Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Phil Lesh on his friend, Vince Welnick
"The period after Brent’s death, when Vince first joined the band, was one of one of my most difficult years with the Grateful Dead. Jill [Phil's wife] and I had become quite close to Brent [Mydland] and his wife Lisa and we spent many happy hours hanging together. I was devastated when Brent died [in 1990], and I still wonder if there was anything I could have said or done to help him.
"In hindsight, it would have been better for everyone concerned, especially Jerry [Garcia], if after Brent’s passing we had simply cancelled the fall 1990 tours; we needed some time to mourn Brent. Grateful Dead Production's huge monthly overhead kept us from taking time to absorb our loss.
"Vince helped us more than he knew; not only the speed with which he learned the music, but also that he took to the music and the scene like a kid at the beach. His energy and enthusiasm helped rekindle our own excitement with the music - at least it did for me.
"Vince was a generous spirit and a class act. I’ll never forget his first gig as our sole keyboard (Bruce Hornsby having moved on) - as we walked out on stage, some folks in the audience on Vince’s side of the stage were holding up a big sign which read 'Hey Vinnie- Welcome, Brother' - which almost moved me to tears, not least because of the contrast to Brent’s reception 11 years earlier. I was so glad that the Heads had accepted Vince that quickly.
"After Jerry’s death when I started up Phil Lesh & Friends as a band, Vince was one of my first 'Friends,' and we played a goofy, glorious, fun gig at the Fillmore. We tried to get together again later that year, but he had other commitments. I have nothing but warm memories of Vince and I am forever thankful for the grace and enthusiasm that he brought to the Grateful Dead.
"I will remember Vince as a man with a soft voice and a sweet smile who openly adored his wife Lori, who came into the Grateful Dead with the utmost respect for the band, the music - and most of all - the fans."
Phil & Friends will be performing on Sunday, June 19 at Bonnaroo.
PHOTO OF MICKEY HART, BOB WEIR, PHIL LESH & VINCE WELNICK BY JOHN STOREY (TIME LIFE PICTURES/GETTY IMAGES)