September 21 – Davis Had All The Right Friends…And A Few Wrong Ones

Remembering one of the greatest guitarists you’ve never heard of on what would have been his 78th birthday. If you have heard of Jesse Ed Davis, you’re in the minority. But you’d also be in the minority if you’re a fan of ’70s music and hadn’t heard his work. After all, he was one of the most in-demand session players, worked with three of the four Beatles and rubbed shoulders with Rod Stewart and the Rolling Stones.

Davis was an Oklahoma-born Native, the son of a respected painter. He became a great guitarist at a young age, and by his teens was playing in clubs in Oklahoma City. He was talented in other ways too; he got a degree in literature there. But in the ’60s he turned to music full-time, first taking a job being Conway Twitty’s touring guitarist. Eventually he moved to L.A. and became friends with fellow-Oklahoman Leon Russell as well as Levon Helm. Russell sold Davis on the idea of session work, and soon the calls came rolling in for Jesse…when he wasn’t working with Taj Mahal, whom he joined for four albums.

One of the first jobs he got as a session player was probably his best-known as well – the guitar solo on Jackson Browne’s lead-off single, “Doctor My Eyes.” Browne spoke glowingly about Davis in the movie Rumble – The Indians Who Rocked, saying he basically walked into the studio, heard the song demo and improvised the solo we hear on the spot, in one take.

Around the same time, he came to George Harrison’s attention and was invited to be a part of his Concert for Bangladesh. Harrison called him back about three years later to work on his Extra Texture album, Davis co-writing “This Guitar” with George. He got to play on Ringo Starr’s Goodnight Vienna and two John Lennon albums (Rock & Roll, Walls and Bridges) as well in the first half of the ’70s. The work kept coming in for him, doing session work with Bryan Ferry, Leonard Cohen, Cher, even Willie Nelson. Rod Stewart as well, being on his Atlantic Crossing , co-writing “Alright for an Hour” with Rod the Mod.

Unfortunately, Rod was still the hard-partying Rod The Mod at the time, and Davis’ work with him, as well as Faces (whom he toured with in 1975) and the Rolling Stones (being a part of Taj Mahal when they opened for Mick and the lads in England) exposed him to the excesses of rock, and Davis dove in with excessive gusto. Heroin addiction limited the amount of work he could do in the late-’70s and ’80s despite several attempts to quit and stints in rehab.

Sadly, it seemed to most who knew him he was getting his act together and he was actually working as an Addictions Counselor at the American Indian Free Clinic in California in 1988 when he overdosed and died. Among his final works was the album AKA Grafitti Man, with Native poet John Trudell in 1987, an album Bob Dylan picked as the best of the year.

September 10 – When Classical Guitars Meet Acid Rock Good Things Happened

Happy birthday to a man who’s a household name in a lot of households in many different countries. And why not since, as his website puts it he’s “synonymous with a presence that has bridged musical styles in a way that has never been equaled.” Jose Feliciano is 77 today.

There were lots of popular folkie singer/songwriter types around in the late-’60s but Jose stood out. One, he was a better guitarist than most. Two, he was multi-lingual and often sang in Spanish. And three, he did all that while being blind, often with his trusty guide dog by his side! That’s the type of thing that makes people remember your name.

Feliciano was born, blind, in Puerto Rico, but his family moved to New York City – Spanish Harlem more specifically – when he was about five. He seemingly had a musical family and by age seven he’d taught himself to play accordion, but his future was really set when he was given a guitar at age nine. He practiced incessantly, while listening to classical, jazz, early rock as well as Ray Charles and Sam Cooke records. He taught himself to play quite well, then was sent for formal classical guitar lessons as a young teen. By 18, he was beginning to become popular playing coffee houses at home and in Vancouver, and RCA took note and signed him in 1964. He recorded his first album, in English, in 1965, but when he went to do an appearance in Argentina, singing in Spanish, the following year, RCA suggested he do an album in that language. He did, and since then he’s become one of the biggest Latin artists with a huge following in places such as there, Spain and even Portuguese-speaking Brazil. He’s had a series of hits in those markets on and off since, including a Spanish #1 hit , “Para Decir Adios” in ’82 and an Italian hit to boot, “Che Sara.” Little wonder he won Billboard‘s El Premio Award – a Latin music lifetime award – in 1996.

All that would not likely make his name known through much of the States, Canada or Britain though were it not for a few noteworthy records and TV appearances. And perhaps a bit of a scandal for good measure.

