Auction of GD memorabilia 10/5 in San Francisco

More Skeletons from the Closet
Rock Collectibles from Ron “Pig Pen” McKernan, Vince Welnick, Rock Scully, John Kahn and Steve Parish on the Auction Block at Bonhams & Butterfields

Bonhams & Butterfields is pleased to announce the October 5, 2008 Grateful Dead-themed auction titled More Skeletons from the Closet. The San Francisco sale will feature collectibles of interest to Rock collectors and fans including property from Ron “Pig Pen” McKernan, one of the band’s founding members, Rock Scully, the band’s Manager for two decades, and property from the Estate of Vince Welnick, co-founding member of the Tubes and a Grateful Dead keyboardist, as well as property from John Kahn and Steve Parish. The October sale will also include additional property consigned by other Dead “family members” and close associates.

A number of rare items owned by “Pig Pen” McKernan have been consigned by a close family friend of the McKernan family who grew up in Palo Alto, CA with Pig Pen’s younger brother Kevin. These pieces were gifted to the consignor after Pig Pen’s death in 1973 and include: a rare page of handwritten Grateful Dead lyrics (est. $3/5,000); an M. Hohner brand engraved harmonica used for private jam sessions and possibly onstage with The Grateful Dead (est. $1,000/1,200); a first edition of “Kaddish” by Allen Ginsberg, with personal doodles by Pig Pen on the front cover and his ownership signature on the inside front cover (est. $500/700); a 1963 ink portrait of Pig Pen in profile, before his trademark long hair (est. $400/600), and three Grateful Dead 45rpm records from Pig Pen’s personal collection(est. $400/600). 

“There are many important pieces in the auction that cover the entire history of The Grateful Dead – from the very early years up until 1995 when the band broke up due to Jerry Garcia’s early demise,” says Bonhams & Butterfields’ Entertainment Memorabilia Dept. director Margaret Barrett who has conducted numerous auctions of celebrity memorabilia, including the Ram Rod Shurtliff sale in May 2007. “Collectors have great interest in instruments, equipment and items personally owned by iconic and beloved bands such as The Grateful Dead. The October sale will be filled with items such as these, all coming from members the band’s inner circle.”

The Collection of Rock Scully, manager of the Grateful Dead from 1965-1985, will also be offered during the October 5th auction. Scully was a personal friend of Jerry Garcia and managed the band through the most historic period of its existence. According to fans and rock historians, he was instrumental in making the band the huge success they were. 

Highlights from the Rock Scully Collection will include: a personally owned red flight case used on the road with The Grateful Dead, 1970s-1980s (est. $3/5,000); an RIAA gold record presented to Jerry Garcia for The Grateful Dead’s 1974 album “Skeletons from the Closet” – gifted by Garcia to Scully who was instrumental in the concept and creation of this album (est. $4/6,000); a Grateful Dead acoustic guitar nicknamed “the kitchen beater” due to its heavy use by various band members, musicians and visitors in the kitchen at 710 Ashbury Street [in San Francisco] (est. $2,00/2,500); a rare 4-color separation used to create album art and other artwork for The Grateful Dead’s 1980 album “Go to Heaven” (est. $400/600); as well, two tie-dye speaker covers made for the band to use on stage throughout the early 1970s (est. $1,000/1,500); two Mouse Kelley original paintings created for Grateful Dead t-shirts in the 1980s (est. 1,000/1,500) and a metal attaché case used to transport important items for The Grateful Dead while on tour (est. $3/5,000). Included with the case is a black and white photograph showing Scully, Garcia and others inside 710 Ashbury Street in 1967, with this then-new case seen in front of the fireplace. 

Over the years Vince Welnick [1951-2006] collected a multitude of cherished objects associated with The Tubes and The Grateful Dead, bands he was a member of, including a top of the line Bösendorfer grand piano from his private music room. The instrument was used by the musician during many hours of play and composition, solo and with close friends. Welnick was so fond of this special instrument that it had its own home – the entire guest house behind his main home in Forestville, CA. Interestingly, Welnick kept a print hanging by his Bösendorfer which depicts the composer Johannes Brahms playing this same model piano. The print is included along with a color snapshot showing Welnick playing this piano, a letter dated March 14, 1995 from the Bösendorfer Company to Welnick thanking him for his positive comments about their piano, a special small maroon suede ‘piano pillow’ with the Bösendorfer logo, and two brass keys that allow the owner to open any Bösendorfer-brand piano in the world. The piano and accompanying items are expected to bring $175,000-200,000 during the October auction. 

