I mention his passing here because he was truly an awesome player. I saw him with the Jerry Garcia Band in the 90s and he really added a crapload to the music. Other sites will do so much better a job at talking about why he was as great as he was...
But I have a personal Merl story to share.
Back in the early 90s, I was in a band called The Strangers and we were supposed to open for Merl at the Roseland in Portland. Merl could probably fill the place on his own but we were pretty hot at the time in Portland and expected to have a lot of our own fans there to see us.
When we got to load in and soundcheck, there was Merl's ginormous Hammond organ front-center stage. We were supposed to set up around this behemoth keyboard and we were a five piece band.
We told them we had to have that organ moved and they said 'no.' It was one of the rare times we took a stand, knowing the venue would have a lot of pissed off fans if we bailed, so we said, "move that thing or we don't play."
They moved it, but I don't remember another thing about that gig!
So Merl joins Jerry Garcia and John Kahn of the Jerry Garcia Band in that great gig in the sky. I bet they are jamming as we speak. Maybe it sounds something like this: