Memorial Celebration Tribute by Mike Keneally
This tribute to Wes was presented by Mike Keneally at a memorial celebration on February 4th, 2005.
For a long, long time, Wes was a friend of a friend, and through Bryan Beller and Joe Travers, I met Wes. He was often with Bryan or Griff Peters when we all got together, and it was always good to see him. He was always the guy that, even though you didn’t spend that much time with him, it was always, “Right on, its’ Wes!” When you’d see Wes, you’d smile. It’s a good thing to see Wes. That’s a glorious thing to be that kind of person. Right on, Wes is here! That’s the way I feel tonight.
On December 15 at the Belly Up in San Diego, Wes played his first gig ever with my band. My bass player, Bryan Beller was not able to do the gig, and Wes Wehmiller was available. I threw him 17 songs to learn in a week and a half. Before we rehearsed with the full band, the two of us got together for about eight hours. We probably spent half that time talking, and I learned so much about him. I already respected him and admired him tremendously, but I felt such a closeness to him. It was very intimate and very fulfilling. I told him, I need you to be Wes Wehmiller. I want you to be you. I want you to breathe something into this music that hasn’t been there before. I don’t want to know exactly what’s going to happen on the stage. I want things to just explode. I want to be surprised. I want to be delighted. It’s just about going for it! And there’s one thing that Wes is good at, it’s going for it. There was just no stopping him.
When we got on stage to do the show, it felt like we were just floating up there. Wes and Joe Travers, going back years and years – the way those two beautiful people relate to one another musically and communicate and drive a band so insanely well. I found myself playing things that I never imagined I could play. It brought stuff out of me that I never even thought could happen. It was so good. And Wes was just smiling all night long. Every time I looked over at him, he would be beaming. He was so happy.
I gave him a couple of bass solos. He launches into his first solo. He’s looking happy and confident. He starts playing, and it’s beautiful and it’s brilliant. And he keeps going… and he keeps going… and he keeps going. Normally, if you’re stepping in a band that you don’t normally play in, you’re kind of testing the waters. You play a few bars, and you kind of back off. But, Wes is just – No, this feels just right. I’m not going to stop.
And while I’m watching him beaming and smiling and glowing and playing this beautiful music, I look at him and realize that I had always respected him and admired him. But now I LOVE him…. Look at him! Wes Wehmiller! Absolutely fantastic!
I’m so excited for Wes now because he was on an upswing. I’ve never seen him so happy and so focused. I saw him at the NAMM convention playing with Travers and Dweezil ten days ago. He was glowing and strong, and happy. I saw him heading up. And now he’s heading UP! Things are just beautiful for him now. He has given everyone of us so many gifts. I will never be able to repay. I am so fortunate to have known him and to have gotten to play with him for that one beautiful night. This room is filled with people who have gotten to play with him for years and years and years, and I’m so jealous. But we got to experience that one night together, and it will always stay with me as a completely magical occurrence.