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Saturday, June 03, 2006  

Grateful Dead keyboard player Vince Welnick dies
By Sara Wykes
Mercury News
Vince Welnick, 55, who played keyboards with the Grateful Dead for five years before the death of band founder Jerry Garcia, died Friday.

Sonoma County sheriffs said he was taken, injured, from his home in rural Forestville near Santa Rosa, to a local hospital.

He died there, police said.

An unofficial spokesman at the Welnick home said, ``It looks like he took his own life.'' But that is not known for sure, he said. ``The family is very grieved, and trying to figure it all out.''

Welnick arrived in San Francisco in 1971 from his hometown of Phoenix, Ariz., already a keyboardist with a group called the Beans. The Beans became the Tubes and in 1983 their song ``She's a Beauty'' was a hit.

Welnick played with Todd Rundgren after the Tubes broke up, and in 1990, was invited to try out for the Dead.

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. At his first concert with the band, a sound man jumped on his piano seat to test his microphone and broke the seat into 100 hundred pieces, Welnick said.

``I was somewhat paralyzed playing at first. I remember . . . thinking to myself: `Come on fingers, let's get unstuck. Let's get loose here.' Then I heard this ripple in the audience and there was a kid who yelled, `Welcome Brother Vince!' and there were stickers that said, `Yo Vinnie' stuck to the side of my keyboard. The crowd was very forgiving.''

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.

As a member of the Dead, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

He was scheduled to play the House of Blues in Chicago later this month, according to a Web site devoted to his career.

posted by the Editor | 3:09 PM
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