Phil Lesh bass player Grateful Dead and Phil Lesh & Friends rock history

Happy Birthday to Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead

This Week in Rock History was the birthday of Mr. Phil Lesh, formerly the bass player of the Grateful Dead. Lesh was a founding member of the psychedelic jam band and spent the entire 30 years of its existence playing bass for them. The Grateful Dead, of course, were the founding fathers of the jam band circuit, known for their improvisational instrumental solos, ever-changing concert setlists, and a following that was so devoted one might even call it religious in spirit. They are now generally regarded as one of the great rock bands in the history of popular music and partisans of the band are just as rabid in their devotion in its aftermath.


When the group disbanded after the death of Jerry Garcia, Lesh continued on the journey with his band Phil Lesh and Friends, which played many Grateful Dead originals along with common Grateful Dead cover songs. He also had a stint in the band Further with fellow former Grateful Dead member, guitarist and vocalist Bob Weir. We wish you the very happiest of birthdays, Mr. Lesh, and thanks for all the wonderful music and history!

Born This Week in Rock History

3/12/1917 – Leonard Chess (Record Mogul, Chess Records)
3/12/1948 – James Taylor (Rock Singer-Songwriter)
3/12/1949 – Bill Payne (piano, Little Feat)
3/12/1949 – Mike Gibbins (drums, Badfinger)
3/12/1956 – Steve Harris (bass, Iron Maiden)
3/13/1960 – Adam Clayton (bass, U2)
3/15/1912 – Lightnin’ Hopkins (Blues Singer-Songwriter)
3/15/1940 – Phil Lesh (bass, Grateful Dead)
3/15/1943 – Sly Stone (vocals & multi-instrumentalist, Sly and the Family Stone)
3/15/1947 – Ry Cooder (guitarist & songwriter, multiple genres)
3/16/1948 – Michael Bruce (guitar and keyboards, Alice Cooper Band)
3/17/1941 – Paul Kantner (guitar, Jefferson Airplane)
3/17/1951 – Scott Gorham (guitarist, Thin Lizzy, Supertramp)

Died This Week in Rock History

3/12/1955 – Charlie Parker (Jazz Saxophonist)
3/12/2012 – Michael Hossack (drums, The Doobie Brothers)
3/15/1929 – Pinetop Smith (Blues Pianist)
3/15/2014 – Scott Asheton (drums, The Stooges)
3/16/1975 – T-Bone Walker (Blues singer-songwriter)
3/17/1990 – Ric Grech (bass, Traffic, Blind Faith)

Music Recordings, Releases and Top of the Charts

3/12/1967 – The Velvet Underground releases The Velvet Underground and Nico
3/12/1971 – The recording of The Allman Brothers’ At Fillmore East occurs (as well as on March 13th); minds are blown by those in attendance.

3/13/1967 – The Beatles’ “Penny Lane” hits #1.
3/13/1968 – The Byrd’s Greatest Hits goes gold.
3/13/1976 – The Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) hits #1.
3/13/1980 – Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon goes platinum.
3/15/1976 – KISS releases Destroyer.
3/17/1965 – “The Last Time” by The Rolling Stones hits the U.K. #1.

This Week in Rock History

On March 11, 1997, Paul McCartney was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and became Sir Paul McCartney


On March 12, 2007, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, R.E.M., Van Halen, The Ronettes, and Patti Smith.


On March 12, 1958, Billie Holiday was sentenced to one year of probation for heroin possession by a Philadelphia court. She had plead guilty to the charge.


On March 12, 1969, the police busted George Harrison and his wife for marijuana possession after entering The Beatles guitarist’s house. Meanwhile, on the same day, Paul McCartney married Linda Eastman. No other Beatle attended the wedding, but at least George had a good excuse.


On March 12, 1974, John Lennon and Harry Nilsson got drunk and thrown out of a Smothers Brothers comedy show at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. They were accused of causing a disturbance during the show. The press called Nilsson a bad influence on Lennon. Later, Nilsson commented, “It ruined my reputation for 10 years. Get one Beatle drunk and look what happens.”


On March 12, 2003, The Rolling Stones were about to embark on their first tour of China. The Chinese government, however, bans the Stones from playing a list of songs that they found controversial. These included classics like “Honky Tonk Women,” “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” and “Brown Sugar.” Guys, censorship is bad, especially in rock and roll.


On March 13, 1965, Eric Clapton quit The Yardbirds over his fears that they were becoming too commercial and veering away from the R&B and blues rock that he loved. For his next endeavor, he joined up with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers for their legendary collaborative album known in blues rock lore as the “Beano” album.


On March, 13, 2006, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted Blondie, Miles Davis, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Sabbath and The Sex Pistols. Bunch o’ punks that they were, The Sex Pistols did not attend the ceremony and rejected the induction. Meanwhile, Tommy Iommi almost wasn’t allowed to bring his awards home to England because security was concerned that it could be used as a weapon. 


On March 14, 1981, Eric Clapton was sent to the hospital with a near-fatal ulcer. He canceled the rest of his tour which consisted of 47 tour dates.


On March 14, 1998, Johnny Cash won the Grammy for Best Country Album. A few weeks later, his record company put a full-page ad in Billboard magazine with an old photo of Cash extending his middle finger obscenely. The ad read, “American Recordings and Johnny Cash would like to acknowledge the Nashville music establishment and country radio for your support.”


On March 17, 2005, Robert Plant received his Grammy Lifetime Achievement award at Austin’s SXSW festival.


And that’ll do it for this week’s edition of Rock History from the Joe Bonamassa Blog. Keep on rockin’ in the free world, ya’ll!


– JB Official Blog,
March 9, 2017


If you love Phil Lesh and the Grateful Dead, check out our awesome selection of Grateful Dead tees and merchandise, all 100% authentically licensed, at the Joe Bonamassa Tribut store.