All photos via @JayBlakesbergPhotography on FB
Following the surprise appearance of Jerry Garcia’s “Wolf” guitar at Dead & Company’s Citi Field gig, famed photographer and longtime Grateful Dead associate Jay Blakesberg has shared his side of the story.
In a lengthy post, Blakesberg chronicles the years-long journey of getting Wolf into John Mayer’s hands. According to the photographer, Mayer was initially hesitant to play one of Garcia’s guitars (“I asked him if he wanted me to bring Wolf or Tiger to his dressing room to check out. He declined the offer.”) as well as the eventual “logistical hurdle” of borrowing the famed instrument from its current home at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Play It Loud” exhibit.
However, once Mayer started playing the guitar, Blakesberg could sense it was a cosmic moment.
“[When John] started to play Garcia licks, the room exploded with sound and color swirling in the air. It was a magical moment and we knew it,” Blakesberg says of being backstage at Citi Field. “…The guitar sang and screamed with LOVE from the first notes of St. Stephen played on that stage!”
After the show, Mayer was sure to mention Blakesberg alongside his onstage Wolf photos, writing, “Photo and making-it-all-possible credit: Jay Blakesberg.”
For more information on Jay Blakesberg visit his official website.
Read Blakesberg’s full recollection below:
August 4, 2017 at the Jerry Garcia 75th Birthday celebration at Red Rocks there were 4 of Jerry Garcia’s iconic guitars on hand. Wolf, Tiger, Rosebud, and the infamous 1977 played Travis Bean. I was lucky enough to photograph these 4 guitars together that day. John Mayer had a day off from his solo tour and rolled in to Colorado to sit in with Bob Weir and his band. John loves playing the music of the Grateful Dead so much and with the next Dead tour many months away, he couldn’t resist the opportunity to “check in”. After soundcheck, I asked him if he wanted me to bring Wolf or Tiger to his dressing room to check out. He declined the offer. I now know why…he just didn’t feel like he had earned that honor and privilege just yet. In late March, John reached out to me and said “this idea keeps happening to me, to play Wolf.” And then he asked me “do you think it would be appreciated by the Deadheads?”, and I immediately said ABSOLUTELY! There were some logistical issues involved. John was leaving for Australia in a few days for tour and he felt like he needed to try the guitar before he could commit to playing it in front of an audience of Deadheads. Wolf was also heading to the Met Museum a week later for the Rock and Roll Musical Instrument exhibit currently on display. My good friend David Meerman Scott has been the Wolf Handler since it was purchased at auction a few years earlier by Brian Halligan – David was my first call within minutes of getting off the phone with John. David, a longtime Deadhead was onboard to navigate the logistics on behalf of Brian. He told me Wolf happened to be in SF and we arranged for Wolf to immediately visit John for a day in Los Angeles. John was ecstatic after playing with it for 4-5 hours!!! Game on! Logistical hurdle #2 was getting the Met Museum to agree to letting it go for as many shows as John wanted to play it. John felt the easiest thing to do was to play it in NY ONLY since that’s where it would be living the next 6 months. I agreed since we all know how huge NYC has always been for the Grateful Dead! The perfect place for this to happen!! It arrived around 3pm at Citifield where John’s expert guitar tech restrung it. He had a small Fender Amp in his dressing room and the minute he plugged in and started to play Garcia licks, the room exploded with sound and color swirling in the air. It was a magical moment and we knew it. There was still talk to have the PRS guitar on stand-by just in case Wolf had any issues. We never knew if he would play it the whole show or just a few songs. The guitar sang and screamed with LOVE from the first notes of St. Stephen played on that stage! Wolf had truly come home! By the time the band got to the end of the second set you could see how the guitar and the player had become ONE and that last solo in Morning Dew took us all collectively – the band and the fans – to that special place where we all commune in the group mind and the energy flows freely from stage to audience and back again…and we all knew that everything is exactly the way it should be!! Truly epic night, and I know John is still flying high from the experience. ~ Jay Blakesberg