June 3, 2006 9:55 AM   Subscribe

posted by loquacious at 10:02 AM on June 3, 2006

I'm still in mourning for Jerry... and now this. Sad day.
posted by Corky at 10:07 AM on June 3, 2006

aww, Sad about Vince, he was only 55, ``It looks like he took his own life.' His site.

Welnick told an interviewer with the Vermont Review that the tryout was exciting. Before he played, the band sent him tapes and CDs, but he didn't have a CD player. He practiced in the hayloft of his barn and then waited for two weeks before he heard he was in.

``That fact that I screamed a lot as a child paid off and got me into the Grateful Dead,' he told the paper.

Welnick had previously spoken of a deep depression...

Welnick is the fourth keyboard player for the band to have died

He told the interviewer that he'd never seen the likes of such music, friendship and spirit and did not know if he ever would again.

May he rest in peace.
posted by nickyskye at 10:19 AM on June 3, 2006

I was present at his first show with the band post Brent. Cleveland, some year in the past. Upon the opening of the second set, the audience, or at least some of them, began singing something in tribute to Brent. Knocking on Heaven's Door or something. I don't remember. Then again, I don't really listen to the band anymore either. Haven't for years. But I'll send my half-memory of that tribute song, whatever it was, to Vince now.

This does bring to mind Spinal Tap and drummers though.
posted by Sir BoBoMonkey Pooflinger Esquire III at 10:33 AM on June 3, 2006

From the looks of those pictures, he did a lot of living in 55 years.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:36 AM on June 3, 2006

posted by digaman at 10:36 AM on June 3, 2006

posted by muckster at 10:41 AM on June 3, 2006

posted by the Real Dan at 10:43 AM on June 3, 2006

Hang myself when I get enough rope
Can't clean up, though I know I should
White punks on dope
White punks on dope
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:52 AM on June 3, 2006

Spanish lady come to me, she lays on me this rose.
It rainbow spirals round and round,
It trembles and explodes
It left a smoking crater of my mind,
I like to blow away.
But the heat came round and busted me
For smilin' on a cloudy day.

posted by Smart Dalek at 11:52 AM on June 3, 2006

This does bring to mind Spinal Tap and drummers though.

No kidding. Are we sure he didn't spontaneously combust?
posted by kgasmart at 12:00 PM on June 3, 2006

posted by terrapin at 12:03 PM on June 3, 2006

posted by wheelieman at 12:04 PM on June 3, 2006

That's terrible... I had the good fortune to see him perform live numerous times with the Grateful Dead. 55 is too early to check out. What a sad day.

Similar to the keyboardist before him (Brent Mydland), Vince was plagued by the 'new guy' syndrome within the Grateful Dead family. It sounds like they were really tough on 'new' guys within their organization - this definately spells it out:


serious rant by site administrator, mike lawson, from vince's site:

Goodbye my friend......
mikelawson Posted: 02.06.2006, 20:31
Site Admin

registered: Aug. 2004
Posts: 42

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 brother? 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 Rundgen 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 in the back of a taxi cab, without a friend in site, and had him checked in as John Doe, and 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.
posted by weezy at 12:07 PM on June 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

Rest in peace Vince.

Here is a touching video of Vince, Jerry and Bobby singing the national anthem at Candlestick Park on April 12th, 1993:

posted by hex1848 at 12:17 PM on June 3, 2006


(forgot to make link active)
posted by hex1848 at 12:19 PM on June 3, 2006

Yes, it's a serious rant. It also only presents one narrow view of events, from the point of view of one of Vince's friends. There are other legitimate views of what happened, though they won't be posted on public sites.

A close friend of mine committed suicide three years ago. I'm sure each of his friends could write serious rants to the guy's parents, former employers, exes, and whatnot. Certainly, everyone who loved the guy, as I did, went through a deeply serious period of soul-searching after he jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. But ultimately, suicide is a very personal decision, and laundry lists of supposed affronts to the person who decided to off themselves will only go so far in determining the truth.

Message to potential suicides: Go ahead, if you feel it's necessary. But understand that everything that follows what you do will be much easier on you that it is to the people who are most important to you.
posted by digaman at 12:45 PM on June 3, 2006

bummer. the tubes used to order in pizza from a buddy's store whenever they hit this area, so i had the distinct pleasure of hanging out with vince, fee waybill and roger steen a few times. once they gave us all "all area access" passes to thier show at wings stadium. we sat on couches and passed joints after the show. regular people, no rock star attitude in any of them, and i was thrilled when vince took up the dead gig.
posted by quonsar at 1:02 PM on June 3, 2006

Bummer. I saw the Dead with Brent many times, with Vince and when it was Vince and Bruce on keys together.

