Steve Cripe (1953-1996)
Photo Courtesy of Pat O’Donnell, Resurrection Guitars
Steve Cripe left his legacy in the annals of music history. Not as a musician, but rather as a self-taught luthier who built the guitar that Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead played as his primary instrument for the last two years of his life.
Sculpting exotic woods with natural finishes into a musical instrument was a natural extension of his skills as a craftsman. Before turning to guitar making, he sailed the Caribbean for years, detailing boats with the same woods he would later use to create fine instruments.
Cripe’s logo, a mother-of-pearl inlay on the headstock of Garcia’s “Lightning Bolt” guitar, symbolized yet another passion in his life, manufacturing custom fireworks. Tragically, an accidental explosion took Cripe’s life in 1996.
I never had the pleasure of meeting Steve Cripe in person, but I feel as if I knew him: he shared with me and so many others his passion, artistry, and vision, imbued in the beautiful guitars he crafted. Those guitars still sing, carrying Cripe’s voice with every note.
This site documents my efforts to learn about this talented, visionary luthier. Many people who knew Steve and who treasure his work have graciously consented to be interviewed, and I am still learning of others. If you are one of them, please let me hear from you. Here is what I known so far.
— April 2009
Next: Early Years