Nels Cline celebrates his 66th birthday today. The renowned guitarist was born on January 4, 1956 in Los Angeles. While he has served as lead guitarist for rockers Wilco since 2004 and also fronted his own Nels Cline Singers, the prolific musician has played on over 150 recordings in a wide range of genres from jazz and punk to alt-rock and experimental. Cline’s copious experience in these spheres has served him well in his collaboration in the jam world. Nels has lent his expertise to supergroup Banyan as well as sit-ins with Medeski, Martin & Wood, Tedeschi Trucks Band and more.
In 2014, Cline teamed up with patriarch of the jam scene, Phil Lesh, as a member of the legendary Grateful Dead bassist’s Phil Lesh & Friends. Nels first joined Phil & Friends on May 29, 2014 at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York making his appearance in the second set alongside keyboardist John Medeski, guitarists John Scofield and John Kadlecik, drummer Joe Russo and percussionist Jordan Levine. Cline added his immense talent to Grateful Dead classics like “China Cat Sunflower” “Dark Star,” “Scarlet Begonias” and “St. Stephen” as well as the Dead-covered “Morning Dew.” Check out video of “Morning Dew” along with audio taped by Jon Pasternak from May 29 below:
Nels returned to perform on May 30, once again joining for the second set with the same lineup. That frame featured Nels on more Dead favorites like “Cumberland Blues,” “Eyes Of The World,” “The Wheel,” “So Many Roads” and the classic trifecta of “Help On The Way” > “Slipknot!” > “Franklin’s Tower” to wrap up the set ahead of the “Ripple” encore. Watch Cline on “Cumberland” and also find full-show audio captured by sunboy below:
Nels reprised his role as a “Friend” one last time in 2014 for Phil Lesh & Friends’ November 1 concert at The Cap during one of Phil’s landmark residencies at the storied venue. Nels was part of a four guitar attack that also featured John K, Scott Law and ALO’s Lebo (Dan Lebowitz) as well as Russo and Dark Star Orchestra keyboardist Rob Barraco.
This time Cline performed for both sets and the encore, playing on some of the aforementioned Dead tunes along with “Tennessee Jed,” “He’s Gone” and more as well as tunes by The Rolling Stones and ALO. Nels also added to one of Phil’s signature songs, “Unbroken Chain.” Find video of both sets as well as full show audio taped by Cam Keough below: