Travis Bean Designs Announces Reverb Exclusive Jerry Garcia TB500

NAMM is all about mindblowing releases, and we’ve got one of our very own for you. This week we’re celebrating the debut of a guitar built by Travis Bean Designs available exclusively on Reverb.

Every TBD instrument is something to rave about in and of itself, but this one is really something special: a TB500 Generation One made by Travis Bean Designs (Electrical Guitar Company) in homage to Jerry Garcia’s Travis Bean TB500 (serial #12).

TB500 Generation One

This milestone guitar will be available January 19th on the site for $10,500. If that’s a bit steep for your taste and you happen to be at NAMM, swing by our booth #4368 where we’ll have the beauty on display during the entire convention.

Used as a staple axe in the years between the “Alligator” and “Wolf” guitars, the TB500 was in rotation during the late 1970s for more than 90 Grateful Dead shows including the mythic three-night stint at the Winterland Ballroom in ‘76. Perhaps even more notable is the oft-repeated rumor that the TB500 was the guitar Jerry used in the recording of Terrapin Station.

Crafted by Kevin Burkett of Travis Bean Designs and Electrical Guitar Company in tandem with Marc McElwee (who was behind the original Travis Bean designs of the ‘70s), this reissue is a pinpoint recreation of the TB500s Jerry played back in the day.

In addition to the flagship features like cast resin single coil pickups and the legendary aluminum neck, the TB500 sports the revolutionary onboard effects loop (OLEB). The first of Jerry’s guitars to incorporate an OLEB, the TB500 was the starting point for what became a fixture on all of his future models.

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TB500 Generation One Features

  • 1.75” slab body
  • 24.75” scale aluminum neck w/ rosewood fretboard
  • Neck dimensions: 1.75” at nut, 2.25” wide at 22nd fret
  • Mother of pearl dot inlays
  • Three white cast resin single coil pickups identical in design to ‘70s models
  • Brass nut and Schaller tuners
  • Master volume, autonomous neck tone, middle/bridge tone knobs, three mini on/off pickup switches
  • On-board effects loop (OLEB)

One of his first forays into the world of total personalization, the TB500 can be seen as an entry point to a hallmark of Jerry’s legacy: highly customized guitars with a boutique flair.

And while we’re on the subject of Jerry’s guitars, let’s take a look at some of the mythic pieces that defined one of the most beloved players and bands of all time.

Alligator

Gifted to Jerry by Graham Nash in 1971 after laying down tracks for Crosby and Nash, the Alligator was a fixture of Dead shows from ‘71 through ‘73. Comprised of a 1957 swamp ash body and 1963 maple neck, this partscaster saw a number of modifications through its life ranging from pickout swaps to total structural alterations. The guitar earned its nickname for a sticker of a dancing alligator with knife and fork at the ready splayed over the pickguard.


Wolf

The first customized Doug Irwin model played by Jerry and perhaps the most famous of Jerry’s guitars to die hard Dead Heads, the Wolf was the true stepping stone into the world of complete customization. Made from striking purpleheart and curly maple tonewoods in a shape reminiscent of a Bronco or Mustang, the Wolf was a fixture of Dead shows through the ‘70s and made appearances in the early ‘90s. It received its name for a sticker of a cartoon sticker of a wolf Jerry placed on the body which was eventually converted into an inlay.


Tiger

A monstrous instrument showcasing Doug Irwin’s craftsmanship, the Tiger is the first of the off-kilter SG types Jerry loved that came bursting at the seam with features. Clocking in at a hefty 13.5 lbs, the Tiger was built from a cocobolo, vermilion, and maple, a triumvirate of heavy woods later dubbed the “Hippie Sandwich.” In addition to the regal aesthetic appointments, the Tiger sported complex electronics including an on-board effects loop which were continuously modified through its life from 1979 through 1995. The guitar received its name from the tiger inlay below the tailpiece.


Rosebud

One of the most famous guitars in all of rock and roll, the Rosebud was Doug Irwin’s masterpiece and perhaps the most iconic instrument of the Grateful Dead. Essentially a modified version of the Tiger with some key upgrades, Rosebud weighed two pounds less than its predecessor thanks to a chambered flame-maple core and featured full MIDI controls built right into the guitar. Originally named “The Saint” by Irwin for the now-famous dancing skeleton, Jerry christened it with the name “Rosebud” as a possible nod to Orson Welles.


Lightning Bolt

One of the last guitars Jerry received and played during the ‘90s, the Lightning Bolt holds an equal place of lore alongside Rosebud as a quintessential Dead instrument. Crafted by amateur luthier Stephen Cripe, who, prior to trying his hand at guitars had built yacht interiors, the Lightning Bolt was sent to Jerry as a gift who immediately took a liking to it. Used from 1993 until Jerry’s death in 1995, this instrument now sits on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for all to get a glimpse at a true piece of history.

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