Another Grateful Dead Keyboardist Gone

With profound sadness, I want to report that the Grateful Dead family lost a true pioneer this week, as Howard Wales died today, Tuesday, December 8th, 2020 at the age of 77.  Howard Wales played on American Beauty, organ on ‘Candyman’, and ‘Truckin’’ and piano on ‘Brokedown Palace’.  Howard had done session work with James Brown, the Four Tops, Lonnie Mack, Ronnie Hawkins, Freddie King, The Coasters and others.  Jerry once claimed that “Howard was so incredible, and we were just hanging on for dear life.  For some reason, Howard enjoyed playing with us, but we were just keeping up.  Howard was so outside.  For both of us that was a wonderful experience… Playing with Howard did more for my ears than anybody I ever played with because he was so extended and so different.  His approach was all extensions and very keyboardistic; not guitaristic.”

Towards the tail end of the ‘60s, Garcia was introduced to a Hammond B3 player by the name of Howard Wales, who held jam sessions every Monday night at the Matrix on Fillmore Street in San Francisco.  Jerry started coming down more regularly to play along, and these ad hoc gatherings resulted in what would eventually become the Jerry Garcia Band.  Drummer Bill Vitt and bassist John Kahn along with Howard and Jerry made a recording from one of the nights in 1970 at the Matrix which was released in October 1998 as the Garcia/Wales album, Side Trips, Volume One.  In 1971 the studio album entitled Hooteroll? Was made which became a joint effort of experimental jazz that rose as a beacon of Garcia’s studio prowess and abilities outside the Dead.  At the time, Warner Brothers grew tired of the Grateful Dead, so Garcia released a side project titled Hooteroll? with keyboardist Howard Wales on another label.  Garcia continued to play with Wales through around January 1972. After Pigpen passed away, Wales tried out to be a member of the Grateful Dead but his style didn’t fit the group.

16 thoughts on “Another Grateful Dead Keyboardist Gone

  1. Sad about him but I’m glad he lived a longer life than most of his Dead Keyboard peers.
    Love the sound they had together…that is great. Very unlike the Dead but great.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It sounds really funky in a good way. I would have never guessed Jerry had something to do with it…which is a compliment to him.

        Liked by 1 person

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