Blues for Gary

Blues for Gary Jerry Garcia had a profound influence on a generation that continues to resonate across the years, including to Gary, owner of this installment of the Featured Custom. After enjoying a Further guitar with a Wolf inlay, he got the itch for a guitar more personalized to him and his inspiration. So when Gary decided to have us build his custom guitar, there was really only one choice – a Tribute.

Every Tribute is a pretty spectacular guitar, starting with the pickup and electronics package that includes an onboard effects loop and an array of 27 different pickup settings. We found two beautiful pieces of coco bolo for the front and back, and book-matched both to center. While the back is very symmetrical (with continuous wood back plates of course), the top half of the front has some stunning black streaks that add to the guitar’s overall aesthetic. Like all Tributes, the top is heavily carved.

Medallion inlay As a true tribute to Garcia, Gary wanted to include a medallion inlay below the tailpiece, something distinctly Grateful Dead but at the same time something unique. Gary settled on Phillip Garris’ iconic image The Fiddler which appeared on the cover of the Blues for Allah album. A haunting and complex image as a painting, the inlay required 15 different materials to recreate, including lapis, jasper, pearl, shell, Ebony, gold and silver.
It is the detail that makes every Alembic instrument special, and so we put some extra touches into the inlay on Blues for Gary. The stars in the night sky are in the same position as they were in early morning August 9, 1995 as seen from Forest Knolls in Marin County where Garcia passed away. Like Garris’ original image, the gleam on the skeleton’s sunglasses is a four point star. And of course it wouldn’t be an Alembic if we hadn’t book-matched the Flame Koa on the back of the violin to center.
Nameplate Completing the homage to Garcia is an inlaid "R.I.P." at the end of the fretboard as a nameplate inlay in mother of pearl. The tulip tip on the end of the fingerboard is also inlaid with mother of pearl. A keen eye will note the mother of pearl was from one larger piece.

peghead peghead
The neck is set, made of Flame Maple, with two Purpleheart laminates surrounding a center laminate of Cherry. An Ebony laminate tops the headstock, with an Ebony fretboard. Our inlaid silver logos with white mother of pearl clouds always appear three dimensional, but the inlay department outdid themselves with spectacular colored shell in the center and forming the rays shining down from the clouds on the black ebony. In person, it’s hard to look away!
Side LEDs It's hard to imagine a custom Alembic without side LEDs. These are pretty special in stellar colors of blue with amber at the 12th and 24th frets. The brightness of these little gems can be set with a small trimpot in the electronics cavity. You can have them set at a warm glow or go amazingly bright.

Tailpiece shim To conform to the individually carved top, the tailpiece on the Tribute guitar has an Ebony baseplate that is carved to match the guitar. Usually in a traditional Alembic bird shape, the tailpiece on the Blues for Gary guitar is a simple curve that echoes the oval shape of the medallion inlay.

Logo Gary and his wife came to the factory for delivery, and he shared with us he was able to convince the Captain to secure Blues for Gary in a compartment below the cockpit to ensure nothing happened in transit. All arrived home safely, and Gary sent us an update: “The BFG Tribute is awesome! The tones are so noticeably rich, its absolute perfection! I even let my younger son play it, and he was blown away. I think it's the finest instrument I've ever played, and esthetically, it's the most beautiful piece of art I've ever owned.”

Medallion Like most Alembic owners, apparently Gary has had a bit of trouble putting it down. "The significance of each part that makes up the whole is just overwhelming. The look on people's faces when I show it to them is photo opportunity each and every time. I actually have it with me at my office today because I needed to share this beauty with my staff. Actually, I think it was more of a case of separation anxiety!"
We know the feeling Gary - we miss your guitar madly, but maybe this could be the start of a national "Take Your Alembic to Work" Day.

Front Back


  • Tribute guitar
  • Carved Coco Bolo top
  • Coco Bolo back
  • Maple, Purpleheart and Cherry set neck
  • Black mother of pearl oval inlays
  • Ebony fingerboard
  • "RIP" nameplate inlay in mother of pearl
  • Continuous wood backplates
  • Polished brass hardware
  • Inlaid logo with shell
  • Side LEDs in blue with amber
  • "Blues for Gary" medallion inlay
featured custom

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Text by John Terry and Mica Wickersham Thomas, © 2014 Alembic, Inc.
Photos by Mica Wickersham Thomas, © 2013, 2014 Alembic, Inc.

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