Last night, Jerry Garcia's iconic Wolf guitar was auctioned off (not for the first time), with all proceeds going to the Southern Poverty Law Center. It was bought for over $1.9 million by Brian Halligan, who co-authored Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History. The guitar was originally purchased by an anonymous buyer shortly after Garcia’s death in 1995 for a reported $100,000, a record at the time for a rock artifact. It was then sold again in 2002 to musician/film director (and known Deadhead) Daniel Pritzker for $790,000. Distressed by the current state of our nation, increasing racial and religious intolerance, the distortion of basic facts by Trump and his administration of enablers and apologists and the worldwide abuse of human and civil rights, the owner decided to put his prized possession up for bids, with all proceeds to be donated to the venerable SPLC to continue the work it began in the 1960s during our nation’s civil rights struggles.

The auction was conducted by Guernsey’s Auction House, which also oversaw the original Wolf auction two decades ago. In addition to the money raised by the sale of the guitar, the entire evening was a benefit with an incredible lineup of musicians organized by Joe Russo. Joe’s "Friends with Benefits" band featured, among many others, guitarists Scott Metzger, Neal Casal, Cass McCombs, John Scofield and Nels Cline; bassists Jon Shaw and Dave Dreiwitz; drummer Billy Martin, keyboardist Erik Deutsch and vocalist Alecia Chakour. None of the musicians were paid, and all tickets sales for the completely sold-out event were also donated to SPLC.

The evening was filled with Grateful Dead standards such as "Truckin’," "Eyes of the World," "China Cat Sunflower," and "The Music Never Stopped" sprinkled with selections from Garcia’s solo efforts. The auction took place after a blistering opening set, and as the audience was still processing the $1.9 million winning bid, the band returned to the stage and went into the Dead’s "Help On The Way." We certainly hope it is.


photos by Lou Montesano

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