Robbie Hoddinott, of Bay Area’s Kingfish, Dies

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The core members of the Grateful Dead always liked to keep themselves busy with other projects when the band was not touring, and one of the best spinoffs to emerge from their scene was Kingfish, a quintet that, for a few years, featured the Dead’s rhythm guitarist/vocalist Bob Weir. The lead guitarist for Kingfish, Robbie Hoddinott, died March 6, 2017, one day before his 63rd birthday.

A Facebook post by the guitarist’s female partner confirms that he died at his home (his own Facebook page states that he lived in San Francisco). She also noted that he had been undergoing dialysis. It was subsequently determined that Hoddinott died from liver failure.

Kingfish (clockwise from left): Dave Torbert, Matthew Kelly, Bob Weir, Chris Herold, Robbie Hoddinott

Kingfish was formed in 1973 by harmonica player Matthew Kelly, New Riders of the Purple Sage bassist/vocalist Dave Torbert, Hoddinott playing Telecaster, drummer Chris Herold and keyboardist Mick Ward (who died soon afterwards), with Weir coming aboard in 1974, the same year the Dead went on a yearlong hiatus. The band played numerous gigs in their home base of the Bay Area and also toured nationally, then headed into the studio to record their debut album, the self-titled Kingfish, released in March 1976 on the Dead’s own short-lived Round Records label.

Related: Bob Weir released a new solo album, Blue Mountain, last year

The album peaked at #50 on the Billboard album chart and was followed in 1977 by Live ’n’ Kickin’, on Jet Records, which peaked at #103, the band’s final chart entry. Weir’s involvement with the band ended by the time of the album’s release and Hoddinott also exited the band that year.

Although he did continue to perform after leaving Kingfish, Hoddinott never enjoyed that level of visibility again. His discography shows only his involvement in Kingfish and related recordings and a role in a band called Eric Morrison and the Mysteries. According to some posted news articles, Hoddinott reportedly spent time in prison on drug-related charges but details were not noted.

Robbie Hoddinott in 2012

Kingfish still exists today, with no original members.

Watch Kingfish perform Marty Robbins’ “Big Iron” at San Francisco’s Winterland in 1976. Hoddinott can be seen to Bob Weir’s left and takes the solo at 2:34 in the clip.

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13 Comments so far

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  1. Mike Lenowsky
    #1 Mike Lenowsky 8 March, 2017, 15:27

    Always sad to hear of the passing of any musician..but especially when it’s someone within the Dead extended family. RIP Robbie Hoddinott

    Reply this comment
  2. Raf
    #2 Raf 8 March, 2017, 17:52

    I hope you’re in a better place Robbie. Glad that I got to spend some good times with you back in those days in the Bay Area. Thanks for getting me into that Kingfish show in Santa Cruz that time. Rest well my friend.

    Reply this comment
  3. Bertrude
    #3 Bertrude 9 March, 2017, 09:23

    Rest in Peace Robbie, That show you did in New York with Peter Forte and the Woodhavens was smoking hot. Thank You

    Reply this comment
  4. mike
    #4 mike 13 March, 2017, 13:08

    that boy sure could play guitar!

    Reply this comment
  5. mike
    #5 mike 29 March, 2017, 17:33

    Robbie was my closest friend for over fifty years .I brought my bass to his apartment in sf and we played music together till the end . I will really miss him . We fly fished together in Montana and played great music for many years .

    Reply this comment
    • Tom
      Tom 18 July, 2017, 16:52

      And amazing fly-fishing tales they were! Of course, Dylan had his Band, but so did Awalt High School: you and Rob in The Band. Fun times! And we were privileged to hear you two make great music. If I knew back then I’d since forgotten: Rob and I were both born on 3/7/54. Weird.

      Reply this comment
    • Jimmy War
      Jimmy War 17 August, 2020, 11:10

      MIKE…Did Robbie ever play the Red Washburn guitar I gave him the year before he checked out?

      Reply this comment
  6. Cottontop
    #6 Cottontop 12 April, 2018, 00:13

    I wonder if Robbie ever met his daughter again after her birth?
    BTW one of the best guitarists ever.

    Reply this comment
  7. Rich
    #7 Rich 9 March, 2019, 17:59

    I saw Robbie many times with Kingfish and his playing was always spot on!
    One of the best!

    Reply this comment
  8. Majortom
    #8 Majortom 11 March, 2019, 13:14

    Saw him at the Whisky ago go in 75
    Fantastic tone

    Reply this comment
  9. Scott scott
    #9 Scott scott 11 April, 2019, 19:17

    I first met robbie back in 1979 at reds guitar warehouse music store los Altos California, he played great and showed me how he did his tone controls on a fender deluxe amp. The next time I saw him was later 1979 at a party in los Altos where he jammed truly great again.
    Then in late 2016 I ran into him at a store across from his apartment
    on Howard st. in san francisco
    he was looking really good, with shorter hair
    I reintroduced myself and we talked for quite a while,
    I play guitar as well
    And into vintage guitars
    Like old tellys. With all the talk about guitars and music he said ” I was was a man after his own heart”
    We made plans together again but he died before that could happen.
    He was as sharp as a tack
    With a great sense of humor
    We all lost a truly truly special and gifted
    guitar player
    one of the very best really!!!

    Reply this comment
  10. Dan Dempsey
    #10 Dan Dempsey 9 October, 2021, 21:12

    I remember seeing Rob jam with Eric Clapton at Stanford’s Frost out door stage. I’m sure this was one of the highlights of his life. Those of us that were there were VERY happy for him!

    Reply this comment

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