In 2019 John Mayer was honoured with the opportunity to play Jerry Garcia's Wolf guitar onstage – the custom build by luthier Doug Irwin was sold for $1.9 million in 2017 but was taken back into the wild by the Dead And Company member to honour the music of the Grateful Dead once again. But now Mayer has the chance to use the next best thing every night onstage.
Today (14 January), the songwriter announced he's received the prototype recreation of Wolf built by Bill Asher of Asher Guitars and commissioned by Irwin, using the original luthier's drawings and templates.
"The result is pretty unbelievable," said Mayer. "How unbelievable? I have to make sure to post this before tonight’s Dead And Company show to make sure people don’t mistake it for the real thing!
"As someone who was lucky enough to play Jerry’s Wolf guitar for a show back in 2019, I can confidently say Doug and Bill nailed it," added Mayer. "It shall always be played with love for this music and a culture that’s accepted me with open arms. See ya on stage…"
Mayer included a shot of the guitar's internal pots and wiring, and the build for this prototype is dated 2021. Asher confirmed in December 2022 that he'd partnered with Irwin to produce the official limited edition run of 10 Wolf guitars. Unsurprisingly, all are already accounted for by customers.
Wolf was played extensively by Garcia in the '70s and its final appearance with the late musician was in 1993. Irwin has been working for Alembic when he was first introduced to the guitarist/vocalist and ended up selling him a guitar he'd build, an instrument called Eagle. Garcia then commissioned a custom build from scratch, the result would be called Wolf.
Wolf's body is made from amaranth (aka purple heart) with stunning bookmatched curly western maple on the top and back. The neck runs through the middle of the body, constructed from a lamination of fiddleback maple and purpleheart.
The guitar would get its name from the cartoon wolf sticker Garcia added to it, later incorporated by Irwin as a body inlay when he took the guitar in for repairs.
Wolf was quite a creature for its time in terms of electronic spec – and even now.
"The pickup selector is the five position Stratocaster type. Front, middle, or rear, or combinations of the middle and either front or rear," explained Irwin. "Wolf is equipped with a master volume control, and a tone control for each of the middle and front pickups. The two subminiature switches set side by side are the pickup coil switches. There are two 1/4" phone jacks. One went directly to the amp, and the other to Jerry's effects loop, with the master volume located after the effects loop.
"There is also a subminiature switch to toggle the effects loop in or out," added the luthier.
You can check out Mayer's 2019 outing with the original 1974-built Wolf below – the guitar he said "Changed him forever". He'll be using the Bill Asher recreation on the weekend beginning 14 January for the Playing In The Sand festival in Riviera Cancún, Mexico.