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The Jinxed Keyboard Player--No. 4, RIP

Time to reach out and link arms with NLT Troll Fung (aka, FMG, "Fung the Moral Giant") over the passing of Vince Welnick, the fourth key boardist for a certain California rock and roll band of repute (though their website is odd right now, even for them). I thought Welnick was a better keyboard player and vocalist than the band’s Number 3 keyboard player, who died, naturally unnaturally, of a drug overdose in 1991.

That was more flamboyant than Keyboard player Number 2, who was the best of the four, and who died in a car crash in 1980. Keyboard Player Number 1 died of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage in 1972 (yeah--sure he did).

I always thought the "jinx" of Grateful Dead keyboard players was the inspiration for the exploding drummers in This Is Spinal Tap, one of the greatest film satires ever made. (Too bad Rob Reiner can’t spoof himself; there’s so much material to work with. Oh, wait. . .)

Anyway, if you’re in the market for some good free live tracks, see this site, which offers MP3s from 46 different shows, from the late 1960s through to the last tour in 1995.

Discussions - 12 Comments

Steven! I have not visited NLT in quite a few days, due to a change in rhythms: summer sessions, lawn mowing, boxing matches (kids), and getting ready for a sabbatical. I was very happy for the chance you’ve offered to share a few moments over the passing of yet another GD keyboarder.

A few times, recently, Bruce Hornsby has played with the Dead in our area, and others, I expect. Bruce is another favorite of ours, though his more recent cds have been disappointing.

Also recently, I took both sons to a Styx/Foreigner concert which the cynical predicted would be embarrassing, and which was instead TONS of fun!

Cheers, and party on.

Yes, I pointedly left Bruce Hornsby out of the rotation, hoping that he’s not included in the jinx. I saw several of the 1991 summer tour shows where he sat in. (They were some of the best shows in several years.) I also sat next to Hornsby on a flight from Seattle to Washington (he lives in Virginia) back in 1999, and he gave me a lot of the inside scoop on how Bob Weir and Phil Lesh don’t get along very well, etc. We also talked politics--he was big for Bill Bradley in 2000.

Styx and Foreigner? I had thought both of them were across the River Styx by now.

Actually, though only two keyboardists had died by the time This is Spinal Tap was made in 1984 (actually, even a little earlier, it took a while to decide how to release such an oddball comedy). Maybe two was enough to inspire the gag, but it seems doubtful to me.

Judas Priest were supposedly on drummer #7 at the time Spinal Tap was filmed, and AC DC were on drummer #4. John Bonham and king of drum awesomeness Keith Moon, the two most famous drummers in rock, had both gone the way of all percussionists when Spinal Tap was released. Strangest of all, Toto’s drummer actually did die as a result of misapplication of herbicide right after the film came out! A bizzare gardening accident!! All this aside, I’m pretty sure all the keyboardists from the Dead have inspired is boredom.

"The Meaning of life is sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, but if I didn’t have rock-n-roll,the, you know, sex and drugs would be enough"


-Mick Shrimptom, Drummer for Spinal Tap 1977-1982, (died in on-stage explosion).

R.I.P., Mr. Welnick

I was always a bigger fan of Mydland, for vocals alone. But Vince, his generally stiff songwriting notwithstanding, was one heckuva musician.

Check out, especially, the "fiddle" he plays during Jack-A-Roe, 6/14/91.

For a completely wonderful evening of Vince’s music, I recommend 2/14/04 - an evening billed as the "Valentines". Weir sat in, and (debuted?) the Talking Heads standard "Take me to the River". The amazing thing, though, is Vince -- amazing vocals during the opening Cream Puff War. This choice seem especially poignant, as this was the same day that the (Black?) Widow Koons married Jerry Garcia.

Reports have it that Vince, a close friend of Garcia, sunk into a deep depression upon the frontman’s passing. Add this to this mix, and the conspiracy just begs for both Michael Moore and Oliver Stone to intervene!

Actually, Bonham’s son played drums for Foreigner, when we saw them, recently. My older son has plans to see Judas Priest in a few weeks, too. I’ll pass on that one.

A brush with greatness, and a talk with Bruce Hornsby! I am jealous.

On the other hand, I can honestly claim to have been on stage with the Dead, in 1977. I worked security for a concert, and I was placed in the "snowball’s chance" position between the crowd and the stage. As the concert progressed, we were moved closer and closer to the stage, until I actually sat on the stage, between Jerry and Donna. No one asked me to play, or to sing.

Vine was the least best I thought. I was always much more of a Brent fan than a Vince fan. Interestingly, it seems each keyboardist seemed to herald a slightly new direction or energy for the band. In PigPen’s day the band was either straight forwardR&B with PigPen in the lead (Good Lovin’, Hard to Handle, etc.) or completely cosmic, where he kind of shuffled off to the side (Cryptical/Other One, Dark Star). With Keith Godchaux you got the lyrical piano elisions that leant itself very well to stalwarts like Scarlet Begonias and the western tragedy songs (Jack Straw, for instance), and improved older tunes like, say China Cat Suunflower. Brent brought much-needed depth of sound with his organ playing, and his vocals made up for Donna Godchaux’s incresingly shrill yelps -- two for the price of one -- and he was there during their ascendency in the ’80s. To me Vince was good b/c he brought the band some much-needed energy after the stagnating time following Garcia’s coma and prior to Mydland’s death. In particular, it seems he helped them intro a few new covers like Baba O’Reilly, Rain and Lucy in the Sky. But his voice became shrill to me by the end of the band’s run. I also have the feeling that in the last 10 years the remainig band members kind of seperated themselves from him for some reason. Anyway, RIP Vince.

None compare to Pigpen! Remember the days of trotting a great one" out to Darkstar?

Although Bruce has been a great add on -I’d rate #2 in the list.

On the other hand, I can honestly claim to have been on stage with the Dead, in 1977. I worked security for a concert, and I was placed in the "snowball’s chance" position between the crowd and the stage. As the concert progressed, we were moved closer and closer to the stage, until I actually sat on the stage, between Jerry and Donna. No one asked me to play, or to sing.

Play or sing...who cares? The real question, FMG, is did they let you share the "love grass?" I can’t imagine being at a Dead concert without a bit of herbal enhancement :)

Hey man, that security gig was serious, you know? I was never offered anything by the band, who did a good job ignoring me.

I DID have to deal with concert-goers who believed that they could somehow get "through" be if they danced continuously.

I just read that Billy Preson died! What is going on??? Keith Richards falls out of a cocoanut tree, and he is fine, but we are down to two Beatles, no Dead keyboarders, and now Billy Preston is gone.

Damn! That "Will it Go Round in Circles" was a fine song. He couldn’t have been that old...bummer.

Thank God Merle Haggard is still alive and kicking (69 and still going strong). Must be something about not smoking marijuana or doing LSD...

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