More Skeletons from the Closet: Rock ‘n Roll Collectibles Headline at B & B, Oct. 5

Fans of the Grateful Dead and Rock collectors will vie for desirable memorabilia at auction on Oct. 5, 2008, in San Francisco, with gold records awarded to the legendary band, tour and studio instruments, the band’s "ride"– a ’56 Chevy that transported Dead band mates and Bay Area VIPs, unique treasures that traveled with the band, and scarce concert posters. Property stems from the Estate of Vince Welnick, former Dead keyboardist; from the collection of Rock Scully, decades-long band manager; and from other notable "Dead Heads" intimate with the band’s legacy. 

Bonhams & Butterfields opens previews for "More Skeletons from the Closet," the firm’s second auction devoted to the iconic and beloved San Francisco rock band, on Thursday, Oct. 2.  The exhibit is expected to attract fans and a contingent of Bay Area icons –reminiscing amongst familiar objects they haven’t seen in many years. The previews are open to the public, continuing until the auction stages on Sunday. 

More than 170 lots, to be sold to the highest bidders, comprise: original Jerry Garcia artwork, sound equipment used on tours and in studio, original handwritten lyrics and never-before-seen ephemera. Welnick’s grand piano from his private studio could bring as much as $175,000, while John Kahn’s Fender bass used extensively on stage with Jerry Garcia and in recording sessions could bring $15,000 to $20,000. The well-traveled metal-cased attaché carried by the Rock Scully during his 20-year run as manager is adorned with dozens of Grateful Dead stickers, some dating back to 1967 (estimate $4,000-$5,000). 

"Our first sale of Grateful Dead treasures took place in May of 2007 and featuring property from the band’s longtime crew member Ram Rod Shurtliff.  That sale was an overwhelming success, which allowed countless collectors, connoisseurs and fans to own a one-of-a-kind piece of the Dead’s history. The second auction, ‘More Skeletons from the Closet,’ promises to be just as thrilling as lots offered come directly from Rock Scully, the Estate of Vince Welnick, Stanley Mouse, the famous San Francisco psychedelic artist, from a close family friend of Ron "Pig Pen" McKernan, and from former employees of The Grateful Dead," said Margaret Barrett, Director, Entertainment Memorabilia at Bonhams & Butterfields.

Rock Scully was with The Grateful Dead from the band’s inception and has consigned a number of special items to the auction that only someone who was ‘there’ could possess.  Highlights from the Rock Scully Collection will include: a personally owned red flight case used on the road with The Grateful Dead, 1970s-‘80s (estimate $3,000-$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 the album (estimate $4,000-$6,000); a Grateful Dead acoustic guitar nicknamed "the Kitchen Beater" due to its heavy use by band members, assorted musicians and the colorful cast of visitors hanging out in the kitchen at the address most identified as the band’s "crib," 710 Ashbury Street (estimate $2,000-$2,500).

Vince Welnick [1951-2006] was The Grateful Dead’s last keyboard player, joining them in 1990 and playing with the band until his final live performance in 1995.  Welnick came to the band with an impressive musical background, having been a member of new-wave cult band The Tubes in the 1970s-‘80s. Welnick’s fluid playing style and his passion for all types of music made him an ideal fit for The Dead and he contributed significantly to the band’s performances. His widow, Lori Welnick, feels the time is right to share her husband’s treasured possessions with Grateful Dead fans: "Vince always kept things that were important to him, so it makes me happy to be able to share those items with his fans now."

Welnick’s personal effects will be offered throughout the sale including a top of the line Bösendorfer grand piano from his private music room. The instrument was in use for many hours of play and composition, both solo and with close friends. Welnick was so fond of this piano that it had its own home – the entire guesthouse behind his main home in Forestville, Calif. Interestingly, Welnick kept a print hanging by his Bösendorfer depicting the composer Johannes Brahms playing this same model piano. The print is included in the lot, along with a color snapshot showing Welnick playing this piano, a letter dated March 1995 from the Bösendorfer Company to Welnick thanking him for his positive comments about their piano, a small maroon suede ‘piano pillow’ with the Bösendorfer logo, and two brass keys that would enable the owner to open any Bösendorfer-brand piano in the world (est. $125,000-$175,000).

