SAN FRANCISCO, May 18 (UPI) -- Grateful Dead crew member, Lawrence "Ramrod" Shurtliff, described by Bob Weir as "our rock," has died in Petaluma, Calif., at age 61.
Shurtliff, known simply as "Ramrod," died Wednesday at Petaluma Valley Hospital only weeks after being diagnosed with lung cancer, The San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday.
Author Ken Kesey gave "Ramrod" his nickname, which stuck with him through his life, the Chronicle said.
"I remember when he first showed up at 710 Ashbury," Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart told the newspaper. "He pulled up on a Harley. He was wearing a chain with a lock around his waist. He said 'Name's Ramrod -- Kesey sent me -- I hear you need a good man.' I remember it like it was yesterday."
Ramrod started as a truck driver for the band in 1967 and was laid off with the remainder of the Dead's staff last year. He served as president of the Grateful Dead board of directors when it incorporated in the '70s until guitarist Jerry Garcia's death in 1995.
Hart and Weir recalled a vast number of instances where Ramrod proved invaluable to the jam band -- like the time Hart as so stoned, Ramrod fastened him to his drum stool with gaffer's tape so he would not fall off.
He had a son, Strider Shurtliff, with his first wife, Patricia "Patticake" Luft, and a son, Rudson Shurtliff, with his wife of 38 years, Francis Whalen.