The big break for him was his total reimagining of The Doors hit “Light My Fire.” Originally it was the b-side to another cover of a popular hit of the day, “California Dreaming,” but many DJs liked “Light My Fire” better and began playing it. Good thing for Jose, in retrospect. The song went to #3…and actually was a #1 hit in Canada, one of three countries (along with Brazil and Britain) where it got him a gold record. That helped him win a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1968 as well as Best Male Pop Performance…and win the ear of famous baseball broadcaster Ernie Harwell. Harwell apparently loved it and got Feliciano invited to sing the national anthem at a World Series game in Detroit that year.

He took liberties with the song, if you will, as he did with the Doors song, playing it considerably slower and with a Latin flavor. Unlike his hit single, the reworking wasn’t wildly popular. Many protested, accusing him of being unpatriotic and disrespectful (this was the pre-Roseanne Barr era after all!) whereas he figured he was only adding his personal touch to the sound and trying to get people to actually listen and pay attention to it for once. In the long run, he was probably right. Baseball has actually included his rendition of the anthem in the Cooperstown Hall of Fame and for the 50th anniversary of the event, he was invited to be a keynote speaker at a swearing in for new citizens in Washington. An added bonus for Jose about the baseball appearance – he met his future wife! She was a friend of Harwell’s family and he introduced them to one another there.

He also got attention for creating the theme song to the TV sitcom Chico & The Man, which he had a walk-on role in one episode. Yet still, for all that, Jose usually brings to mind one thing to most people – Ho Ho Ho. His cheery Christmas song “Felix Navidad” has entered the realm of a true cultural cornerstone of the season. Mixing Spanish and English makes it unusual, and its upbeat nature seems to strike a chord with millions every December. The song has been a top 10 on Billboard’s Holiday Chart since they began publishing the seasonal list in 2011, and last year actually hit the overall top 10 singles chart for the first time…over 50 years after its release.

Feliciano lives with his wife Susan in Connecticut these days. He’s the subject of a new documentary which premiered last month, Jose Feliciano Behind the Guitar, with another Latin-mainstream crossover success, Santana, among its producers.

August 12 – The Sultan Of Six-strings

Happy birthday to a man who took everyday experiences like dropping into a neighborhood bar or shopping at an electronics store and turned them into memorable rock anthems! Mark Knopfler turns 73 today.

Knopfler is more than just Dire Straits – but that’s a pretty good place to start the conversation. As the singer, guitarist and primary writer for the band he’s responsible for some of the most memorable hits of the late-’70s and ’80s like “Sultans of Swing”, “Industrial Disease”, “Twisting By the Pool”  and of course “Money For Nothing” from the Britain’s biggest-selling album of the ’80s, Brothers In Arms. But after he, his brother David and the rest of Dire Straits called it a day (for the most part) in 1988 he’s had a pretty good run as well. He’s put out eight solo albums, seven of which have hit the top 10 at home in his UK; done movie soundtracks for several popular films including The Princess Bride and Wag the Dog, and has helped out on numerous other artists’ records. That list includes the likes of John Fogerty, Tina Turner (co-producing her Break Every Rule album), Jeff Healey, Steely Dan and Bob Dylan, as well as country star Chet Atkins with whom he’s won a trio of Grammys. He has another in the rock category for “Money for Nothing” with his name band! It all adds up to being made a Member of the Order of the British Empire and being ranked as the 44th greatest guitarist of all-time by Rolling Stone in 2011. they call him an “intensely creative virtuoso” and note how he’s unusual in playing guitar without a pick (bound to give you a blister on your finger!) “Playing with your fingers has something to do with immediacy and soul,” he believes. Curiously, Knopfler is a southpaw but plays a normal, right-handed guitar. That is workin’!

Although possibly, it’s now retirement time for Mark. He toured in 2019 and suggested that would be his last one. But if so, he leaves with quite a legacy – not only has he won Brit Awards, he has Grammys in both Rock and Country fields as well as Juno (Canadian) and Edison (Dutch) Awards as well as a Lifetime Achievement one from the Ivor Novellos.

April 26 – Duane ‘Gunn’ed To Top Of The ’50s Charts

Happy birthday to a guitarist once so popular he beat out Elvis Presley as Britain’s favorite international musician. The “Titan of Twang”, Duane Eddy, turns 84 today. His name might not be instantly recognizable, but his sound most certainly is.

