Taking over what may have seemed a particularly doomed spot, former Tubes keyboardist Vince Welnick dodged the proverbial bullet that seemed aimed at the Grateful Dead's most fatal position when singer/songwriter and guitarist Jerry Garcia died in 1995. Until then, Welnick had spent five years covering keyboard and harmony vocal parts after Dead keyboardist Brent Mydland died of a drug overdose in 1990.
Born February 21, 1951, in Phoenix, AZ, Welnick was still a teenager when he parlayed his keyboard-playing skills into an actual band (the Beans) with Bill Spooner (guitar, vocals) and Rick Anderson (bass). The addition of Fee Waybill (vocals), Roger Steen (guitar, vocals), and Prairie Prince (drums) thus led to the Tubes. Their rowdy rock led them to a deal with A&M, which released the band's self-titled album in 1975, followed up a year later with Young & Rich. Their stage antics and shock rock were non-transferable to vinyl, and so their studio efforts fell flat. However, the single "White Punks on Dope" did get some minor attention and radio play. After some more marginal efforts (1977's The Tubes Now, 1979's Remote Control produced by Todd Rundgren), A&M dropped the band in 1979. They continued on Capitol until 1986, when they disbanded. The 1981 effort Completion Backwards Principle reached the Top 40 and included the songs "Talk to You Later" and "Don't Want to Wait Anymore." Welnick shows up on Rundgren's 1989 effort, Nearly Human, and again in 1991 on 2nd Wind.
When yet another Grateful Dead keyboardist died (founding member Ron "Pigpen" McKernan and Keith Godchaux both preceded Mydland in both the gig and death), Welnick auditioned for the spot and got it. He picked up where interim keyboardist Bruce Hornsby left off, but doesn't appear on any studio recordings. His playing is included on Infrared Roses (1991), which compiles a smattering of drums/space segments that were typical of Dead shows. A collection of live Dead performances, Grayfolded: Transitive Axis (1994), is another collage effort; this time, avant-gardist John Oswald put together performances of the Dead's "Dark Star" from 1968-1993. Welnick also guests on Zero's 1994 live release Chance in a Million as well as various live releases of Grateful Dead material.
After the Dead's disbandment and the Tubes' re-formation with a new keyboardist, Welnick kept busy with his own Missing Man Formation. Along with Steve Kimock (guitar), Prairie Prince (percussion), Bobby Vega (bass), Bobby Strickland (bass clarinet, saxophone, vocals), and various other musicians, the group put out one self-titled effort in 1998. He showed up with the Mickey Hart Band, as well as playing some shows with jam band Jack Straw in September 2001. Tragically, he died June 2, 2006, at the age of 55. ~ Rachel Sprovtsoff, Rovi