Tuesday, August 29, 2006

POPOBIT: Bruce Gary

The original drummer with The Knack, Bruce Gary, has died at the age of 55.

Born in Burbank, California, Gary ironically came to drumming in a bid to keep him quiet. His parents, who found his energy difficult to cope with, obtained a drumkit from a cousin and passed it to him. They found a spot of rest; Gary found a passion and a career.

It was a passion that would lead him to leave home at the age of 15, drawn to Topanga Canyon and the music scene there. His drumming skills lifted him above the other teens on the scene, and before long he got a gig supporting Albert Collins. This work came to wider attention, and he wound up touring and recording with Mick Taylor and Jack Bruce in their post-Cream work. Even more impressively, Gary was the man on the stool for Doctor John during a stretch in the 1970s.

By 1978, he'd managed to hook up with Doug Fieger, Berton Averre and Prescott Niles in a band - The Knack. Their greatest moment would be My Sharona, a tribute to teenage girl Sharona Alperin. Written by Fieger and Averre, the tune was looking for a percussive line and, inspired by surf music and Smokey Robinson's Going To A Go-Go, Gary came up with the beat which would lead to an otherwise forgettable tale of teenage lust becoming a cultural landmark. My Sharona is currently still getting daily airings on British television as the soundtrack to a toothpaste advert; it was also reportedly one of the songs George Bush had had his team illegally copy onto his iPod.

My Sharona was a number one hit in the US in 1979, and the debut album Get The Knack sold six million. However, the knack of coming up with a follow-up eluded the Knack, and the band split shortly after the follow-up, But The Little Girls Understand. Gary wasn't part of the reactivated band whose tour was disrupted last month when Fieger fell ill, but had recorded a track with them for a Badfinger tribute album.

After the Knack, Gary had concnetrated on top-flight session work and producing - he'd been in charge of a series of Jimi Hendrix albums (obviously, a case where the artist wasn't in a place to argue with the producer over the direction of the work) and helped the Ventures out on a tour of Japan after their drummer, Mel Taylor, had passed.

Bruce Gary had been fighting non-Hodgsons lymphonia for over a decade; it was to this that he finally fell on Tuesday 22nd August, 2006. His death was announced by his mother.