Tag Archives: Searching for the Sound

Happy Birthday, Phil Lesh


Today is the birthday of Phil Lesh. He was born in 1940. Don’t know who Phil Lesh is? Well, he’s most famous for being the Grateful Dead’s bassist.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Lesh,

Philip Chapman Lesh  is a musician and a founding member of the Grateful Dead, with whom he played bass guitar throughout their 30-year career.

After the band’s disbanding in 1995, Lesh continued the tradition of Grateful Dead family music with side project Phil Lesh and Friends, which paid homage to the Dead’s music by playing their originals, common covers, and the songs of the members of his band. Phil Lesh & Friends helped keep a legitimate entity for the band’s music to continue.

According to http://www.dead.net/band/phil-lesh,

One of the strongest intellects and most extraordinary musical talents in rock history, Phil Lesh re-defined what the bass could sound like, and in so doing heavily influenced what the Dead sounded like. Instead of being part of the rhythm section, Phil’s bass was a low-end guitar, and his improvised interplay with Garcia and Weir made the Dead the not-quite-rock-band rock band that it was. Raised in an eastern suburb of San Francisco, he began his music studies with classical violin before switching to “cool jazz” big-band trumpet a la Stan Kenton. Later he studied with Luciano Berio and composed avant-garde music in the realm of Stockhausen. In 1965 he attended a Warlocks [the name of the Grateful Dead before they were called “Grateful Dead”] show at a pizza parlor in Menlo Park, and afterwards his friend [Jerry] Garcia informed him that he was the new bass player in the band. Fortunately for future Dead Heads, he said, “Why not”?

[amazon template=image&asin=0316009989]In 2005, Phil’s book Searching for the Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead was published. Here’s a short review I wrote of the book:

I can’t possibly convey how wonderful this book is. Every Deadhead needs to read it.

Phil Lesh is a geek in all the best ways! I have to read this book again with a dictionary on hand so I can learn all the unfamiliar words he uses. And of course, he talks about playing music in terms that I (as a non-musician) simply don’t understand.

But don’t let either of those things deter you. Most of the this book consists of stories about the band, the history of the Grateful Dead and Phil’s place in it.

Did you know that Phil was the last of the original members to join the Grateful Dead? Did you know the first song they played as a band (in a rehearsal) was “I Know You Rider”?

From stories of the Acid Tests in the early 1960s to the loss of Jerry in 1995, this book is essential reading.