Picking up a legend's mike
When former band members of The Grateful Dead handed Jimmy Herring the signature-effects box of late guitarist Jerry Garcia, he hesitated.
"Whenever you stand in the shoes of a legend, it's gonna be a little weird," he recalls.
The group, now called The Other Ones, had come together for their first rehearsal since Garcia's death in 1995. Herring had been chosen to fill in for Garcia.
"Out of respect I thought, 'I gotta go buy [my own effects box],' " he says. Garcia had used the MuTron to play signature songs like "Estimated Prophet" and "Fire on the Mountain." "I had always loved that sound," Herring adds. "They were so gracious ... to me."
In addition to The Other Ones, several other bands who lost key members have recently found replacements, picked up their instruments, and continued playing. The Who and INXS are among those who toured this summer with new guitarists and singers, sparking mixed reactions from fans.
The reason bands replace a lost member, despite the risk of losing fans, is simple: They love performing, says Dennis McNalley, author of the new book "Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead." "Does it have to be called nostalgia when guys in the band simply accept that they love playing together and want to do it again?" he asks.
Changes in a band's lineup can mean a difference, however. The chemistry among members and the unique style each musician brings to the mix always affects a band's overall sound. This can be either alienating or appealing to listeners.
Grateful Dead fans don't seem to be disappointed, if concert ticket sales are an indicator. The Other Ones' summer show in Alpine Valley, Wis., sold out. And the fall tour will likely fill stadiums. In addition, Mr. McNalley points out that releases from the Dead's vaults have been selling at a brisk pace and have also been critically lauded, for a change.
Members of The Other Ones also seem pleased about their creative prospects.
"We have been hearing each other and have been finding lines within jams that have been exciting," says Bob Weir.
Of course, the Dead and their devotees have been through the loss of a member before. Three of their keyboard players have died over the decades.
Other bands have had more trouble winning over fans after the loss of a key member. When The Who decided to continue touring this summer after the recent death of bassist John Entwistle, fans' first reaction was negative, to say the least. The outcry prompted Pete Townshend to publish the following explanation on a website: "We do not expect [bassist Pino Palladino] to attempt to ... copy John Entwistle in any way. Pino is a master in his own way, but the one request I made was that at first he play as loud as he can bear!"
After INXS replaced the late Michael Hutchence with singer Jon Stevens, it took time for some listeners to warm up to the revamped lineup. "How could they replace Michael and still tour under the name INXS?" says Brian Brown, a self-described INXS fanatic. "But after a while they began to evolve, and now, we as fans have come back around."