Tuesday, June 06, 2006

More on Vince

From the New York Times:

Vince Welnick, Grateful Dead Keyboard Player, Is Dead

LOS ANGELES, June 4 (AP) — Vince Welnick, the Grateful Dead's last keyboard player and a veteran of other bands, including the Tubes and Missing Man Formation, died on Friday. His age was given in various sources as 51 or 55, and he lived in Forestville, Calif.

Dennis McNally, the Grateful Dead's longtime publicist, confirmed his death but would not release the cause or the location. The Sonoma County coroner's office said an autopsy would be performed.

With long, frizzy hair and tie-dyed clothes, Mr. Welnick clearly looked the part of a member of a band born in 1965 in San Francisco, then the cradle of the country's emerging psychedelic counterculture. But he was largely unfamiliar with the Grateful Dead's music when he joined in 1990. Years later he recalled that he was so nervous he could barely play at his first show, in Cleveland, but was quickly put at ease when the audience gave him a warm welcome.

The Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart recalled Mr. Welnick as not only a nimble keyboard player but also a fine background singer whose vocals added much to the group's songs. "He had this real high harmony," Mr. Hart said. "He could go where others couldn't."

Mr. Welnick grew up in Phoenix and moved to San Francisco in the early 1970's with a band called the Beans, which soon renamed itself the Tubes. After the group temporarily disbanded in the mid-80's, he worked with Todd Rundgren before joining the Grateful Dead.

He was the last in a long line of Grateful Dead keyboardists, several of whom died at early ages, leading some of the group's fans to conclude that the position came with a curse. He replaced Brent Mydland, who died of a drug overdose in 1990.

The band retired the name Grateful Dead and quit touring after its lead guitarist, Jerry Garcia, died in 1995. In the years that followed, the group's other longtime members have occasionally toured as the Other Ones or the Dead.

Mr. Welnick, who formed his own group, Missing Man Formation, occasionally went on the road and had been scheduled to perform this month.
He is survived by his wife, Lori.

From VinceWelnick.com:

Goodbye my friend......
Posted: 02.06.2006, 20:31

Site Admin
registered: Aug. 2004Posts: 89 Status: online

Vince Welnick is gone. He was the sweetest human I have ever known. Kind, generous, funny and warm hearted. He was my friend. He was talented, so fucking talented. I was lucky to know him. So, damned lucky to know him and Lori. God bless you, Lori. I'm so, so sorry. Vince never got over the cruel way that the Grateful Dead band members treated him after Jerry died. He never got over the sorrow of losing Jerry, facing his own demons without his friend and could not understand how the remaining fellow band-members treated him like shit the past several years. I cannot possibly describe to you the hurt and anguish he felt when "The Dead" decided to have a "Family Reunion of the SURVIVING MEMBERS" of Grateful Dead, a band that he was no mere sideman for its last five years, but a full member of by order of Jerry Garcia. How damned insulting was it to have a "surviving members family reunion" and not invite your new brother? He was the proverbial red-headed step-child to them. Did it occur to you how that hurt him, Bill, Bob, Phil, Mickey? The truth is that you selfish bastards did not care if it hurt him. He's a big boy, he just had to get over it, right? I remember seeing Todd Rundgren at the "Walk Down Abbey Road" show in Concord, CA around the same time when that "Family Reunion" was booked. He asked how Vince was, and I told him about this "family reunion" concert of SURVIVING MEMBERS and how Vince was specifically not invited, but in fact was playing a gig at a campground not far from the show. Todd said, "Uh, Vince isn't dead, isn't he a surviving member?" He got the irony. I got the irony, but I also saw the hurt like none of you can believe. Vince kept a brave face about it, trying to remain cheerful, hoping that somehow, someday the tide would turn, the phone would ring and it would be Bob Weir calling him. Calling just to say, "How are you, Vinny?" Something. Anything. I am certain that Jerry would have been completely disgusted with the terrible, cruel and despicable way that Vince was treated by the band, the management, etc. following his death. The lack of compassion displayed toward him, the ostracizing he felt burned and hurt Vince very deeply. He was a sensitive, sweet soul. He just couldn't handle the rejection. He and I spent hours and hours talking about these things, trying to get the demons out, which led to him pouring out his heart when that show happened, right on this website. I told Vince to get his story out, tell everybody what happened on that Ratdog bus, tell them everything. Tell them how Bob and Ratdog sent him, having overdosed on the tour bus, to a hospital alone in the back of a taxi cab, without a friend in site, and had him checked in as John Doe, while they played the show anyway. Tell them, Vince how you were despondent over facing life-threatening cancer, a simultaneous diagnosis of Emphysema, and instead of staying home to try to heal and get immediate surgery, how you chose to give the fans the ill-fated summer 95 Dead tour. Tell them how nobody in the band even acknowledged, though they damned well knew, that Vince was very sick. Tell them Vince, I said, how you didn't want to let the fans and the band down, and how eery it was on the tour knowing all these people who were your "friends" never asked how you were while on the road or even stepped aside with you to acknowledge that struggle you were facing. Tell everyone, Vince, how when you returned from the road, and Jerry was dead, how you were flung into the hell of depression facing lung disease, cancer and now your friend dying, and how you saw your world crash around you ever more when months later the band unceremoniously announced it was over. Tell them Vince, tell everyone and get the demons out.Even more amazing than the band being cold to him, I could never understand why so-called "dead heads" and "fans" spent hours coming into this site and fucking with Vince, taunting him, posting evil, nasty lies about him. I finally had to turn this into a registration-only website to help shield my friend from the cruelness that some people took sport in on the message boards. Vince could take a joke, he could take a lot, but he finally couldn't take any more.I had long, heart to heart talks with him for months before he told some of that story to you here, though not even close to all that detail. Vince didn't want to hurt the other guys, he just fucking wanted to play with them. Do you hear me, Phil? Do you hear me, Mickey? Do you hear me, Bobby? Do you hear me, Bill? That's all he fucking wanted, was to play music with you guys. He loved you and you fucking treated him like shit. To see your "heartfelt" message on Dead.net today sickens me to no end, you fucking bunch of lying hypocrites. There is nothing left to hold back on now. Is it so hard to return the man's phone calls? Is it so hard to understand what he went through back then and how far he had come since that dreadful night on that Ratdog bus? Where is the love? Where is the compassion? Hippy love? Bull-fucking-shit. You guys could have been nice to him, invited him along, not made him feel like an ass and like he was bugging you if he called. Are you happy, Cameron? Are you? Go fuck yourself.

