In memory of Larry Blackshere, vibraphonist for It's A Beautiful Day

from the San Francisco Chronicle-Wednesday, April 17th, 2002

A Bay Area musician who accompanied jazz greats and jammed with members of the Grateful Dead was killed at his San Leandro home, police said yesterday.
Investigators have no suspect and no motive for the death of Larry Blackshere, 53, who was found in a pool of blood Saturday evening at his home in the 1200 block of San Jose Street.
San Leandro police were asked to check on Blackshere, who lived alone, after he missed a Friday night engagement at the Warwick Hotel in San Francisco.

"It's about as big a whodunit as you can have," San Leandro police Sgt. Jim Lemmon said yesterday. "The motive is really unclear. All we know he was last seen alive about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. We know he didn't show up for work on Friday night."
Lt. Steve Pricco said that when police arrived about 6 p.m. Saturday they found his front door unlocked and a side door open. There were signs of a struggle and a lot of blood.
"It was obvious that he had been deceased for a few days," said Pricco, who would not release the cause of death. "We believe that he confronted an intruder into his house."
Nothing was missing. But it may have been a robbery attempt gone awry, police speculate, because Blackshere seemed like "a real good guy, and we haven't identified anybody who would remotely have reason to do what happened there," Lemmon said.

Blackshere's violent death shocked his family and Bay Area jazz musicians, where he was considered a top vibraphone player and a very versatile percussionist. Most of his musician friends only learned of his death yesterday.
"I can't imagine why anyone would want to kill Larry," said Jim Kerwin, the bass player with the David Grisman Quartet who spent five years in the 1980s playing in Europe and the East Coast in Blackshere's avant-garde trio. "He had a very creative mind. He was a great musician, . . . but he was also this philosopher who loved playing music."
Blackshere's credits were varied. He accompanied jazz greats such as Pharoah Sanders and George Shearing and spent five years touring with a Broadway production of "Cats."

"Larry always had lots of work," his brother Nick Blackshere said. "People knew that you could count on him."
Beside heading several jazz trios over the years, he led an "experimental sound" band called ZenSnap in the 1970s, accompanied Jesse Colin Young on tour in the '80s and played in a revival version the '60s pop group "It's a Beautiful Day."

"He loved improvisation, but he had a great gift for reading and interpreting music -- giving it new life," Kerwin said.
Blackshere began learning to play the marimba and drums at age 7 while growing up in Oakland's Redwood Heights neighborhood. He later joined the youth marching band the Weldonians and toured the state, playing percussion, his brother said.
He graduated from Skyline High School in 1966 and later received bachelor's and master's degrees in music from California State University at Hayward, his brother said.
E-mail Jim Zamora at

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