Vince Welnick (center) performing live in 2005
February 21, 1951|
Phoenix, Arizona, US
|Died||June 2, 2006
Sonoma County, California, US
|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 rock classics "Talk To Ya Later" and "She's A Beauty" played in heavy rotation on the MTV network for years in the mid-1980s. While playing in the Tubes, he also played and recorded with Todd Rundgren.
When the Grateful Dead's 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 very depressed following a diagnosis of cancer and emphysema shortly before the final Grateful Dead tour. Without any publicity about his illness, 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 USA. He attempted suicide about six months after Garcia's death on the Rat Dog tour bus on the drive to Monterey, California. Following intense therapy, successful treatment of his cancer, and management of the early stages of his lung disease, he became involved in solo efforts, including Second Sight with Bob Bralove and Missing Man Formation, which released a critically acclaimed single album on Grateful Dead Records which included "Golden Days", a tribute to Jerry Garcia. He was a key member of the second ever Phil Lesh and Friends show in March 1998, and toured the USA 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. Their reuniting for a concert billed as the "Grateful Dead Family Reunion" with the "Surviving Members of Grateful Dead" without Welnick deeply troubled him, according to musician and publisher, Mike Lawson, his close friend who also oversees Welnick's website. As a "surviving member of Grateful Dead" himself, Vince couldn't personally come to terms with how he could be completely left out of a "family reunion" and took this apparent shunning very hard. He worked hard to try to move on musically, and continued to work on personal music projects, toured with various backup jam-bands around the country, while writing and recording both solo in his home studio and with friends on a variety of projects. He completed several tracks with a group called Mood Food, including a reggae arrangement 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. They 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 they stopped in St. Louis and the opener the Schwag, with whom Welnick had played before, did "Turn on Your Love Light" and dedicated it to Welnick with some improvised lyrics about Welnick and his life.
- The Tubes (1975) – The Tubes
- Young and Rich (1976) – The Tubes
- Now (1977) – The Tubes
- What Do You Want from Live (1978) – The Tubes
- Remote Control (1979) – The Tubes
- The Completion Backward Principle (1981) – The Tubes
- Outside Inside (1983) – The Tubes
- Love Bomb (1985) – The Tubes
- Nearly Human (1989) – Todd Rundgren
- 2nd Wind (1991) – Todd Rundgren
- Infrared Roses (1991) – Grateful Dead
- Chance in a Million (1994) – Zero
- Calling Up Spirits (1996) – Dick Dale
- If a Tree Falls (1996) – various artists
- Second Sight (1996) – Second Sight
- Fallout from the Phil Zone (1997) – Grateful Dead
- Dick's Picks Volume 9 (1997) – Grateful Dead
- Fiesta Amazonica (1998) – Merl Saunders
- Missing Man Formation (1998) – Missing Man Formation
- Infomercial: How to Become Tubular (2000) – The Tubes
- Dick's Picks Volume 17 (2000) – Grateful Dead
- Might as Well... (2000) – The Persuasions
- Smallstone (2000) – Smallstone
- Uh-Oh! (2001) – Tipsy
- View from the Vault, Volume Two (2001) – Grateful Dead
- Gifts from the Dead (2001) – various artists
- Dick's Picks Volume 27 (2003) – Grateful Dead
- Grateful Dead Download Series Volume 11 (2006) – Grateful Dead
- Texistentialism (2007) – Jerry Lightfoot's Band of Wonder
- Road Trips Volume 2 Number 1 (2008) – Grateful Dead
- Road Trips Volume 2 Number 4 (2009) – Grateful Dead
- Mondo Birthmark (2009) – The Tubes
- 30 Trips Around the Sun (2015) – Grateful Dead
- 30 Trips Around the Sun: The Definitive Live Story 1965–1995 (2015) – Grateful Dead
- 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