Jerry Garcia's famous Wolf guitar sold at auction for over $1.9 million on Wednesday. "Wolfie" was Garcia's go-to instrument for over two decades. The Grateful Dead singer-guitarist first played the instrument during a 1973 show for the Hell's Angels in New York City.
Brian Halligan, an executive of software company HubSpot and an avid Deadhead purchased the guitar at an auction to benefit the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) at New York's Brooklyn Bowl. Halligan's bid was also matched with a $1.6 million donation, raising $3.2 million total for the SPLC. The $1.9 million price Halligan paid included a $300,00 buyer's premium.
"The Grateful Dead's business model was rattling around in my head while we were coming up with the idea for my company, HubSpot," Halligan says. "They were the original inbound marketers, they did social media marketing before there was social media, and they essentially invented the freemium distribution model."
Halligan says he'll keep the guitar in his Boston home, but adds, "I think it is best served by being played, so I plan to do so. I plan to lend it out to the Garcia family whenever they want it."
Wolf's previous owner was Daniel Pritzker, a philanthropist, musician and filmmaker, who originally purchased the guitar anonymously in 2002 for $790,000. At the time, it was the highest bid for a guitar in history.
Wolf was the first of several instruments that Doug Irwin designed for Garcia. The musician, however, made his own modification to the guitar's unique purple heart and curly maple body, affixing a sticker of a cartoon wolf below the bridge. Wolf prominently featured in the 1977 concert film The Grateful Dead Movie, which Garcia directed. Garcia last played the guitar with the Grateful Dead at the Oakland Coliseum February 23rd, 1993.