Although he was born and spent his childhood in New York, his family moved to Arizona in his teen years and he quickly fit in there and found a way of incorporating the wide open spaces of the desert into his guitar-work, which was something he’d been working on since he was a pre-schooler. At 16, he bought a Gretsch guitar and the rest is history, as they say. He soon formed a duo called Jimmy & Duane in Phoenix and put out a single called “Soda Fountain Girl” in 1955. It was a minor hit in the city, and the pair became popular in the area playing country music. Around that time, Duane started to play his trademark “twangy” sound, concentrating on the lower, bass strings on his guitar (and later, at times even using a six-string bass). When he signed a record deal, the producer, Lee Hazlewood, decided it needed more echo so he bought a 2000-gallon tank for Eddy to play in to really add reverb!

The sound took off and in 1958 he had his first real hit, “Rebel Rouser” which hit #6 in the U.S. and earned him a gold single. He’d go on to have a dozen top 30 hits by 1963 including “Because They’re Young” and “Dance With the Guitar Man.” He was even more popular across the ocean, with 18 top 30s there by the mid-’60s. So well-known and loved was he there that in 1960, the NME named him the favorite international musician, ahead of Elvis. As the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame would say, some 30 years later when he was inducted, “twang came to represent a walk on the wild side…the sound of revved-up hot rods made for rebels with or without a cause.”

Eddy’s now best-known for his take on a somewhat obscure TV show’s theme. Peter Gunn was a bete-noire type detective show around the end of the ’50s. Henry Mancini composed the theme for it, recalling it “derives more from rock and roll than jazz” and using a tense piano and guitar in unison sound to make it “sinister.” Eddy put his guitar sound to it and made it into a British top 10 hit… twice. First in 1959, then later with the band Art of Noise who redid it in 1986.

The Beatles of course changed the sound of pop dramatically around 1963, which coincided with when Duane’s hot streak petered out. He turned to acting for much of the rest of the decade, and in the ’70s produced some country records, and showed up here and there on other records, like B.J. Thomas’ “Rock & Roll Lullaby” which he played guitar on. Still, in those few short years he racked up quite a string of hits and influenced a whole generation of young guitarists including Bruce Springsteen, Dave Davies of the Kinks, Mark Knopfler and even George Harrison. No wonder he was an early entrant into the Rock Hall… and only the second winner of Guitar Player‘s “Guitar Legend” designation. The first was Les Paul, putting Eddy in pretty good company. And like Paul, there is a guitar named for Duane… the Gretsch “Duane Eddy” 6120DE.

Eddy was still touring as recently as 2018, when he had an 80th birthday tour!

April 11 – Geils Drove His Namesake Band To The Winner’s Circle

Remembering a musician whose name is a household one, even if his music isn’t as much. John Geils Jr., or “J. Geils” died on this day in 2017 from natural causes at his home in Massachusetts. He was 71.

Geils is of course best known for the J. Geils Band, one of the States’ hardest-working rock bands of the ’70s who hit paydirt in the early-80s with the multi-million selling Freeze Frame and its #1 single, “Centerfold.” It pretty much put the icing on a sonic cake that included six gold or platinum albums and 10 top 40 singles at home between 1970 and ’84. By the time the band called it quits, it had become a radio-friendly pop rock outfit, quite different than its early roots as a bluesy rock’n’roll group more akin to early ZZ Top or Rolling Stones. We can hear the difference listening to their first hit single, “Lookin’ for a Love” In fact, when Geils started the group at college in 1967, it was called the J. Geils Blues Band. As the years went by, the group seemed to be more and more the work of the core duo of keyboardist Seth Justman and singer Peter Wolf, who wrote most of the original material. Geils however, was always an essential part of the band’s sound, being its only guitarist through the years, until he quit a re-formed version of them in 2012, suing the rest for what he felt was improper use of the band’s name.

After Peter Wolf’s initial departure from the band and its quick descent, commercially, Geils kept busy with other musical projects and cars. As a kid he was a fan of old jazz, blues and soul artists like Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Benny Goodman and after the rock success of “Centerfold” he put out a number of jazz albums as “Jay Geils” with a jazz trio in the 1990s. He was also passionate about car racing, especially European versions and drove regularly in a number of races, fixing vintage sports cars in his own shop in his downtime.

March 9 – Big Talent, Little Notice Seems Trower’s Power

Today we wish a happy birthday to one of classic rock’s best-known names…yet least-known musicians! Paradox Robin Trower turns 77 today…just in time to ready his 26th solo album, due next month. As Louder Sound ask, “he played guitar for Procol Harum, supported the Beatles and Rolling Stones, then sold out stadiums as a solo artist…so why did he never become a household name?”

