Hey Y'all! So obviously we are all interested in the same thing here re: Jerry's tone. He had this distinct magical sorta something ( I can't spell in french ) almost from day one! Let's face it, he didn't talk about his tone or his visions for his ideal tone too often! He did leave us clues in his interviews and in personal conversations, however, he was pretty clear in saying to folks..."hey why not get your own sound" or similar things. Its clear to me in that yes, his hands were more than able to deliver what he wanted and in an incredibly well metered way! Very astute with many other variables in playing from his way too numerous influences to list including their tones and perhaps more gearhead minded than we imagine. I think while Bear had so much to do with kicking things up a notch it was Jerry as a player that wanted to go somewhere in particular. In other words Jerry had a vision for his sound from early on and thereafter. He once stated back in about '69 that he wanted to make his guitar be able to achieve the sound of an airplane ripping through the sky! Its an early sign that he knew what he wanted and his imagination ran wild. We knew this about him and later learned about his artistic endeavors on other levels. As an artist myself, I understand the desire to create and most importantly ,to me, to innovate something of your own from your own vision. Influences from other guitarists /musicians certainly had a powerful effect on Garcia and his vision. He tried a few amps and soon settled on a Fender twin reverb. Quickly (very quickly) moves to the ability to lose the tube section and power by McIntosh amps. Retains his awesome Fender tone somehow yet its bigger and better in some ways! Tries running several of the twins for a more pure Fender tone. Twin/Strat ...greatest tones he ever achieved in many deadheads books! Add in the mid 70's and the remaining rock culture that was blown up by Hendrix and you start to see some Mesa boogie style tones being carefully honed by the pros. You had the California surf tones and Santana...and people like Albert King just ripping up the blues world and amp builders like Howard Dumble and The Mesa folks with their hands in the kitchen. Garcia , i believe was heavily influenced by all of the above and paid great attention to the possibilities in tweaking the Fender tone.
Since i have started working on amps I have never stopped thinking about why I spend so much time doing what I do with these amps. It arose from a need to personally get to where I wanted to as a player and lover of fender tone. Luckily Jerry did most of the work for me and ended up on so many thousands of hours of tape! I can hear all the influences and I love what he achieved so much with his sound that it makes my head spin...to this day. Yes so much in his playing,timing and phrasing/blending but so much is in his tone and his ability to control it. Almost as if he had envisioned it. This is the art of Garcia displayed early on. A sponge of a guy who wanted to do things hands on. He had some really bright minds in his camp to learn and share with and we know theres certain secrets involved because we've uncovered so many! This in a strange way is like ressurecting the dead and is downright erie at times!! Why this hasn't been discussed more often is uncanny to me... but here's why its so fun. He was so uncanny as an artist in so many ways! A real leader...a true pioneer. His sound was so powerful to so many! His technique, his timing, his voice..all so incredibly uncanny. If not Jerry mainly, then Bear and the rest of them totally inspired his sound and helped it evolve. My first twin in '85 (coincidently my first show year) was a dead stock '74 silverface with orange JBL's. I loved the sound of it and like any amp you have a "honeymoon period" with it then you want better.. or difft. i should say. I luckily scored a '68 sg with soapbars to go along with this and yes it was quite a honeymoon! Well there was several things that urked me about this amp: The reverb wore off on me after just totally overdoing it (3 spring reverb tank =quick fix nowadays) the dreaded push pull master vol! =no hip mesa style od and not even a good crunch you cbs fools! Also, not realizing the importance of the parts like tubes,caps, wiring issues etc. Basically not knowing shit from shinola inside a Fender amp!! The key here is I later figured out I needed to learn more and most likely be able to do this myself. I wanted to achieve a really cool fender tone and i felt like it was a crime because of all the junk that was on the market and what i had to do to get there!! Think outside the box with modern common sense! The best tones were already done in the 70's ..the key was, as is always, to listen closely and figure out what may have been assembled. While i still don't know nearly as much as my engineer degree buddies i always had a vision and still do to this day like most of you! I still find this an intriquing game of Sleuth and would love to share and help others if you have a vision in mind. I have no idea if i can help but the point is this: I spent many years futzing around with these amps and I think Garcia & co did as well. I can only assume at best , what they were doing in the gear to get to Jerry's vision. I know what i know if you know what I mean. I enjoy it, i like helping others get to where they want to get because I remember what it was like back when. As i started this I mentioned that we all want to learn more about the tone. We all are interested in the evolution of it through the years correct? Its very cool stuff. Big Fender tones with a guild then fender Strat. Then cleaner. then humbuckers, then back to cleaner guitar then on to dirtier amp..hmm. Then onto mesa then back to fender yet remaining in 80 and 81 with the ability to get a certain crunch. How cool! We just love that badass '81 and 82 tone he had! Huge yet tight and dirtied up!! later we see Jerry getting into cleaner and cleaner roles with the axe and the use of Boss pedals for the over the top! Clearly he was just losing it! His tone was suffering ( to manys ears') and he was not really innovating anymore . At least not with the Fender amplifier! It was gone in '93. We all have to agree that in that timeframe of fender amp usage there was some amazing years and tones!!
I hope I always remain intrigued by Garcia's tones and I hope you do too! Its been great to hear from and meet all of you from the www. I personally have been working on the 81/82 grit tone lately and am welcoming you guys to try my amp out in person. just contact me on here. I really would like some critique ideally. I am in central Ct area now. I have a 135 watt i can demo and one I am working on this week for an active forum member. I hope he likes it when he gets it next week as I am having so much fun building, smoking Mendopacino, drinking Genesee and listening to Jerry in Oct '81! Cheers fellow gearheads and hope to see you soon! ( yes' i'm bummed i couldn't get to the gearhead expo