Vince Welnick (center) performing live in 2005
February 21, 1951|
Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.
|Died||June 2, 2006
Sonoma County, California
|Associated acts||The Tubes, Grateful Dead, Missing Man Formation, Mickey Hart Band, RatDog, Todd Rundgren, Second Sight|
Born in Phoenix, Arizona, as the great-grandson of Prussian immigrants, Welnick started playing keyboards as a teenager. He joined a band, the Beans, which eventually morphed into the Tubes, a San Francisco-based theater rock band popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s and noted for early live performances that combined lewd quasi-pornography with wild satires of media, consumerism and politics.
The Tubes in the 1980s were a major commercial rock act with substantial MTV success. Videos for "Talk to Ya Later" and "She's a Beauty" played in heavy rotation on MTV in the mid-1980s. While playing in the Tubes, Welnick also played and recorded with Todd Rundgren.
When Grateful Dead keyboardist Brent Mydland died of a drug overdose on July 26, 1990, the band began auditioning players to replace him, including Ian McLagan, Pete Sears and T Lavitz. Welnick was selected, not least for his high vocal range for backup harmonies. His AP obituary mentioned he was so nervous at his first gig with the band in 1990 in Cleveland that he could barely play, until the fans put him at ease. They held up banners reading, "Yo Vinnie," which Welnick later decided to use as the name of his BMI-affiliated publishing company, Yo Vinnie Music, once obtaining his writer and publisher rights back from Ice Nine Publishing, which had copyrighted his works without an agreement in place to do so shortly after Welnick joined the Grateful Dead. Bruce Hornsby also supplemented Welnick on grand piano for over 100 shows in Welnick's first years in the Dead. Welnick remained as a member of the Grateful Dead and the band's keyboard player until Jerry Garcia's death in August 1995, when the group disbanded.
Welnick became depressed following a diagnosis of cancer and emphysema shortly before the final Grateful Dead tour. He decided to do the summer 1995 Grateful Dead tour and wait to have surgery after it ended. Shortly after the tour was over, Jerry Garcia died. Welnick joined Bob Weir's new group, Ratdog, as the keyboard player, touring with them around the U.S. About six months after Garcia's death, Welnick attempted suicide on the tour bus to Monterey, California. He received therapy, successful cancer treatment, and management of the early stages of lung disease. He worked with the band Second Sight, with Bob Bralove, and with Missing Man Formation, which released an album that included the song "Golden Days", a tribute to Garcia. He participated in the second Phil Lesh and Friends show in March 1998, and he toured the U.S. with the Mickey Hart Band later that year.
In 2002, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, and Phil Lesh regrouped under the name "The Other Ones". According to musician and publisher Mike Lawson, Welnick was troubled when the Grateful Dead reunited without him under the name the "Surviving Members of Grateful Dead". He toured with jam bands, recorded music in his home studio, and worked with friends on their albums. With the band Mood Food he finished a reggae version of "To Love Somebody" by the Bee Gees. He left behind hundreds of hours of unreleased materials, both personal and professional recordings.
Welnick played a small part in the 1981 film Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains. Fee Waybill of the Tubes played Lou Corpse, the washed-up front man of a band called The Metal Corpses. Welnick played Jerry Jervey, the guitar player (though the reporter calls him the bass player) with the Corpses, who dies of an overdose in a backstage bathroom.
Welnick also appeared in Xanadu, along with the rest of the Tubes.
On June 2, 2006, Vince Welnick committed suicide by cutting his own throat, after battling depression for 10 years.
An ambulance was summoned at 9:30 a.m. by the Sonoma County sheriff's dispatcher. Welnick was still alive when it arrived. An hour later, he was pronounced dead at the emergency room of Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, according to the Sonoma County coroner's office.
Former Grateful Dead keyboardist Tom Constanten played keyboards for the Vince Welnick and Friends Tour that was scheduled before his death. Musicians on the tour played many Vince Welnick staples, including "Samba in the Rain". "He Was a Friend of Mine" was also played in honor of Welnick. On the second night of the tour, the band stopped in St. Louis. The Schwag, the opening act, performed "Turn on Your Love Light" and dedicated it to Welnick with improvised lyrics about him.
With The Tubes
- The Tubes (1975)
- Young and Rich (1976)
- Now (1977)
- What Do You Want from Live (1978)
- Remote Control (1979)
- The Completion Backward Principle (1981)
- Outside Inside (1983)
- Love Bomb (1985)
- Infomercial: How to Become Tubular (2000)
- Mondo Birthmark (2009)
With Todd Rundgren
With Grateful Dead
- Infrared Roses (1991)
- Fallout from the Phil Zone (1997)
- Dick's Picks Volume 9 (1997)
- Dick's Picks Volume 17 (2000)
- View from the Vault, Volume Two (2001)
- Dick's Picks Volume 27 (2003)
- Grateful Dead Download Series Volume 11 (2006)
- Road Trips Volume 2 Number 1 (2008)
- Road Trips Volume 2 Number 4 (2009)
- 30 Trips Around the Sun (2015)
- 30 Trips Around the Sun: The Definitive Live Story 1965–1995 (2015)
- Chance in a Million (1994) – Zero
- Calling Up Spirits (1996) – Dick Dale
- Second Sight (1996) – Second Sight
- Fiesta Amazonica (1998) – Merl Saunders
- Missing Man Formation (1998) – Missing Man Formation
- Texistentialism (2007) – Jerry Lightfoot's Band of Wonder
- Might as Well... (2000) – The Persuasions
- Smallstone (2000) – Smallstone
- Uh-Oh! (2001) – Tipsy
- Selvin, Joel (June 30, 2006). "Vince Welnick lived the dream, playing music with the Grateful Dead, but the ending of the Grateful Dead with Garcia's death, his illnesses and the related depression that began in 1995 dogged him to his final days". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-11-23.
- Grateful Dead musician dies at 55 BBC News – Grateful Dead musician dies at 55
- Vince Welnick 1995 Interview with the Memphis Flyer
- "Welnick dies". Grateful Dead Website. June 2, 2006. Archived from the original on May 28, 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-03.
- San Francisco Chronicle "Grateful Dead's last keyboardist, Vince Welnick, dies at 55" June 3 2006
- Urban Tulsa "Healing begins as "Friends" pay tribute to their musical companion and mentor" June 16 2006