On 14th October 2021, Sotheby’s presented an auction plucked straight from the wildest dreams of any Grateful Dead fan. Titled From the Vault: Property from the Grateful Dead and Friends, it featured 228 items consigned from the collections of Grateful Dead Productions and their inner circle. It featured stage equipment from all eras of Dead tours, including one of Garcia's handwritten rehearsal set-lists, a harmonica and holder played by Bob Dylan on tour with the Dead, plus surviving components from the legendary Wall of Sound, powered by McIntosh amplifiers.
But the prize lot at the auction was number 36, Jerry Garcia's personal McIntosh MC2300 solid-state, 300W-per-channel stereo power amplifier from the Wall of Sound. This particular McIntosh amp was affectionately known as 'Budman,' owing to the fact that at some point, Ram Rod (aka Laurence Shurtliff, Dead mainstay, crew member and roadie) stuck that Budweiser Budman sticker on it to make it instantly recognisable as Jerry’s.
Crew member "Big" Steve Parish said, "Jerry played through Fender Twins and they were loud, but everyone always wanted to be louder for the big gig, especially outdoors. Dan Healy figured out how to take a line out from Jerry’s guitar amp, first into a McIntosh 350 tube amp during the early Wall of Sound set up. When the MC2300 power amp came out we bought 70 of them, and put them throughout the system, but this is the one that Jerry liked the best and he played through it for years. It really made that Twin sound huge and became part of his signature tone at the time."
The Budman MC2300 sold for $378,000 (opens in new tab) at Sotheby's, despite a guide price of just $5000 - $7000. For reference, the auction featured seven other MC2300s (which McIntosh built and sold from 1971-1980 only) from the Wall of Sound that sold for between $25,200 and $94,500 each.
Sotheby's added, "Budman was essential to Garcia’s sound and became an icon in and of itself. The Grateful Dead’s commitment to playing live with the best sound possible led them to using audiophile, rather than commercial, sound equipment. The legendary build quality and low distortion of McIntosh fulfilled both the sonic and roadworthy requirements."
For one lucky Dead fan, those glorious, road-weathered McIntosh aluminium side rails and front plate will certainly add a Touch of Grey to their music, and the included Grateful Dead tour case will doubtless come in handy for Truckin'...
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