Those looking for the inspiration of the current jam band movement need look no further than Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh. A founding member of the venerable American musical institution, the Grateful Dead, Phil has continued to inspire while pushing the envelope with his highly evolved musical performances. The world-class musicians that have performed with the legendary Grateful Dead bass player read like a who’s who of the jam band music scene: Trey Anastasio, Page McConnell and Mike Gordon from Phish, Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Jimmy Herring, Dickey Betts from The Allman Brothers Band, Robben Ford, David Nelson, Greg Osby, Joan Osborne, Paul Barrere and Bill Payne from Little Feat, Jackie Greene, Larry Campbell and Ryan Adams- all have passed through Phil Lesh & Friends and have thrilled audiences with their high-flying improvisations and timeless renditions of Grateful Dead classics. In 2005, Little Brown published Phil’s memoir titled: Searching For The Sound – My Life with the Grateful Dead, which found the inventive bassist at # 9 on the New York Times Best Seller List. In 2006, Phil released his first live concert DVD ~ Live at The Warfield showcasing a stellar performance at the historic San Francisco landmark. In 2009, he teamed up with his Grateful Dead brother Bob Weir to form Furthur ~ a band that continues the Grateful Dead tradition of stellar playing and free flowing improvisation that moves the mind and shakes the body.
With a touring history that has made him one of the most traveled road musicians of all time and a restless music personality that has kept him occupied for over 50 years, Weir knows a thing or two about staying fresh and living in the moment. Although best known as one of the founding members of the Grateful Dead, adding Dead staples such as “Truckin’,” “Sugar Magnolia,” and “Cassidy” to the band’s catalog, Weir obtained a long and affluent music career that has allowed him to do what he loves and share it with others for nearly his entire life.
Born in 1947, Weir was adopted by a wealthy California engineer. As a teen, he secured his spot as one of the youngest members of the burgeoning folk scene that centered on a Palo Alto club called the Tangent—home to such future rock legends as Jerry Garcia, Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and Janis Joplin. In 1964, at the age of 17, Weir spent the majority of his time at a Palo Alto music store where Garcia taught guitar lessons. It wasn’t long before Weir and Garcia, along with Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, formed a blues and folk outfit. Originally called Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions, the band was later renamed The Warlocks—adding Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzman to the lineup—and eventually came to be known as the Grateful Dead.
Weir’s odd rhythm style developed as he played between the sweet articulated lead of Garcia and the avant-garde bass lines of Lesh. His songwriting developed as well, taking off particularly in the 1970s when he crossed paths with former pal John Perry Barlow. The two began producing songs in Weir’s own distinct style, spurring a songwriting partnership that would last for years to come.
Even with the Dead playing close to 100 shows a year, Weir needed other musical outlets. 1972 brought the release of his first solo album, Ace, on which the rest of the Dead backed him. Throughout the rest of the 1970s Weir toured and recorded with a number of different groups, the first of which was Kingfish. After releasing an album with the band in 1976, Weir began a solo project with producer Keith Olsen called Heaven Help the Fool. A brief tour to support the album resulted in collaborations with various session players, including Brent Mydland (who would join the Dead in 1979), Bobby Cochran, Alphonso Johnson and Billy Cobham. Weir also briefly toured with a group as Bobby and the Midnites, producing two albums.
Throughout the late 1980s and during the first half of the 1990s, the Dead remained Weir’s primary gig. Touring incessantly while all the while building up a community of “Deadheads,” the band finally found commercial success with their 1987 album, In the Dark. When Garcia died in 1995, Weir had just recently formed RatDog with Rob Wasserman, a bassist he had been playing duo shows with since the late 1980s. After Garcia’s death, former Primus drummer Jay Lane and ex-Kingfish harmonica/guitar player Matthew Kelly were added into the mix. With a revolving lineup, the group toured relentlessly, building a name for themselves while performing a mix of new Weir compositions and older, reworked Dead songs.
In 1998, Weir reunited with several former Dead bandmates to tour as The Other Ones, releasing a live album in 1999 and hitting the road again in 2000. The same year, RatDog released their first album, Evening Moods. In 2009, original Grateful Dead members Weir, Lesh, Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart teamed up with guitarist Warren Haynes and RatDog keyboardist Chimenti to tour as the Dead. The results, however, were erratic, leaving Weir feeling like the road trip was more work than fun and Lesh saying the music didn’t seem to be moving forward. Besides stirring up some commotion, the ’09 Dead tour reminded Weir and Lesh of the chemistry the two had as bandmates. This led to the creation of Furthur—arguably one of the most successful Dead projects Weir has participated in to date.