Vince was a worthy member of the Band. He brought a lot to the shows. I thank him. RIP.
posted by mmahaffie at 1:18 PM on June 3, 2006

Vince wasn't rejected by the surviving band members because of some arbitrary dislike of him. He was rejected because he was a junky. It is horribly sad that he killed himself, but I don't think it is fair to characterize the actions of the Grateful Dead organization as callous or cruel. If anyone understands the problems that come from coddling a junky it is Grateful Dead organization.

posted by aburd at 1:19 PM on June 3, 2006

I've heard rumors that it was Vince who got Jerry back into heroin after Jerry had allegedly quit. Of course, I doubt that it took much arm-twisting to get Garcia to do smack again. Still, I could see how the band members, not wanting to see fault in their leader, would blame his problems on "the new guy."

This is sad. Nobody should kill themselves. Nobody should die at 55.

posted by Afroblanco at 1:39 PM on June 3, 2006

[from the link]: Scott Larned, cofounder and keyboard player for the nationally-touring Grateful Dead tribute band Dark Star Orchestra, died last year of a heart attack.

What a long strange trip it is indeed, if now even the keyboard players in the tribute bands are dying off.
posted by LeLiLo at 2:01 PM on June 3, 2006

"Tell them how Bob and Ratdog sent him, having overdosed on the tour bus, to a hospital in the back of a taxi cab"

I don't pretend to know the other side of the story here, but it sounds like some painful memories I have of former friends who couldn't get their shit together no matter how many breaks came along. I hope the poor guy has found some peace now, but speaking ill of others isn't the best way to remember him.
posted by 2sheets at 2:03 PM on June 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

Back in 1998, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Bruce Hornsby, who planned to give a solo performance instead of getting up to speak after Washington College awarded him an honorary degree. Bruce Hornsby and the Range played many dates with the Dead, and Hornsby was a natural choice for replacement keyboard player after Brent Mydland died.

From the interview:

emelenjr: Knowing the history of the keyboard players in the Grateful Dead...

BH: Oh, the keyboard curse? Oh, I know. Musician magazine said something like, "Bruce Hornsby had better watch his ass." No, I never thought once about it. Hey, Vince [Welnick, final keyboard player for the Grateful Dead] is still with us! So it was just about helping out some guys who were going through a tough time.

emelenjr: How did you get involved in that?

BH: A lot of people don't realize we opened for the Dead about 10 times before I started playing with them. They asked us to open for them in 1987. Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh were big fans of our first record, "The Way It Is." The first album was really successful, and we had to become headliners on one record, on nine songs. That only lasts for about an hour, so somebody coming to see a headliner would think they're getting shortchanged. We liked to play for a long time anyway, so we had to flesh out our set with covers. We did a Dead song, (well, it's an old folk song,) "I Know You Rider." And then we did "When I Paint My Masterpiece" an old Bob Dylan song the Dead also played. We played it like the old Band version, you know, Levon Helm and those guys. But Deadheads, they think of "When I Paint My Masterpiece" as a Dead song. So the Dead heard we were playing a couple of their tunes, and they were interested anyway, they liked our music, so they asked us to open for them in '87. So Ry Cooder and my band and the Dead played together for two days in May, 1987 in Monterey, California. And every year after that, they'd always ask us to open for them at two or three shows. And they asked me to sit in with them after we opened, and then I'd sit in a little more, and then I'd just show up sometimes if they were coming to L.A. where I lived. Garcia played on my third record, the first time Garcia hit the top 20, on a song called "Across the River."

emelenjr: Didn't he play on two of your albums?

BH: The last three, and actually he will have played on four because there's a sample of him.

emelenjr: That's what I was going to ask you, too. Is there any unreleased material?

BH: No, not unreleased. We just sampled on a great old Dead tune, "China Cat Sunflower." So he was on my last three, and he will be on my last four. I don't care if he's dead. He still gets to play. So anyway, that's how that happened. The rumor mill ran rampant when Brent [Mydland, whom Bruce temporarily replaced] died. Some guy on the street came up to me and said, "Hey Bruce, I hear you're going to join the Dead." It was unbelievable.

posted by emelenjr at 2:09 PM on June 3, 2006

Vince was in a terrible position with th Dead. It would have been hard enough trying to fill Brent's shoes, but then there was always the Hornsby thing. Th band invited Vince to be their new keyboardist, but Hornsby was around about half the time (especially at the beginning), and all the fans liked Hornsby's playing so much more, and the other bandmembers seemed to like rocking out with him more, too.