The answer, likely “no hit singles.” Being nicknamed “Fish Face” might not help. Plus, while his talent is undeniable, he has been widely seen as a copycat, first of Eric Clapton, later of Jimi Hendrix. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves a bit.

Trower grew up in Essex, England and soon developed a love of early rock’n’roll. He was a fan of Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley as a teen (he’s said it was seeing Elvis with a guitar was what made him decide to play), but more recently told the Houston Chronicle James Brown’s Live at the Apollo and B.B. King’s Live At The Regal were actually his two most influential records when young. Especially the James Brown. “I always thought rock’n’roll was more R&B influenced (than by the blues or country)” he admits.

While still in high school he formed a band called the Paramounts, with B,J. Wilson and Gary Brooker, among others. They had minor success in Britain, but notably opened for the Rolling Stones and Beatles early on in those bands careers. The Beatles ? “They weren’t that good live, but they were nice guys,” Trower says.

After about four years, the Paramounts broke up and Wilson and Brooker formed Procol Harum. Trower and his guitar, at the time a Les Paul, started a band called The Jam…not the same one as the late-’70s “Going Underground” one, mind you. His The Jam didn’t do much, but Procol Harum hit a home run right off the bat with “Whiter Shade of Pale”, one of the biggest hits of all-time in the UK. But their first guitarist quit and they added Trower in as they were becoming a name. He played on their first five albums, but left just before they’d hit paydirt for a second time with the live recording of “Conquistador.” Thus he was a member of a well-known, big-selling band for about five years but the closest thing he scored to a hit with them was “Homburg”, which squeaked into the top 20 in their homeland.

He left because Procol Harum was somewhat more geared toward keyboards than lots of guitars, but mainly because his writing was limited by them. So he switched to a Fender Stratocaster (still his guitar of choice) after playing one while hanging out with Jethro Tull, and started a blues-rock trio, the Robin Trower Band. Since then he’s put out albums about every other year, sometimes as that, sometimes under his own name. He did have a run of four gold albums in the U.S. in the ’70s, starting with the critically-acclaimed Bridge of Sighs (which hit the top 10 in both the U.S. and Canada) and was popular as a concert draw, but as mentioned, failed to become widely known in say, a Peter Frampton way. In his homeland, the most successful album he’s been a part of since Procol Harum was Bryan Ferry’s Taxi, which he played guitar on and produced, scoring a gold disc and two hit singles.

For all that, he has his share of fans and respect. While Rolling Stone omitted him from their list of the top 100 guitarists, Louder Sound put him at #46 and call him the “Guitarist who should be King!”. They praise his “heavy brick wall power chords and fluid, bluesy, highly melodic lead parts.”

His new album, No More Worlds To Conquer should be out in about six weeks, and might well be accompanied by a small tour. He says “I still love it” (playing concerts) but “not like the big tours where there’s a bus, hotel, a gig. I gave that up a long time ago. That’s not a life.” But neither is retiring. He said three years ago “I’m much nearer the end than the beginning. If I want to get where I want to be, I have to work a lot harder.” Someone once said if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life. Robin Trower is a shining example of that.

February 27 – Schon’s Long Journey Far From Over

When you say “Journey”, the first name who comes to mind is usually Steve Perry, their distinctive voice for hits like “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’”. But today we tip the cap to the man who probably is the most integral piece of the band puzzle – Neal Schon. The guitarist who’s the only permanent member of the band through its nearly 50 year run (to date) turns 68 today.

Schon was born into a musical Oklahoman family. While his dad was a military man, he was also a big band leader and composer and his mother a singer. He learned to play sax when young and began playing a little guitar at age 5. He taught himself to play by ear, emulating the likes of Buddy Guy, Albert King and Eric Clapton’s Cream music. He was playing guitar in his dad’s band before he became a teenager, and by age 17 he’d moved to the west coast and joined a red-hot band with one of the greatest guitarists around, Santana. Neal picked up a trick or two with the Les Paul – his preferred guitar – from Carlos, who he cites as one of his biggest influences when it comes to his adult playing (Eric Clapton and B.B. King being two others.) He was with them for two albums and about two years before he and keyboardist Gregg Rolie quit to begin their own band – Journey.