From Mercury News:

Brad Kava

I wanted to write a memorium for keyboard player Vince Welnick, and then came across this powerful eulogy written by Mike Lawson, the guy who ran Vince's website.Every deadhead past and present should read this, and I'll be surprised if you don't shed a tear.

There were things in there I didn't know, but make sense now. He was battling cancer, emphysema, depression and the cold shoulder from his bandmates. He was ignored after an overdose (as if all these other guys didn't have their drug issues!) and cut out of playing with Bob Weir. He was playing at a campgrounds while the rest of the supposedly "living" Dead members had a reunion in Berkeley (to which they also didn't invite Phil Lesh).

These guys made some of the most beautiful, heartfelt music ever, but that doesn't mean they were particularly nice guys, especially to each other. I'll try to post some Vince interviews I did later this week.
A couple of short memories: I was interviewing Vince in Arizona in the early 90s in the trailer he shared before gigs with Mickey Hart.

Hart was practicing his drumming by pounding on the common wall they shared....at a damn near deafening level. I said to Vince, "Can't you ask him to stop?"

Vince shrugged and said he couldn't, implying that his grip in the band was always tenuous, even though he was made a full member by Jerry Garcia.

"Let's just talk outside," he said.

That's when I learned just how far all that peace and love tripe that some of these guys professed went.

I thought it was touching that Vince met his wife on Highway 17 between Santa Cruz and Los Gatos at the hotdog stand there.

He talked to me about battling depression, and it seemed impossible that such a gentle, considerate and open soul could suffer the way he described. I was still idealistic enough then to think that his musical ability should be enough to overcome the overwhelming black feelings he had to fight.

Later, I did an interview with him for the Wall of Sound website, where he expressed some resentment at not being asked to participate in post Dead reunions. He later claimed not to have said some of the things he said, but I had the interview on tape.

If he had asked me not to print it, I would have held it back, but he didn't. I think he just didn't realize how negative he sounded until he saw it in print. He always hoped they'd take him back one day, I think, and was constantly disappointed.

I always liked his playing and singing, and the way he pushed the later-day Dead into more melodic songs like "Row Jimmy Row." Obviously Garcia respected him, making him a real member.
I'ts sad that the rest of the band didn't give him the same respect.

