The Last Trip: Unfinished Dead Music

Vince Welnick talks about unfinished Grateful Dead album

April 20, 1998 12:00 AM ET

Although it's common knowledge that the Grateful Dead were in the midst of recording when Jerry Garcia died almost three years ago, former keyboardist Vince Welnick shed more light on the unfinished album in a recent conversation with the Rolling Stone Network.

According to Welnick, the album was set to include such tour-tested songs as "Liberty," "So Many Roads," "Days Between," "Samba in the Rain," "Way To Go," "Corrina," and "Easy Answers," but Garcia passed away before the tracks could be completed. "We had just about finished the basics when Jerry checked out," Welnick said. "It's a shame, because we spent a lot of time in there."

Although the studio tapes from the Grateful Dead's would-be swan song are still around, Welnick doubts that the album can be salvaged. "There weren't even working vocals on some of the songs. There was also very little guitar. If they wanted to make something of it, they'd probably have to splice in something from one of the show tapes."

Grateful Dead spokesman Dennis McNally denied that anything will ever come of the album. "Only [Grateful Dead guitarist] Bobby [Weir] ever thought that anything could be done, but it can't. Jerry didn't contribute to it. Everyone else contributed to it, but Jerry just wasn't with it. There's not even a title, to my knowledge."

Welnick, whose band, the Missing Man Formation, plays a number of tracks from the Dead's live repertoire, was not invited to join the surviving members of the Grateful Dead on their upcoming summer tour. During the interview, the 47-year old musician expressed his disappointment, saying, "I am and always will be a member of the Grateful Dead. It's a lifetime thing that Jerry bestows upon a person."

Instead, Bob Weir, bassist Phil Lesh and drummer Mickey Hart have chosen Bay area keyboardist Bruce Hornsby to accompany them in their new project, dubbed the Other Ones, after a classic Grateful Dead song. Guitarist Stan Franks of the David Murray Octet, sax player Dave Ellis, drummer John Molo and technical wizard Bob Bralove will round out the group. Grateful Dead percussionist Bill Kreutzmann declined an invitation to join the band, saying he did not want to go back out on the road, but Welnick speculates that Kreutzmann might take that time to tour with his new band, Backbone. "It would be a little bit ironic that he would pass on the Other Ones and then go out with Backbone," noted Welnick.

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