The keyboard curse continues for the Grateful Dead:
Vince Welnick, the Grateful Dead’s last keyboard player and a veteran of other bands, including the Tubes and Missing Man Formation, died on Friday. His age was given in various sources as 51 or 55, and he lived in Forestville, Calif.
Dennis McNally, the Grateful Dead’s longtime publicist, confirmed his death but would not release the cause or the location. The Sonoma County coroner’s office said an autopsy would be performed.
With long, frizzy hair and tie-dyed clothes, Mr. Welnick clearly looked the part of a member of a band born in 1965 in San Francisco, then the cradle of the country’s emerging psychedelic counterculture. But he was largely unfamiliar with the Grateful Dead’s music when he joined in 1990. Years later he recalled that he was so nervous he could barely play at his first show, in Cleveland, but was quickly put at ease when the audience gave him a warm welcome.
The Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart recalled Mr. Welnick as not only a nimble keyboard player but also a fine background singer whose vocals added much to the group’s songs. “He had this real high harmony,” Mr. Hart said. “He could go where others couldn’t.”
Mr. Welnick grew up in Phoenix and moved to San Francisco in the early 1970’s with a band called the Beans, which soon renamed itself the Tubes. After the group temporarily disbanded in the mid-80’s, he worked with Todd Rundgren before joining the Grateful Dead.
He was the last in a long line of Grateful Dead keyboardists, several of whom died at early ages, leading some of the group’s fans to conclude that the position came with a curse. He replaced Brent Mydland, who died of a drug overdose in 1990.
He was a beauty. He will be missed.