The ownership of five guitars belonging to the late Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia is now in dispute in a California court. Custom guitar-maker Douglas Irwin filed a petition in Marin County Supe

The ownership of five guitars belonging to the late Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia is now in dispute in a California court. Custom guitar-maker Douglas Irwin filed a petition in Marin County Superior Court on Wednesday seeking a ruling that he is the rightful owner of the guitars he built for the late musician. Garcia left the guitars to Irwin in his will.

However, Grateful Dead Productions, Inc., claims it, not Garcia, owns the instruments, Irwin's attorneys say. Grateful Dead Productions is the corporate entity that is all that remains of the legendary rock group led by Garcia from the 1960s to the mid-1990s.

"This is the first I've heard about it," Dennis McNally, spokesman for Grateful Dead Productions, said yesterday (March 15). McNally said he could only confirm that Irwin made the guitars, later adding that the "Grateful Dead has no comment." The company apparently turned one guitar, the "Wolf," over to the probate administrator of Garcia's estate recently, but withheld the rest, claiming that Garcia used some company checks to make payments on the guitars.

The company says the guitars are band property and that Garcia had no right to will them away, Irwin's attorneys say. "The Grateful Dead company's claim to the guitars is bogus through and through," Irwin said. "I made those guitars specially for Jerry. He commissioned them personally and he took money out of his own pockets to pay me.

"These were Jerry's guitars. Nobody -- Grateful Dead band members or otherwise -- would ever have told Jerry Garcia during his lifetime that these weren't his guitars."

A hearing has been scheduled for April 23. Garcia's estate is not opposing the petition and has indicated it will turn the "Wolf" over to Irwin following a court decision to that effect.

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