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 (estimate $4,000-$6,000); an official presentation RIAA gold CD for The Grateful Dead 1995 album So Many Roads inscribed to Welnick (estimate $800-$1,200); a set of CIRA gold records for The Tubes albums The Completion Backwards Principle and Outside Inside (estimate $1,000-$1,500); a Paul McCartney handwritten letter to Welnick, circa 1990s (estimate $600-$800); a beautiful etched glass award made by Tiffany & Co., presented in 1994 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" (estimate $300-$500); a wooden ‘Steal Your Face’ cigar box containing an unopened pack of Harley Davidson-brand cigarettes and other smoking paraphernalia (estimate $200-$225); a director’s chair given to Welnick to commemorate The Grateful Dead 1991 concert at Madison Square Garden (estimate $600-$800); a signed metal ‘moon face’ sculpture gifted to Welnick by Grateful Dead soundman and "chemist" Owsley Stanley (estimate $100-$150); and an original ‘art print’ depicting Jerry Garcia by artist Chad MacManus (estimate $200-$225). 

A rare 4-color separation used to create album art and other artwork for promotion of the Grateful Dead’s 1980 album Go to Heaven is estimated at $400-$600 and two tie-dye speaker covers made for the band on-stage use throughout the early 1970s could bring as much as $1,500. Two Mouse/Kelley original paintings created for Grateful Dead t-shirts in the 1980s will interest collectors, while a grouping of Grateful Dead Christmas cards – created in limited editions and only sent to band members, could bring $1,000.

Stanley Mouse is a living legend. His 1960s-era (and beyond) iconic and instantly recognizable artwork was used on countless rock posters and album covers – especially with The Grateful Dead.  "Though there are a number of his pieces in this auction, Bonhams & Butterfields is especially proud to offer two lots that Mouse himself brought to us: his original artwork created in 1973 for the first Grateful Dead Songbook, and a recent original painting Mouse made for the cover of this auction catalog," said Margaret Barrett.

Interesting lots include a set of Grateful Dead hand-painted wooden Russian nesting dolls depicting the band members in 1994 (estimate $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.

Property from a close friend of the McKernan family comprises 15 lots in the auction. Growing up in Palo Alto, Calif., with Kevin McKernan [Ron "Pig Pen" McKernan’s younger brother], this consignor attended dozens of early G.D. shows (even back when the band was called The Warlocks) with Kevin and still remains close to the family today. Over the years, he was gifted a number of personal items belonging to Pig Pen, none of which have been seen by the public. The consignor said, "I would like to see Pig’s items go to those who want to preserve his legacy. He was an important musician; one who I hope is always remembered."                             

Collectibles gifted to the consignor after Pig Pen’s death in 1973 include: a rare page of handwritten Grateful Dead lyrics (estimate $3,000-$5,000); an M. Hohner brand engraved harmonica used for private jam sessions and possibly onstage with The Grateful Dead (estimate $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 (estimate $500-$700); a 1963 ink portrait of Pig Pen in profile – before his trademark long hair (estimate $400-$600), and three Grateful Dead 45 RPM records from Pig Pen’s personal collection (estimate $400-$600). A rare 1966 poster, "Can You Pass the Acid Test," which hung in Pig Pen’s room was designed for telephone poles. His copy is one of the only known examples to survive (estimate $25,000-$30,000). 

The remainder of the lots in this auction come from devoted former employees of The Grateful Dead, many pieces related to Jerry Garcia in particular and several described as irreplaceable. Highlights include the 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air sedan customized with the iconic ‘Steal Your Face’ logo stitched on the inside rear deck of car (estimate $4,000-$6,000).  The vehicle was used in and around San Francisco to transport members of The Grateful Dead and Bay Area icons such as Bill Graham, Wavy Gravy and Chet Helms, among others, from the 1970s to 2008. 

The Oct. 5 auction and Oct. 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. 

For more information visit www.bonhams.com/us/

Click here to view the online Skeletons from the Closet catalog.

COMMENT