Currently, Weir is married to the former Natascha Muenter, with whom he has two young daughters, Monet and Chloe. While not consumed by music, Weir spends a great deal of time as a social activist. He has done work as an environmental activist with several organizations, such as Greenpeace, and currently serves on the Board of Advisors for the Rainforest Action Network and for Seva Foundation. He works with both the Rex Foundation, an organization started by the Dead in 1984, and the Furthur Foundation. Most recently, Weir is on the Board of Directors for Headcount, a nonprofit that registers voters and inspires participation in democracy through the power of music.
A long, strange, very creative trip—and not remotely over. Keep up with Bob on Facebook or follow him on Twitter: @BobWeirRatDog.
Jeff Chimenti was not born into a musical family - he had to wait until he was four, when he began imitating the church organist, to begin his musical career. But he's been making up for lost time ever since.
By the age of seven he began taking formal lessons from Angela Biggio, a student of both Rudolph Serkin and Leonard Bernstein who also worked with the Merola Program at the S.F. Opera, and continued with her for a decade. Upon entering high school, the sounds of pop and jazz widened his musical world, and he joined the South San Francisco H.S. jazz band. He was so immediately good that by the age of 13 his teacher was taking him out to play casual gigs - parties, weddings, dances. By the 10th grade, he was playing with the very distinguished College of San Mateo (C.S.M.) jazz band (the Grateful Dead's Phil Lesh was an alumnus) and the Skyline College Big Band, as well as with community symphonic orchestras. Jeff also won multiple Outstanding Musician awards at Jazz Festival competitions through his high-school years.
After graduating high school in 1986, he attended C.S.M. for a year and began hanging out on the San Francisco jazz scene, jamming at the Jazz Workshop with legendary figures like Pony Poindexter. An opportunity to play in Amsterdam ended his formal schooling, and by the early '90s he was a working musician, playing pop or jazz as required. He was part of En Vogue's first tour (supporting M.C.Hammer), and then returned to the jazz clubs, playing with figures legendary and soon-to-be-famous; John Handy, Denise Perrier, Madeline Eastman, Kurt Elling, Marlena Shaw, Charnett Moffett, Richie Cole, Ernie Watts, James Moody, Art Farmer, Frank Morgan, Victor Lewis, Marcus Shelby's Blacknote, Rebecca Parris, Kyle Eastwood and many more. As he later put it, he was an "on call guy" for a while, and then a "first call guy" for when out-of-towners needed first-rate keyboardists.
He played at the Monterey Jazz Festival for seven years, both with his own trio and in various other groups. He recorded with Steve Smith and Larry Coryell, then with Pete Escovedo, and with Les Claypool's Flying Frog Brigade as well as many other jazz recordings from artists local and abroad. He was also involved with the popular "Acid Jazz/Hip-Hop" scene South of Market in San Francisco playing with Human Flavor and Alphabet Soup. Jeff also spent a fair amount of time in Japan during the mid-nineties performing with renowned Japanese jazz artists as well
as his own trios.
Although he had never listened to Grateful Dead music, his relationship with saxophonist Dave Ellis introduced him to Bob Weir, and in 1997 he replaced the legendary Johnnie Johnson (of Chuck Berry fame) in Bob's band "RatDog." He later was the keyboard player for the
Dead's re-constituted band "The Other Ones" which officially became "The Dead" with stints in 2002-2004, and then again in 2009.
In that role, he has become the unquestioned dean of jam band pianists, a gifted player whose reputation is on a steady ascent.
John Kadlecik was born on June 28, 1969 in Council Bluffs, Iowa. His father a city manager, and his mother an artist, John's family moved every few years, and he grew up in several mid-western towns. Omaha, Nebraska; Cincinnati, Ohio; and then, in Davenport, Iowa at the age of nine, John began to study classical violin. Moving to Palatine, Illinois in the Chicago suburbs at the beginning of his high school years, John caught the rock-n-roll bug, and, on a quest to understand improvisation, began teaching himself guitar and mandolin. While still in high school, John played guitar in several bands, covering a broad spectrum of American and British “guitar rock” as well as writing songs and learning the rudiments of multi-track recording.
