CRIPE, STEVE
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CRIPE, STEVE
Instruments previously built in Trilby, FL between 1990 and 1996.
Although he is best known for building the Lightning Bolt and Top Hat guitars for Jerry Garcia, Stephen R. Cripe also built a number of guitars for other players across the country. A self-taught luthier, Cripe's guitar designs were based on photos and video footage of Jerry Garcia's performances, not actual guitar templates.
Steve Cripe was born and raised in southern Michigan, and spent his high school years in Elkhart, Indiana. In 1972, he moved with his parents to Marathon, Florida and purchased a boat for his living quarters. After developing his talents fixing up his boat, he turned to hand-building ornate wood interiors for sailboats.
In 1983, Cripe moved to North Carolina for a year, then later to Miami, FL. While continuing to work on boats, he began to study guitars and their construction. Cripe started hand building guitars in 1990 mainly to learn to play, but found he enjoyed building them instead. Cripe selected and used exotic woods in his guitar building, and always finished them naturally (adding no stain or color).
A self-described Dead Head, Cripe studied photographs and videos of Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead). Inspired by the Doug Irwin-built model that Garcia played, Cripe decided to create his own guitar for Garcia. "I figured that the building of the instrument would be easy, but getting it to him would be a challenge," Cripe said, "Once the guitar was finished, I contacted numerous music magazines requesting an address to which to send the guitar. No such luck."
Through a series of intermediaries, Cripe sent the guitar to Garcia. After five weeks of waiting, Cripe received a message on his answering machine that Garcia was fiddling around with the guitar and was intrigued by it. A relationship developed between Cripe and Garcia, and Cripe began building a few more guitars for him. After completing the Top Hat-named guitar, Cripe shipped it to Garcia. Garcia began playing it immediately, and continued using them up until his death.
Steve Cripe completed commissions for a number of anxious buyers, and found time to build a new workshop for guitar production. Unfortunately, Cripe died in a devastating explosion in his workshop on June 18, 1996. Source: Hal Hammer.

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