Phil Lesh Friends We’d Like To See | Benmont Tench

Ever since Furthur revealed they will take a hiatus for most of 2014, we’ve been pondering the future for members of the band. We’re hopeful Joe Russo re-teams with Marco Benevento for a batch of Benevento-Russo Duo gigs in 2014 and Les Claypool broke the news that Bob Weir plans to tour with RatDog so we know what he’ll be up to with Jeff Chimenti. What about Phil Lesh? We imagine he’ll play plenty of shows at his Terrapin Crossroads venue and may even tour with Phil & Friends. With that in mind we wanted to point out a few potential Phil Lesh friends over the next few months. We started with Wilco guitarist Nels Cline and this week we’d like to nominate Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench.

[Photo by Brian R. Grubb via Wikipedia]

Born Benjamin Montmorency Tench III, Benmont -as his friends (and the rock industry) call him -is one of the most underrated keyboardist in rock history. We’re talking about an extremely versatile player who adds impressive layers to each tune, while never stepping on his band mates’ toes. We can see him fitting into one of Phil’s guitar-oriented ensembles perfectly. He’s also the master of many different keyboards from synths to grand piano to organ to electric piano -Benmont has a knack for finding the right tone for the right situation. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers aren’t exactly an act known for their improvisational prowess, but just because the band knows how to write a catchy rock song doesn’t mean they can’t jam. For an example of the group at their best and Benmont’s handiwork, watch this 12-minute take on “It’s Good To Be King”:

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers started covering the Grateful Dead’s “Friend Of The Devil” during a Fillmore residency in 1997 and then shelved the tune until earlier this year when it made a number of appearances during the band’s summer tour. Other Dead connections include Tench performing with Bob Weir at last December’s Merry Minstrel Musical Circus put on by Jonathan Wilson. Benmont was also supposed to participate in the Move Me Brightly tribute to Jerry Garcia held at Weir’s TRI Studios, but unfortunately had to pull out at the last minute due to “unforeseen circumstances.” The keyboardist also contributed a cover of “U.S. Blues” to the 1991 GD tribute album Dedicated as part of a band called The Harshed Mellows with a few of the Heartbreakers and famed producer Brendan O’Brien. Check out Tench’s work on Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ cover of “Friend Of The Devil” from earlier this year and tell us Benmont and Lesh wouldn’t be a match made in heaven.