John flirted briefly with college life, going to William Rainey Harper College as a classical guitar music major. But, he began living on his own, and found work, school, and his own local bands to be too much on his plate. It was during this time that a friend turned John onto the Grateful Dead. He fell in love instantly, and, shortly thereafter, dropped out of college. By this time, however, John was already playing out a few times a year, anywhere an underage musician could find a gig, and Chicago would be where he called home for the next fifteen years of his life.
Once he turned twenty-one, John began playing regularly with several local and regional groups, most notably Hairball Willie and Uncle John's Band. While most of the bands he played with wrote their own music, in 1997 John co-founded the group, Dark Star Orchestra, a band exclusively devoted to playing the well-documented actual setlists of the Grateful Dead. Originally started as a side-project house band for some of the best local deadhead musicians, “DSO” rapidly became a nationally touring band, attracting many guests to join them onstage, including John Fishman, Mike Gordon, Sam Bush, Jorma Kaukonen John Popper, Sanjay Mishra, Tom Constanten, Vince Welnick, Donna Jean Godchaux-Mackay, Bill Kreutzmann, and Bob Weir to name a few.
While spending the better part of twelve years of his life touring with DSO, John also found time for other musical projects, both live and studio. A bluegrass band, numerous short-lived original groups, and then in 2003 John began playing sporadically with Melvin Seals. Out of those shows came a group with Melvin called The Mix, also featuring Greg Anton, Jeff Pevar, and Kevin Rosen. The Mix toured nationally and went on to sign a recording contract, releasing a full length CD in 2004 titled, American Spring, but eventually disbanded for lack of time in everyone's schedule to tour. And then, of course, in 2009 John departed from Dark Star Orchestra to join Furthur.
John now lives near Washington, DC with his wife, Katy Gaughan, and, when not on the road with Furthur, performs in the DC area with the newly formed and simply named John K Band, as well as solo acoustic and special guest appearances.
Growing up in Northern NJ with walls covered by KISS posters, compelled by fire, make-up, and the ways of rock, Joe Russo began playing drums at the age of 8. Cutting his chops in the shadows of Bonham, his early tendencies leaned strongly to hard rock. At the age of 13, through the guidance of his teacher Frank Marino (Long Island Drum Center of Nyack) Joe began to discover a whole new world of drumming.
In the summer of 1996, Russo decided against his original plan of attending Boston's Berklee School Of Music and instead drove West for the sunny mountains of Boulder, Colorado. Just days into his life in the Rockies he found himself jamming with what would soon be his first true touring band. Fat Mama (1996-2000) was an eight piece collective primarily comprised of University Of Colorado Jazz students quickly known around the early Jam Band scene as one of the most forward thinking and furiously adventurous groups around. Their moniker taken from Herbie Hancock's "Fat Mama Rotunda" was a direct homage to their sound. Borrowing heavily from the early 70's music of Miles, Hancock, and Mahavishnu, Fat Mama focused heavily on improvisation and would soon delve deeper into the Avant-Garde and New York's exploratory Downtown Jazz scene.
Russo once again found himself back East on the isle of Manhattan playing pickup gigs and hunting for his next band. One fateful night at the Lansky Lounge, Russo's course again would be shifted as a long haired version of a Middle School classmate walked through the door to use the restroom. Marco Benevento gleefully approached the band mostly comprised of his Berklee Alum pals and sat in for a few tunes. This would be the first time Marco Benevento and Joe Russo had played music together in ten years. After catching up for a bit the newly re-connected "duo" passed off phone numbers and set up plans to play again.