In the early days, Neal at times sang a few of the band’s tunes, like “Karma” and “Look into the Future”, but it soon became clear to him and the label that neither he nor Gregg had quite the dynamic voice needed to drive the songs home. They brought in Steve Perry and the fortunes soared; Schon calls Perry his all-time favorite male singer, while Aretha franklin is his favorite female voice. Through the years he’s co-written a number of their hits including “Lights” and “Don’t Stop Believin’” but his main role has always been to lay down the foundation to the music with his guitar. Guitar work that’s been solid but not as recognized as the work of some of his classic rock contemporaries, perhaps unfairly. Pop Dose rank him as the 19th greatest guitarist ever, right behind his old mentor, Carlos Santana.

Neal says he loved being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Journey but “to me, the most important thing is my fans – they’re my hall of fame. I have boxes of platinum and gold records. They’re all in my attic.” He has boxes of guitars as well; last year he auctioned off 115 of his own guitars including the 1977 Les Paul deluxe he used to compose “Don’t Stop Believin'”. But don’t worry about him… he still has close to 700 guitars to choose from. He said he had a warehouse full of them and brought 350 home to look at. “There was no room to walk around! It was nuts!”  His love of the stage and fans (and guitars to collect) has left him little spare time. When not with Journey, he’s put out nine solo records and done session work with the likes of Joe Cocker and the Allman Brothers as well as being part of Bad English (which also has Jonathan Cain from Journey in its lineup.)

Oddly, for all the success he’s had with one of America’s favorite rock bands, he perhaps has gotten the most publicity for … his wife. In 2013 he married his on-again, off-again girlfriend of twenty or so years, Michaele Salahi who was famous for being one of the Real Housewives reality TV shows. Fittingly for a reality TV celebrity, the couple tied the knot in a pay-per-view TV show! Mind you, it wasn’t as ridiculous or selfish as it sounded. Viewers got treated to concerts by both Journey and Tower of Power and Schon played an instrumental he’d written for his wife. And while the couple probably got a nice little wedding gift from the royalties, they also donated some of the money to Philippine typhoon victims, a cause close to the band since Steve Perry’s replacement, Arnel Pineda was born there.

If you’ve been wanting to see Journey play their hits live but haven’t yet, don’t stop believin’ that you can. They’re touring extensively again this year, playing Newark tonight, and have announced a new album is being readied for release this spring. The first single off it, “The Way We Used To Be” came out recently.

January 7 – Space Age Guitars Took Awhile To Fly Off Shelves

Rock began to look cooler on this day in 1958, even if it didn’t sound any different. But Gibson made a visual statement 64 years back when it patented its Flying V Guitar.

Gibson by then was a well-established and well-loved brand of guitars. It was begun by Orville Gibson, in Kalamazoo, Michigan around 1902 after he’d patented a style of mandolin at the end of the 1800s. The Gibson Mandolin & Guitar Manufacturing Co. quickly became popular, initially more for mandolins than guitars, but by 1936 they’d expanded their range to make one of the first-ever electric guitars, the ES150. Although they primarily were diverted into making military parts during World War II, they still managed to hire on some women to turn out 25 000 guitars during that period, albeit apparently surruptitiously. In the early-’50s, they collaborated with guitar legend Les Paul to make the line of guitars bearing his name which remain popular to this day.

In 1958, they found upstart competitor Fender was starting to command a significant portion of the guitar market, so they decided to try something new. They decided to make some space-age looking guitars for the world thrilled by all-things spacey and futuristic. Chief among them was the Flying V (there were also a couple of asymmetrical versions, the Moderna and Futura which never caught on fully.) With its sharp angles it looked radically different, although it was designed to closely approximate the sound of the popular Les Paul. Originally they made them out of limba, an African wood that looks and feels like mahogany but is much lighter… models made with mahogany were found to be rather cumbersome. Later they’d change to more conventional woods but keep the look and characteristics of the original, limba Flying Vs… which if you happen to find in your attic, you could probably sell for over $200 000. Although much like other, regular-looking electrics, they have their diehard fans. One characteristic of the Flying V’s is a propensity for a lot of sustain, apparently due to the pickup right over the center-of-balance on the six-string.

Although initially too odd-looking to catch on, in the early-’60s Blues rocker Albert King and early rocker Lonnie Mack started using them and sales nudged upwards. In 1965 they got a big boost when Dave Davies of the Kinks did a TV performance using one. Turns out that he had bought it at the last minute when his regular guitar was lost in the airport; a Flying V seemed his only option! (Remarkably, that’s a similar story to how Peter Buck of R.E.M. ended up using a Rickenbacker so much early on; his regular guitar was broken and all he could find immediately before one show was a used Rickenbacker.) Soon Keith Richards tried one out, then Jimi Hendrix took a liking to them and had a few left-handed ones made for him. Their star power continued into the ’70s with Marc Bolan of T-Rex Kiss’s Paul Stanley and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons being high-profile users. Nancy Wilson of Heart became one of the few female stars to take to them. More recently, Lenny Kravitz has been a fan of them, but mostly they’ve become synonymous with heavy metal and thrash, with people like James Hetfield of Metallica, Bob Mould of Husker Du, and KK Downing of Judas Priest letting fly on the “V”.

