Ramrod is gone. Taken by lung cancer at the age of 61.
The San Francisco Chronicle obituary offers some great stories from the man’s life.
Born Lawrence Shurtliff, he was raised a country boy in eastern Oregon and once won a county fair blue ribbon in cattle judging. He got the name Ramrod from Kesey while he was traveling through Mexico with the author and LSD evangelist.
“I am Ramon Rodriguez Rodriguez, the famous Mexican guide,” he boasted, and he was known ever after as Ramrod.
“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.”
Hart said that it was Ramrod’s practice to say “all right” at the conclusion of every performance as the band filed off the stage. “I looked forward to those ‘all rights,’ ” said Hart. “It was the way he said it. It was the tone that said it all — ‘it was all right … not great.’ You couldn’t fool old Ramrod. I was playing for him.”
Hart also remembered one New Year’s Eve when he thought he might be too high to play. Ramrod solved the problem by strapping Hart to his drum stool with gaffer’s tape.
For more, read Robert Hunter’s Elegy for Ramrod.