garcia’s Alligator

Jerry Garcia's “Alligator” '50s Strat Will Be Up For Auction – Rock Pasta

Graham Nash gave this 1957 Strat to Jerry Garcia as a gift in 1970. Nash  purchased the guitar in 1970 from a pawnshop in Phoenix. Graham wanted to show his appreciation for Jerry’s guitar work on his solo album “Songs for Beginners.”

Roadie Steve Parish recalled a night in Buffalo on Garcia’s first tour outside the band, where “it was so cold that when Jerry stepped out on stage and strummed his ‘Alligator’ the face plate on the guitar broke and the guts popped out. That’s how the show began.” Alligator got patched up with gaffer’s tape, and a new brass plate affixed at the tour’s end.

The Dead helped start an instrument and gear-building auxiliary company called Alembic. Alembic was found by the Dead’s sound man and chemist Owsley Stanley.  Garcia’s Strat found itself on the Alembic workbench numerous times.

In 1972, Garcia would add a number of stickers to the body, including a grinning cartoon alligator on the pickguard that gave the guitar its name. But by then nearly every other bit of the instrument had been overhauled in a series of refinements by Alembic technician Frank Fuller.

Jerry Garcia Alligator Guitar #deadhead | Guitar, Famous guitars,  Stratocaster guitar

The guitar got new Schaller tuning pegs and gears, a series of bridges (Gibson ABR-1 Tune-o-Matic and an Alembic custom), a new control plate (hammered brass), taller frets, and an in-board post-volume “blaster”. “Each pickup cover had its own individually grounded wire.”

Technicians Frank Fuller and Rick Turner of Alembic Guitars modified the guitar regularly, so much so that they referred to it as a “Frankenstein” guitar. Jerry played this guitar on the Dead’s famous first full European tour in 1972 and their two great albums Working Man’s Dead and American Beauty. Alligator played its last show on Garcia’s 30th birthday…August 1st, 1973 in Jersey City, NJ.

The show was recorded by Deadheads, Alligator was sent off properly with a long version of “Dark Star.”

Jerry would play  more custom built guitars through his career.  Wolf (73-93), Tiger (79-95), Lighting Bolt (93-95), Rosebud (90-95), and Top Hat (95). My favorite remains Alligator.

Graham originally bought the guitar for $250 dollars…the guitar was sold at an auction in 2019 for $420,000 dollars.



Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

32 thoughts on “Famous Rock Guitars Part 6”

  1. One More Saturday Night was the first song that Donna Jean Thatcher Godchaux sang along with the Dead and she was introduced as the piano player’s wife. Jerry Garcia played pedal steel guitar on ‘I Used to Be a King’ and ‘Man in the Mirror’ and Phil Lesh played bass on ‘I Used to Be a King’.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The most interesting thing I found out…and I read it before but I forgot was Alembic. Alembic basses from that time period are one of the premiere basses. John Entwistle had one…I could have bought one but missed out on it in the 80s.

      It’s really cool that the Dead had a hand in that.
      Great stuff Jim.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. wow, that’s an amazing guitar Page had… never occurred to me that “Stairway to Heaven” couldn’t be played on a regular guitar, but they sure did get a full sound for a 4-man.
    Jerry’s “Alligator” is quite neat too, the thing that strikes me about it is that it looks more or less like a routine pawn shop one, which maybe is fitting. It wouldn’t seem quite right to have the Grateful Dead playing $20 000 custom-made instruments I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well Jerry’s other guitars WERE custom made…they sounded great though. This one was my favorite.

      Jimmy’s guitar is different because from what I read…and this could be wrong but there wasn’t a whole lot of modifying and as you have seen through all these guitars…that is rare.


    1. I saw that last night while looking up Jimmy’s guitar.
      The oddest guitar with multi necks that I’ve ever seen was Rick Nielsen’s 5 neck guitar that he played when I saw them in the 80s…but it served no song purpose…but….it had 5 necks!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes that would be about it. Personally I would like an electric with three necks…6,12. and mandolin.
        I have seen people with bass and guitar necks on one guitar…that I never understood unless you are in a studio and just don’t like changing instruments.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great stuff, Max. That Jimmy Page ax essentially looks like an SG with a doubleneck. On can only imagine how heavy that beast must be!

    I had no idea about Alembic. Then again, while I’ve listened to some of the Dead’s music and are particularly drawn to their early work, I’ve never been a Deadhead. That being said, I dig that live clip of “Saturday Night Live”. Also, how about that German TV music program Beat-Club?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Page’s guitar is surprising because I could find no modifications that he did…or had done…Maybe I just didn’t find it. Hardly do they ever just play them “off the rack.”

      Alembic…that took me by surprise. have you ever played one Christian? They play like a dream. I could have bought one in the 80s for 600 bucks…Oh how I wish I would have bought it. I sure didn’t know the Dead had anything to do with them.

      I love the Beat Club performance…that is the era that is my favorite. That was during their European Tour of 72.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I guess the coolest ax I’ve ever played was a Gibson Les Paul. Otherwise it’s all been “cheap stuff.”

        Somebody I knew who at the time was studying music (but sadly needed to stop due to an inflammatory condition he developed in his hands) gave me his Les Paul for one day – boy, it was heavy, especially compared to my Ibanez Gibson copy I owned back then!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Some of the cheap stuff has it’s appeal. I know some that bought cheap Mexican strats and then hunted down a real strat neck and replaced it and they have great guitars.

        Oh yea mahogany is heavy! I love Les Pauls…I’ve played a few and man my shoulder would be sore. It would be fun to go out and get a cheaper guitar…if it has a good foundation and get new pickups, tuners, and etc..

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I have to say my Ibanez Gibson copy was pretty decent. It’s also not exactly correct to call it cheap. It certainly wasn’t cheap for me at the time, and if it hadn’t been for my amazing grandpa who always supported my music endeavors, I would have never had it in the first place!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I had a “regular” and a fretless. The regular was pretty tiny and light – I would say comparable dimensions to a Hofner violin bass. The fretless was heavier and more of standard size. Shamefully, I cannot even remember the model names. It’s been such a long time!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I’m jealous…I never had a fretless and always wanted one. Did you have lines on your fretless? I would have to have them.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jeff…again I appreciate all non guitar people reading these…and yes SG’s and Les Pauls are made of Mahogany and they are very heavy…I can’t imagine what this one felt like.

      Liked by 1 person

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