From San Francisco Chronicle:

Vince Welnick -- musician in Tubes, the Dead - Carolyn Jones, Chronicle Staff Writer
Vince Welnick, a keyboardist who possessed a fluid and precise style and played with the Tubes, Todd Rundgren and the Grateful Dead, died Friday in Sonoma County at the age of 55.
The cause appears to be suicide, Sonoma County sheriff's department said.

Mr. Welnick, whom friends called a gentle and sensitive man, was classically trained and spent hours practicing each day. Although he was a member of the Dead for just five years, until the band folded after the death of guitarist Jerry Garcia, he left an indelible mark on his bandmates.
"He was a good soul, a very sweet guy," said band spokesman Dennis McNally. "He was also an exceptionally competent keyboardist."

In a statement posted on its Web site, the band said, "His service to and love for the Grateful Dead were heartfelt and essential. He had a loving soul and a joy in music that we were lucky to share. Our Grateful Dead prayer for the repose of his spirit: May the four winds blow him safely home."

Mr. Welnick was born in Phoenix, where he started playing piano as a kid. He and friends put together a garage band called the Beans, which became the Tubes when they moved to San Francisco in 1969.

"Thank God for rock 'n' roll, because it was a place for all us skinny artistic kids to go when it was 115 degrees outside and we didn't fit in anywhere else," said Michael Cotten, a member of the Tubes who designed many of the band's album covers and elaborate stage shows.
The Tubes toured constantly, and their rowdy antics and energetic shows -- which integrated rock music, video technology and outlandish costumes and sets -- earned them a devoted following. The band recorded more than a dozen albums and scored hits with "White Punks on Dope" in 1975 and "Talk to Ya Later" in 1981.

"It was an amazing time. We played everywhere, and I don't think Vince ever missed a show," said Tubes vocalist Fee Waybill. "But even with all the success, we were still a hippie band from San Francisco. We all lived together, traveled on the same bus, shared everything."
Throughout his time with the Tubes, Mr. Welnick also played with Todd Rundgren.
Mr. Welnick auditioned for the Dead in 1990 after keyboardist Brent Mydland died of a drug overdose. He was among a handful of musicians who sought the job, and he immediately impressed the band.

"He just magically appeared, and he had the attributes they were looking for," McNally said.
Mr. Welnick cherished his years with the Dead and thoroughly appreciated both the tradition and hoopla of Deadhead lore and of the band, McNally said.

His soulful, high harmony vocals and classical training were a good fit for the band, and his "moment to shine" came whenever the band played the Who classic "Baba O'Riley," which begins with an instantly recognizable keyboard passage, McNally said.

It "opens with one of the most amazing riffs in rock 'n' roll," he said. "Vince was great at that."
Mr. Welnick was devoted to his craft and spent hours a day practicing for most of his life, friends said. He was especially proud of his Boesendorfer piano, which is the piano equivalent to a Stradivarius violin.

"His fingers just flew on that thing," Cotten said.

Mr. Welnick was close to Garcia, and when the guitarist died of a heart attack in 1995, Mr. Welnick fell into a deep depression.

"He was extremely shattered by Jerry's death and was very frank about it," McNally said.
Still, Mr. Welnick continued to perform and write. He formed the band Missing Man Formation and performed with Ratdog, a band featuring Dead guitarist Bob Weir and bassist Rob Wasserman.

One of the highpoints of his post-Dead career came in April 2005 when the Tubes had an impromptu reunion at the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz.

Five of the original members were playing, and Waybill invited other alumni. They all wound up onstage, playing together.

"It was amazing, like walking on air," said Cotten, who is working on a Tubes documentary.
"The place was packed. People went nuts," Waybill said. "It was a great, great night. Vince was always up for things like that. He was really excited about playing with the Tubes again."
And so it was that Mr. Welnick's death came as such a shock.

"A few of us were just talking about Vince today and about the incredible music he brought us," Cotten said. "What they call chops, that's what Vince had. That's what we want to remember."
Mr. Welnick's death is the latest in a string of recent tragedies for the Dead. Three other members of the band's extended family have died since May 17 -- crew member Lawrence "Ram Rod" Shurtliff, drummer Hamza El-Din and road manager Jonathan Riester.

He also is the fourth of the band's five keyboardists to die, after Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, Keith Godchaux and Mydland.

"It's not a happy history," McNally said. "Each one of these guys had a fragility, which isn't that uncommon for musicians."

Mr. Welnick is survived by his wife, Lori Welnick.

P.S. I've been having trouble uploading pictures to Blogspot regardless of the comuter I'm trying to do it from. Hopefully this will be fixed soon...


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