S there was always that question: will Hornsby be at this show/tour, and if the answer was no, it was "no, just Vince."

It must've been tough.
posted by alms at 2:37 PM on June 3, 2006

posted by alms at 2:37 PM on June 3, 2006

Does this mean Bruce won?
posted by sourwookie at 2:38 PM on June 3, 2006


I am very saddened by this news. I was very open to Vince when he stepped in. He had a pretty big pair of musical shoes to fill, and he seemed to do a good job with it. As a fan, I appreciated that he could actually sing! which was a huge plus for a group of guys who were great musicians but who's voices only seemed to get rougher with age. And he genuinely wanted to be there playing, which was more than you could say for the rest of the band post-1992. He had chops, and while he didn't soar as high as Brent he was a hell of a good utility player, and he kept the music moving as Jerry become more inconsistent. I am very sorry that he suffered so much, both in life and through the (reported) thoughtlessness of his fellow band members.

Rest in peace, Vince.
posted by mosk at 2:58 PM on June 3, 2006

I don't pretend to know the other side of the story here, but it sounds like some painful memories I have of former friends who couldn't get their shit together no matter how many breaks came along.

And not to suggest that Welnick "deserved" to be treated the way he was by the guys in the Dead, but I've got to think there was a reason they were so "cold" to him, inexcusable as it may ultimately have been.
posted by kgasmart at 3:22 PM on June 3, 2006

thanks for posting that video hex1848. did you notice that the submitter didn't even give Vince a tag on YouTube?

posted by pruner at 6:17 PM on June 3, 2006

I have to admit, I was one of those people who was far more interested in seeing Hornsby play. Vince always seemed to be sort of . . . there.

Then again, I've listened to some of those shows I attended (I was a the last shows in Chicago, actually) and they're not particularly good in any respect. That old joke about the Deadheads who realize the band sucks when they run out of dope? More or less accurate.

Some of those old shows with Pigpen, Tom Constanten (who's the longest surviving keyboardist - perhaps because he's a Scientologist) and Keith were really great though. I think there's a pile of tapes stashed away in my parents basement somewhere.

Anyway, it's sad to see an artist succumb to drugs and/or depression.
posted by aladfar at 8:02 PM on June 3, 2006

Vince always seemed to be sort of . . . there.

which is more than could be said for jerry some nights

but as late as '93, they could still have good nights ... and even after that there were moments ... but '95 was pretty rough

what happened to vince is very sad ... but somehow, i don't think it would have made much difference if the rest of the band had kept him closer
posted by pyramid termite at 8:24 PM on June 3, 2006

I got to see the Dead once, actually on a night that turned out to be their 50th appearance at the Philly Spectrum—I just happened to score an extra ticket from some friends who were going to the show. I never cared much for Vince's playing (or Brent's before him). I never knew anything about Vince's mental health or his habits. How sad.

At that solo Bruce Hornsby performance in my college auditorium (which I've never been able to track down online) I remember he played "Sugaree" to appease the Deadheads in the back.
posted by emelenjr at 9:37 PM on June 3, 2006

Vince and Lori are friends of ours; our son was even going to garden for them for a time and I'll never forget our daughter trying on some of Lori's shoe collection. This was mid/late 1980's. We hadn't seen much of them of late, the last time was at a Tippi Hedren fundraiser for her Shambala project that took place in Tomales last year. It pains me beyond belief that Vince has passed.
posted by Lynsey at 12:35 AM on June 4, 2006

I smell an anthology coming soon: Dick's Picks 1965-1995: 4 Dead Keyboardists.
Dick is what? Oh. Nevermind...
[Trivia: Vince also died in a bathroom in 1981]
posted by hal9k at 2:13 AM on June 4, 2006

What is Lori Welnick's "Shambala project"?
posted by digaman at 8:04 AM on June 4, 2006

How many Grateful Dead fans does it take to change a light bulb?

None, they let it burn out and then follow it around the country.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 5:18 PM on June 4, 2006

posted by fixedgear at 3:33 AM on June 5, 2006

posted by birdsong at 9:49 AM on June 5, 2006

Shambala is a project of Tippi's, not Lori. It is a rescue shelter for big cats. There are people who get a tiger, lion, panther, cheetah or whatever cub because they're "cute". Later, when it's a big, mean pussy, they abandon it or lock it in a small room or do something to them even worse. Tippi looks for those. There are some very sad stories to which she often adds happy endings.
posted by tonebarge at 9:57 AM on June 7, 2006

« Older Football is war.   |   Flash based Ikea catalog Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments