Vince Welnick (February 21, 1951-June 2, 2006) was an American keyboardist, best known for playing with the band The Tubes during the 1970s and 1980s and with the Grateful Dead in the 1990s.
Born in Phoenix, Arizona, 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 26 July 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. Bruce Hornsby also supplemented Welnick on grand piano for over 100 shows in Welnick's first years in the Dead. Welnick remained as the band's keyboard player until Jerry Garcia's death in August 1995, when the group disbanded.
Vince became very depressed following a diagnosis of cancer and emphysema shortly before the final Grateful Dead tour, which was exacerbated by the loss of Jerry Garcia months later. 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, CA. Following intense therapy, successful treatment of his cancer, and management of the early-stages of his lung disease, he hoped to get back in the good graces of Grateful Dead's fellow surviving members, but collectively he was never able to do so. Subsequently, he became involved in solo efforts, formed and played in the band Missing Man Formation, which released a critically-acclaimed single album on Grateful Dead Records which included a touching tribute to Jerry Garcia, "Golden Days." 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, which he hoped would help open the door for him to perform again with the entire surviving Grateful Dead members.
In 2002 Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann and Phil Lesh regrouped under the name The Dead. 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 is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
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.
Vince Welnick committed suicide on June 2, 2006. According to friends and band insiders who spoke with family members, Welnick woke the morning of June 2 and told his father-in-law, who was staying at the house, that he had slept well. A little later, when his wife, Lori Welnick, found a prohibited bottle of liquor, she went looking for him. She spotted him in the backyard climbing the hill and called his name. He turned and cut his throat. His shirt turned red, she told friends. She tried to stop the bleeding, but he told her to let him go. He also reportedly resisted recovery efforts by his sister-in-law, who was also staying at the house. An ambulance was summoned at 9:30 a.m. by the Sonoma County sheriff's dispatcher. Welnick was still alive when he 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 took up the keys for the Vince Welnick and Friends Tour that was scheduled before his death. They played many Vince Welnick staples including Samba in the Rain. A very touching, 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, who Welnick had played with before and played Turn on Your Love Light and dedicated it to Welnick with some improvised lyrics about Welnick and his life.