Lawrence "Ramrod" Shurtliff, legendary crew chief for the Grateful Dead has died from lung cancer at Petaluma Valley Hospital. He was 61 years old.

Known throughout the biz simply as Ramrod, this legendary character was first in and last out of every show played by the Dead. He began his career with them back in the 1960s, when the Grateful Dead were playing clubs and dive bars around San Francisco and Oakland.

"I remember when he first showed up at 710 Ashbury," said Dead drummer Mickey Hart. "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 began driving a truck for the dead and gradually worked his way up through the key positions in production. He was considered such an integral part of the "family" that he was named president of the Grateful Dead's board of directors when the band incorporated itself in the 70s.

As a young deadhead and blooming designer, I had always made it a tradition to yell out my thanks to Ramrod and Dead lighting designer Candace Brightman when I left a venue after seeing them play...Ramrod could always be counted on to yell back, "You're welcome. Now get the hell out!" He will be sorely missed.