Steamboat Springs Many deadheads thought jam guitar guru Steve Kimmock was destined to pick up the Grateful Dead's lead torch after Jerry Garcia's death in 1995.
Kimmock played Garcia's role in most post-Dead projects, such as The Other Ones on the Further Festival and Phil Lesh and Friends, securing that destiny.
But now Kimmock finds himself more intrigued and challenged with creating original music with his own band, the Steve Kimmock Band, rather than playing old Dead covers.
"I didn't take it as an extra responsibility," Kimmock said of stepping in for Garcia. "On the contrary. It's more of a responsibility playing your own music and making that happen."
When playing covers, he explained, someone already has done the work for you.
Since his time with the Dead in the late '90s, Kimmock has moved in his own direction, in more ways than one. After forming in 2000, the SKB has been touring the nation with rave reviews on a mostly instrumental act.
Kimmock also recently moved back to his hometown of Bethlehem, Pa. He bought a house, where he is building his own recording studio.
The move meant leaving the San Francisco area, the place where Kimmock spent about 25 years becoming one of the most innovative and tone-heavy improvisational guitarists to play a lead.
Garcia himself called Kimmock his favorite unknown guitar player shortly before his death.
Kimmock started in San Francisco with the Goodman Brothers
After stints with the salsa band Underdogs and the Heart of Gold Band with Keith and Donna Godchaux, Kimmock co-founded the band Zero with drummer Greg Anton in 1984. He helped produce six albums in 16 years with that band.
During that time, Kimmock worked with Jerry Joseph in Little Women, Bob Weir in Kingfish, Vince Welnick in Missing Man Foundation and Merl Saunders.
In 1998, Kimmock helped form KVHW with Bobby Vega, former Zappa player Ray White and drummer Alan Hertz, which earned good reviews for their live shows, before the band broke up.
Kimmock moved on, accepting invitations to the Other Ones and Phil and Friends. Along with the Dead alumni, that job meant working with Bruce Hornsby, John Molo, Warren Haynes and Trey Anastasio, just to name a few.
Now off on his own, Kimmock not surprisingly collected some seasoned musicians for SKB. Drummer Rodney Holmes and bassist Alphonso Johnson are both former members of Carlos Santana's band. Guitar player Mitch Stein, who frequents the contemporary jazz circuit with David Sanborn and has worked with a wide spectrum of artists, adds a second lead style to the mix.
"You definitely have to see us live to get the whole experience," Kimmock said.
The new band and the new home turned out to be another step in Kimmock's career.
"It's been a long time for me getting to this," he said. "There has been so much work along the way. I finally have something to do on my own. It's really a joy."
It's also a chance to spread his wings in the future.
"I think what is going to happen for me, especially now that I finally have a place to live and work, is that the current direction will continue," he said.
The SKB explores a variety of different styles of music, including blues, jazz, rock, traditional and even some Eastern influences.
"They are presented in more of a stew, kind of a fusion," he said.
Kimmock said he looks forward to exploring his roots a little more seriously, possibly releasing an electric blues album and then an acoustic album.
"There will be more specific side trips into the roots of music," he said.
For now, Kimmock said he is looking forward to his trip to Colorado.
"It is such a good event. There are certain events in certain places that really make this worth doing. Colorado for some reason has turned out to be a real good spot," he said. "It's all the good people in Colorado."
Kimmock kicks off his trip to Colorado today at Levelz in Steamboat Springs.
On Saturday he plays the 8150 Club in Vail and then finishes up the year Dec. 30 and Dec. 31 with two shows at the Gothic Theatre in Englewood.