Portland, Oregon, is known for many things: its rare-cheese district, the Space Needle, and its indigenous Itruca people. (In accordance with the progressive politics Portland is known for, the Itruca and their culture is scrupulously protected, and they run around in loincloths shooting at monkeys with blowdarts. Several people have noted that you can either be indigenous to Oregon or you can shoot at monkeys with blowdarts, but not both; the people that pointed this out were all Twitter-shamed.)
The Rose City is also home to Mr. Completely, who passes along this piece of truly trivial trivia for the discerning Rock Nerd/Gear Fetishist: though the Dead and the Beatles* don’t have many connections, Garcia (briefly) shared a guitar with George Harrison (kinda).
Garcia (surely at least half-drunk, since this is the Festival Express) stumbled onstage to jam with Delancy & Brewster (or maybe Daffodil & Booboo, I can’t bring myself to care) and was given the Telecaster he’s playing in the above picture.
Delacroix & Bingbong were some sort of folk-rock duo that George Harrison hooked up with after his wife broke up the Beatles. (That’s the true story: Yoko was a patsy.) Eric Clapton was also in their band for a minute, too, which makes you wonder if the combo was nothing but the least interesting members of British bands – a reverse supergroup. John Deacon on bass, I suppose.
The guitar–a 1968 rosewood Tele–has a rare pedigree: it was one of two custom-made by Fender (the other was for Jimi Hendrix) and was used at both the Let It Be sessions and the rooftop concert they ripped off from U2. Other than the exotic lumber, it seems to be a stock Tele.
So here is the question: why was Garcia–the fussiest man alive about his equipment–playing a strange guitar? This was the Festival Express tour: he had his stuff with him, the sunburst Strat and whatever acoustic this is:
Hey, Billy. Nice hat.
“Stay on target.”
Sure, right. SO: here’s my thesis. Garcia wanted to play the Beatle’s guitar. There’s no way he’s more than five feet away from his guitar; no matter how rushed the jam session, he could have grabbed it. Garcia knew that was George Harrison’s old guitar and wanted a crack at it.
Also to be remembered: that was a new guitar. ’68 was two years ago in this photo. Not a vintage guitar.
Also to be mulled over: the Grateful Dead was the least telecaster band there was. Factually and spiritually, the Dead were anti-telecaster. (Bobby has a couple now, and it just doesn’t look right.)
Also to amuse you: George’s 1968 rosewood telecaster was re-acquired by the Harrison family, and they shipped it to Fender, where it was taken apart and measured scientifically to be reproduced by the Fender Custom Shop for $13,500 a pop. They made one hundred. Family paid half-a-mil to get the sucker back. You can do math.
(A STERN WARNING: that last link is to a Rolling Stone article and those fuckers autoplay videos. If Trump promised to execute people who autoplay videos in their sites, I would vote for him. That’s my key issue.)
*I am expecting I shall be apprised of the Marin/Liverpool links in the Comment Section.