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Grateful Dead Bassist Still Rockin’ At 71

Phil Lesh (Cory Schwartz/Getty)

Happy 71st Birthday to Phil Lesh, Grateful Dead bass player since the band’s  formation. Last month he played with Bob Weir at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield  in Furthur. The band plays tonight in New York City.

Phil played violin, then switched to trumpet in high school. Jerry Garcia talked him into playing bass in The Warlocks which later became the Grateful Dead.

His 2005 book, Searching For The Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead is the only publication about the band written by one of it’s members.

In other Grateful Dead related news, an early manager and sound engineer for the band died in a car accident in Australia over the weekend. Owsley “Bear” Stanley financed the acid tests where the Grateful Dead performed in the late sixties, he designed the “Wall of Sound” they took on the road and recorded many of their concerts.

Stanley co-created two of the Grateful Dead’s most well-known icons, Steal Your Face and the dancing bear.  The skull and lightning bolt appeared on the cover of their Steal Your Face album and was created to distinguish the band’s equipment from the other entertainers. “Bear” was also a ballet dancer so on the 1973 release History of the Grateful Dead, Volume 1: Bear’s Choice a dancing bear was drawn on the back cover.

The Grateful Dead wrote a song about Owsley Stanley called “Alice D. Millionaire” and the Steely Dan song “Kid Charlemagne” off their 1976 album The Royal Scam is said to be loosely inspired by Stanley.

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