Gibson has long-since moved to Nashville and are currently the second-biggest guitar brand in the U.S., behind Fender. They manufacture new Flying V’s periodically.

December 13 – Baxter Sure Doesn’t Stink As Guitarist

This doesn’t stink. Jeff “Skunk” Baxter turns 73 today – happy birthday to him!.

Jeff was born in Washington, DC, and works there at times today – more on that in a bit – and is something of a guitar legend. He became very good as a guitarist as a teen, met a very young Jimi Hendrix and played in a band with him in the ’60s… albeit as a bassist. Apparently the band had a pretty good guitarist without Skunk! He’d later go on to be a part of two of California’s biggest bands of the ’70s – Steely Dan, then the Doobie Brothers. After leaving the latter around the end of the decade, he’s kept busy in music, producing albums for Nazareth and  continuing to add his guitar licks to other artists records, as he did when he could find the time with the other two bands. Baxter’s shown up on records from everyone from Rod Stewart to John Mellencamp to Joni Mitchell.

But he’s not all about music. The guy studied journalism at Boston University and knows a thing or two about technology as well. These days you might find him back in DC… advising Congress on matters of national defense. Seriously. He’s a weapons analyst of some sort on a Congressional committee, and says “my big thing is to look at existing technologies and try to see other ways they can be used, which happens in music (and) happens to be what terrorists are incredibly good at!”

Journalists and terrorists alike seem unable to crack the mystery of his nickname though and he’s coyly suggested he’ll not comment on “Skunk” until he writes a bio. The LA Times once reported it was because a one time bandmate walked in on him in the bathroom and didn’t like the smell, but who knows? We do know he played guitar on Steely Dan’s first hit, “Do It Again”. After leaving them in 1974, he soon landed in the Doobie Brothers, playing both regular and steel guitars on hits like “Takin’ It To The Streets” and “What A Fool Believes.” He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with them in 2020.

October 16 – Bob The Hard-Working Hippie?

Hippies and strong work ethics aren’t always synonymous, but they could be if there were more people like the guitarist turning 74 today. Happy birthday, Bob Weir!

Weir is best-known for being the rhythm guitarist for the ultimate ’60s Hippie band, the Grateful Dead, but he never has been one to limit himself or his love of music. Even during the band’s close-to-30 year run, he was never one to let grass grow underneath his feet, putting out a solo record and working on various collaborations along the way, a process which has only accelerated since the death of the Dead frontman, Jerry Garcia.

Weir and Garcia met on New Year’s Eve, 1963, and played music all night long, according to the legend. They formed a bluegrass jug band, but switched to more rock offerings after seeing The Beatles on TV. “What we saw them doing was impossibly attractive. I couldn’t think of anything else more worth doing,” he recalls. So was born the Grateful Dead.

Weir’s willingness to work paid off handsomely, as he was at first considered a rather sloppy and second-rate guitarist, but by 1970 he’d improved into one of the better ones in the California circuit and was tackling slide guitar as well. He even took over the mic from Jerry on some of the band’s best-loved tracks like “Truckin’”. In the odd months they weren’t touring for their devoted Deadheads, Weir was busy with side projects like Kingfish, Bobby & the Midnites and Ratdog, which still performs at times, mixing in Dead covers with their own material.

After Garcia’s death prompted dissolution of the band, Weir’s kept busy, at times performing with the other surviving members simply as “The Dead” , other times with bassist Phil Lesh as, simply enough, Bobby & Phil. More recently he’s toured with Don Was (producer and leader of ’80s band Was Not Was) in an act called Bob Weir and Wolf Bros. He’s toured with John Mayer and the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson and played for President Obama at the White House… what a long strange trip from the flower power days of 1967 San Francisco! Filmmakers thought so as well – in 2014, he was the subject of a documentary entitled The Other One – The Long Strange Trip of Bob Weir.

More recently, he’s performed with The National and won the first-ever Les Paul Spirit Award, with its director stating “not only is he an extraordinary talent who has given us an amazing array of legendary music, but he is an innovator who understands music (and) technologies.”