Additional highlights from the Estate of Vince Welnick include: a massive collection of tape cassettes, CDs, and reel-to-reel audio recordings of Grateful Dead and Missing Man Formation concerts and others (est. $4/6,000); an official presentation RIAA gold CD for The Grateful Dead album “So Many Roads,” 1995, inscribed to Welnick (est. $800/1,200); a set of CIRA gold records for The Tubes albums “The Completion Backwards Principle” and “Outside Inside,” 1983 (est. $1,000/1,500); a Paul McCartney handwritten letter to Welnick, circa 1990s (est. $600-800); a beautiful etched glass award made by Tiffany & Co., 1994, presented to The Grateful Dead to celebrate “a feat never before achieved in concert history – playing to over one million people at Giants Stadium & Meadowlands Arena” (est. $300/500); a wooden ‘Steal Your Face’ cigar box containing an unopened pack of Harley Davidson-brand cigarettes and other smoking items (est. $200/225); a director’s chair given to Welnick to commemorate The Grateful Dead concert at Madison Square Garden, 1991 (est. $600/800); a signed metal ‘moon face’ sculpture, gifted to Welnick by Grateful Dead soundman and “chemist” Owsley Stanley dated 1991 (est. $100/150); and an original ‘art print’ depicting Jerry Garcia by artist Chad MacManus (est. $200/225). 

Interesting is a set of Grateful Dead hand-painted wooden Russian nesting dolls depicting the band members in 1994 (est. $300/500). Each individual set was slightly different as the specific recipient’s doll was the biggest one; in this case, the first doll is painted as Welnick, the next smaller doll painted as Garcia and so on. All look remarkably like the musicians and indicate the musician’s name along with that of the band. Welnick’s doll is further signed and dated by the St. Petersburg artist.

The property from the Estate of Vince Welnick is being offered by Lorie Welnick, his widow. Mrs. Welnick remarked that she looks forward to the auction, “so these items can go to good homes and make people just as happy as they made Vince.”

A selection of property from others will also be featured during the October 5th sale. Highlights will include a 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air sedan once owned by longtime Grateful Dead crewmember Steve Parish (est. $4/6,000). Customized for the band with a ‘Steal Your Face’ logo stitched on the inside rear deck of car, the vehicle was used to transport members of The Grateful Dead and others including Bay Area icons such as Bill Graham, Wavy Gravy, and Chet Helms, among others, from the 1970s to 2008 in and around San Francisco. 

John Kahn’s 1959 Fender Precision Bass used extensively on stage with Jerry Garcia and in recording sessions, 1960s-1990s, will also be featured (est. $10/15,000). John Kahn [1947-1996] was a close friend and collaborator of Jerry Garcia’s and he played in every line-up of the Jerry Garcia Band, as well, with other Garcia groups. 

The Oct. 5th auction and October 2-4 preview are scheduled to coincide with three likely-to-be sold-out shows of the Grateful Dead tribute band, The Dark Star Orchestra, at San Francisco’s famous Fillmore Auditorium where The Dead played numerous shows from the 1960s to the 1990s.

The auction is scheduled for October 5, 2008 at Bonhams & Butterfields in San Francisco. 


Notes to Editors

About Vince Welnick
Born on February 21, 1951, in Phoenix, AZ, Vince Welnick was still a teenager when he parlayed his musical talent as a keyboardist into his first band, the Beans. With the addition of Fee Waybill, Roger Steen and Prairie Prince, the Tubes were formed. Their rowdy rock style and punk new wave lyrics garnered the Tubes a contract with A&M Records and their first album, a self-titled LP in 1975, was followed a year later with “Young & Rich.”

The band’s stage antics and shock rock were not easily transferred to vinyl, thus their studio efforts fell somewhat flat — with the exception of the late 1970’s single White Punks on Dope which spiked on Billboard charts and secured mainstream attention and radio play. A&M ended an association with the band in the late 1970s and the Tubes began production on Xanadu, the roller-skating musical starring Olivia Newton-John in which they appeared as themselves. 

In 1990, Welnick auditioned for the Grateful Dead keyboardist spot (left vacant by interim keyboardist Bruce Hornsby) and was hired by the band. His keyboard talents are included on Infrared Roses (1991), and he performed in a series of live 1994 Dead performances, Grayfolded: Transitive Axis. Welnick’s skills can also be heard on Zero’s 1994 live release Chance in a Million, as well as on various live releases of Grateful Dead material. By the end of his time with the band, he’d spent five years covering keyboard and vocal parts for the Dead. 

After the Dead’s disbandment and the Tubes’ re-formation with a new keyboardist, Welnick founded the Missing Man Formation. Along with Steve Kimock, Prairie Prince, Bobby Vega, Bobby Strickland and various other musicians, the group recorded a self-titled effort in 1998. During this period, Welnick performed on tour in America with the Mickey Hart Band and Gent Treadly, as well as performing with “jam bands” such as Terrapin Flyer and Jack Straw. 

Vince Welnick passed away on June 2, 2006 at the age of 55 after a decade of struggles, all the while creating music, beauty and light around him. His last message to fans was posted to his website on May 24, 2006, concluding with the words: “More than ever, the world needs love and the Grateful Dead! Love Vince.”  


2 Responses to “Auction of GD memorabilia 10/5 in San Francisco”

  1. Anyone know how I can obtain a copy od Dead Base Xl, the final book in the series? It’s out-of-print, and seems to be totally unavailable everywhere that I look. Also, I am interested in purchasing Dead Base l – X (1-10). If anyone has any information or ideas, please share them with me. Love to all! – Cliff e.mail:

  2. Jonas Matz says:

    Can anyone help?
    I have a Rick Griffin silkscreen with skeletons surfing across the state
    of California- its numbered and signed.. I cant seem to find reliable information about its worth. Can anyone help?
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