Ah, the ultimate tone quest – got to love everyone’s passion for the music! I think the quest is more than just tone, it’s about asking the fundamental question of why was the Wolf such a seminal instrument?
I went back and reread the transcripts from that conversation Garcia was having backstage in Portand (fall 77), here’s what caught me the most:
JG: Uhh....yea, I had been using it, but I just got this back
from uh, the guy who made it for me; whose been- whose worked on it some...and I wanted to...see if there's...still anything...between me and it."
GT:"Do you have your guitars worked on at Alembic?"
JG:"No. Don't trust 'em. This guy named Doug Irwin, who's real good, does really nice work. Like when I gave him this guitar, it was really pretty beat-up ...it had a decal on it, this little and I got it back from him and he'd inlaid it in wood and brass, you know my god, it blew my mind! Now there's a guy….
I got to hand it to Irwin. He was brilliant. He was on a mission, from studying to be a bio chemist to chasing his dreams as a guitar builder. He had a chance to really impress Garcia and went the extra mile. The inlay was the like tying the bow around the gift. It set him up for fame and ultimately fortune, making him today one of the most famous luthier’s in the States. Garcia bonded with that guitar and when Irwin presented the next guitar, even more over the top, Wolf was retired and Jerry was now playing a second totally different Irwin guitar. He even managed to get written into Jerry’s will. Too bad it ended up such a tortured affair but that’s typically what you get when you mix money with art.
One can only imagine how crushed he must have been when the Cripe came along, but Cripe took a cue from Irwin’s playbook, one upped him and it worked.
So the big question is why was Wolf 1.0 retired? and here’s my own theory that and it’s probably going to rub some the wrong way. I think it had to do as much with the electronics.
don't know if this helps the conversation any, but when I visited Lane Poor about 12 years ago, he told me about his time at Alembic ca. 71-74 and part of his job was rewinding and remagnetizing strat pickups for Jerry. I'm pretty sure he did it for Wolf on a regular basis. My thought was that he used Fender pickups but they were modified, rewound and probably had different magnets at different times.
It sounds like Alembic was using stock strat pick-ups and simply rewinding them. Jerry didn’t care as he must have been totally focused on learning technique, theory and writing that he was simply not concerned with tone. I’m going to argue that early 70’s strat pick-ups are in of themselves not the best of electronics, made at a time Fender was slipping (like Gibson). In my opinion those Fender single coils were just no match for the through-neck design and woods of the Wolf. I’d argue that while the playin’ in 73/73 was for the most part excellent, Jerry’s tones suffered.
Steal Your face was somewhat of a letdown for many heads on the heels of LiveDead, Skull and Roses and Europe 72, where Jerry’s tone were unique and stellar. And lets face it, not too many folks on this forum are chasing after the 74 tone as their main stay in their respected bands, and hobby playin.
In Grateful Dead Gear Steve Parish is notes:
Garcia was always game to try a new guitar…back in 1970 “some guy gave him one that was made out of a tombstone. It was marble or granite or some heavy fucking thing. It had a really weird neck, too. But Jerry played it a couple of times.”
….Jerry would experiment, but no matter what he played he’s still try to within that signature Fender Twin sound; that’s what he craved.
Now don’t get me wrong, some 74 shows have some great tones but I think Jerry might have just burned out on the tone and needed a change and try different things, and I think that 74 tone came from Alembic – as I’ve heard it called – the piano tone, almost acoustic, without a lot of colour and depth (but great clarity). I love the variety the Dead present in their musical career and the 73/74 shows have a certain jazzy clarity to them – that makes the Dead’s epic catalogue of live shows so great to listen to - but again, it’s a sound that did not fit ever tune they played.
Going to listen to both 12/29 and 30/1977
And thanks Tigerstrat for that really great find!
Amazing that music exists from DP10 from both shows so it’s super easy to compare! It got me thinking (just like cme64) to put together a little sound bite, comparing the two nights and also comparing the 30th to the Madison show:
http://soundcloud.com/james-tuer/wolf-p ... omparisons
Here’s how I put it together – 12/30/77 intro to Eyes (black pups), followed by 2/3/78 into to Eyes (SDS-1’s) – This is about the only thing we can confirm.
2/2/78 Jerry’s Bertha solo (black pups), followed by 12/29/77 Jerry’s Bertha solo (black pups), (black pups), followed by 9/3/77 Jerry’s Bertha solo (black pups), (Travis Bean single coils), followed by 11/11/73 Jerry’s Bertha solo (Alembic hand wound pups) - its all there back to back to easily compare.
I’d be interested to hear folks take on this taste test (if you will!). I threw in Englishtown because I noticed 12/29/77 had as much in common with the mid 77 tone as it did the Early 78 tone – sort of a tweener tone. I threw in 73 just to show how much contrast was created by the Alembic electronics versus the post Alembic setup, after all Jerry did say in that Oct 77 interview: GT:"Do you have your guitars worked on at Alembic?" JG:"No. Don't trust 'em.
To my ears 11/30/77 and 2/3/77 is the tone. Really similar and I think Jerry’s amp and speakers were being pushed a lot harder on 2/3/77 making for a one off sort of almost overdriven clean tone with tones of sparkle. I just love that tone!
So, I think a set of SDS-1's or something similar (jury rigged single coils from Super II's and Dual Sounds) is the route to take. I may even give the FS-1's a chance!