If not for Madonna, The Duo might never have been. After being asked to play a Madonna birthday tribute party at Wetlands Preserve by good friend and promoter Jake Szufranowski, Russo went through his cache of NYC musicians and called Marco for the gig. Originally intending to book an organ trio, timing and money slimmed it down to a drum and organ duo. Soon after, Russo once again had an offer from Jake to do a residency at New York's famed Knitting Factory. The weekly gig was originally booked for one month at $100 a night. Through sheer fiscal will this too would become a "duo" residency. Making $50 each a week and all the Heineken they could drink, Joe and Marco found a connection unlike any other each had known. Almost telepathically challenging each other with wild sonic twin speak they began crafting a remarkable sound of their own. The one month residency turned into a ten month run and became THE place to be on Thursday nights in NYC. Soon The Duo would jump into Marco's little red Subaru Station Wagon with Hammond and drums in tow and begin their first tour. At this time Russo was also tapped to play with funk organ master Robert Walter of the Greyboy All-Stars. Not wanting to leave his new Duo behind, Russo negotiated having the Duo open every show. After a two year run with Walter, Russo decided it was time to focus solely on the Duo. By this time Marco and Joe had gone from a scaled down, improv based jazz band to a stage filling, genre defying juggernaut.
Over the years the Duo would often become a Trio with the help of their good friend Mike Gordon. After meeting Gordon in 2004, Russo invited Mike to join the Duo on stage for an improvised "Trio" performance. They hit it off famously, and The Benevento/Russo Duo Featuring Mike Gordon soon hit the road for a handful of dates playing a collection of Duo material, Phish opuses, and obscure covers. The trio would continue to tour from time to time, ringing in both the new years of 2005 and 2006 and released a live record from their 2005 performance at Bonnaroo. In the midst of a post-Phish world, the Duo was asked to join their friend Mike and his friend Trey for a recording to be used as part of Anastasio's forthcoming solo album Bar 17. What began as a recording of two tracks soon became a full blown quartet collaboration and national tour splitting the stage with The Grateful Dead's Phil Lesh (& Friends). The newly formed G.R.A.B. announced the tour with Lesh on stage at Bonarroo 2006 playing the Grateful Dead's classics "Going Down The Road Feeling Bad" and "Casey Jones". This would be the first Russo/Lesh collaboration.
Joe now has the honor of sharing the stage and the music of The Grateful Dead with legends Bob Weir and Phil Lesh in Furthur. Once again, the journey has just begun.
Born Sunshine Garcia on a hot July 1st day in 1972, Sunshine was born to sing and has been blessed beyond imagination to do it as her full time career. Her primary project for the past 15 years has been as a member of the acappella vocal band out of Oakland, CA - SoVoSo. Sunshine also teaches as a vocal performance coach and leads workshops and residencies focusing on using your voice as a musical instrument and as an instrument for positivity in the world. She also is a vocal instructor for YPI - Young Performers International - www.youngperformersintl.org
Married in 2001 just weeks after 9/11, Sunshine was proud to become a Becker -- marrying bass player and executive salesman Bill Becker.
Sunshine works as a studio session singer and comes from a family of musicians. Her highlights onstage when not performing with Furthur include performing with the king of the funky drums, Zigaboo Modeliste, and many many amazing tours and performances with SoVoSo and the groove driven rock band Passenger.
Sunshine is excited for the musical journey that lies ahead and savors her other full time job of being Mom to first-born son Geddy.
Jeff Pehrson is a Bay Area native, born in San Francisco and raised in nearby San Leandro. He attended SF State University where he studied creative writing and broadcasting and was a member of the infamous improvisation troupe, Ground Zero.
In 1991, Jeff co-founded the longtime Bay Area band, and Capricorn recording artists Box Set. Box Set toured the country for nearly 20 years, and produced 12 CD's of both electric and acoustic music, all of which are still available today. Box Set performed with Ratdog, Dave Matthews, The Barenaked Ladies, Hot Tuna, Blues Traveler, Willie Nelson, and The Goo Goo Dolls to name a few. Jeff has had several songs appear in movies and on their soundtracks, most notably Trial and Error in 1998, and was even given a small role in an indie film called Christmas in the Clouds. In 2003, Jeff was asked by Jack Casady (Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna) to write songs for Jack’s first solo album, Dream Factor, and ended up writing 4 and singing on a number of others. In 2009, Jeff formed his current band The Fall Risk. Calling on the talents of a few former Box Set members as well as a group of old friends and musical cohorts, The Fall Risk (www.thefallrisk.com) performs shows whenever time allows and is currently working on a CD.
Jeff has called San Francisco home for 25 years and when not making music, enjoys riding his Harley and getting in as much jet skiing as possible.
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