June 3, 2006

Grateful Dead keyboardist dies

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Vince Welnick, who took over as
the Grateful Dead's keyboard player in 1990 after a succession
of predecessors met untimely deaths, has died at the age of 55,
according to an announcement on his Web site.

"Vince passed from this earth on June 2, 2006 ... after a
decade of battling tragedy while creating beauty and light
around him," the announcement said. It did not give a cause of

The San Jose Mercury News said he died in a hospital on
Friday after being taken from his home in Forestville,
California, and it quoted a person at his home as saying "it
looks like he took his own life."

Welnick had previously spoken of a deep depression after
Jerry Garcia, founding guitarist of the iconic psychedelic rock
band, died in 1995 and the group disbanded.

Welnick is the fourth keyboard player for the band to have
died, and his Web site referred to the position as a
"particularly doomed spot."

He once told an interviewer, "A lot of people ask about
that and my stock answer is that I am aware of the fact that
you could die doing this job, but I was somewhat dying of
boredom before the job came up so I thought I'd take my

Originally a member of the 1970s rock band "The Tubes,"
Welnick joined the Grateful Dead after longest-serving keyboard
player Brent Mydland died in 1990 of a drug overdose.

Previously, pianist Keith Godchaux died in a car accident
in 1980, a year after he left the band, and founding vocalist
and keyboard player Ron "Pigpen" McKernan died in 1973 of a
gastrointestinal hemorrhage.

After the Grateful Dead broke up and ended its 30-year run
as one of America's biggest touring acts, Welnick formed his
own group, Missing Man Formation. He also toured with other
groups including Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart's band.

He did not take part in various reunions of the Dead's
other surviving members.

"His service to and love for the Grateful Dead were
heartfelt and essential. He had a loving soul and a joy in
music that we were lucky to share," the band said in a

In an extension of the band's "curse of the keyboard
player," Scott Larned, cofounder and keyboard player for the
nationally-touring Grateful Dead tribute band Dark Star
Orchestra, died last year of a heart attack.