The name, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, was OK with everybody in the band, but did they have to wear these Civil War uniforms?
“It was my idea, I was the boss, and so that’s what we did,” said Puckett, part of the “Sixties Spectacular” show Saturday night at Proctors. “Yeah, everybody in the band thought it was a stupid idea, but I was the one handing out the paychecks.”
Puckett, who recorded five top-10 singles with the Union Gap between 1967 and 1969, says he performs around 50 to 60 times a year these days, which suits him just fine. He is the only original member of the band still touring.
“I’m getting to the point where I really don’t like the travel much anymore,” said Puckett, who lives in Clearwater, Fla., with his wife, Lorrie. “All the hurry up and wait stuff I don’t like, and that’s probably what will eventually make me quit.”
Puckett was born in Minnesota and moved out to Yakima, Wash., with his family when he was 6. After graduating from high school, he went to San Diego State College for a little more than a year before dropping out to concentrate on a music career.
WHAT: A concert featuring Gary Puckett, Bill Medley, The Vogues and the 1910 Fruitgum Company
432 State St.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday
HOW MUCH: $54.75-$39.75
MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org
“I tried to please my parents so I tried for their sake, but singing with local bands and learning how to play the guitar was a lot more fun than going to school,” said Puckett. “I was taking general courses, and I was interested in child or criminal psychology, but it got to the point where I said to myself, ‘I gotta give this music thing a real shot.’ If it didn’t work, I could go back to school, or I had a pretty good job working for a foreign auto supply store. There weren’t that many foreign cars back in the ’60s, but that’s something I might have done well at.”
Puckett left school and his job and joined The Outcasts. That group eventually evolved into Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. When CBS record producer Jerry Fuller heard them perform, particularly Puckett’s soaring baritone, he had found his latest discovery. The band hit No. 4 with “Woman, Woman,” written by Jim Glaser and Jimmy Payne, in November of 1967, and then followed that up with “Young Girl” (No. 2) in March of 1968. Fuller wrote that song and he also penned two more top-10 hits (No. 2 and 7, respectively) in “Lady Willpower” (June of 1968) and “Over You” (September of 1968).
In March of 1969, the group recorded Gary Usher’s “Don’t Give in to Him,” which climbed to No. 15, and in August of 1969 they produced their final top-10 single (No. 9), “This Girl is a Woman Now,” written by Victor Millrose and Alan Bernstein.
While Fuller was a big part of their success both as a writer and producer, friction developed and he and the band parted ways. Puckett said the two men long ago rehabilitated their relationship.
“In retrospect that was good for us, and there are no hard feelings,” said Puckett. “He wrote some great songs and he created hit products. We’ve been in touch since, and about five years ago I got him up on the stage with us because he, too, was an artist and used to perform.”
Others on the bill
But by 1973, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap were breaking up. Puckett toured as a solo artist and had some success. But his career came back to life when the “oldies” craze hit in the early 1980s. He suddenly found himself getting a lot of offers to perform with the Happy Together Tour, with The Turtles and The Association.
Saturday night at Proctors he will be sharing the stage with Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers, The Vogues and the 1910 Fruitgum Company.
Medley sang “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” and “You’re My Soul and Inspiration,” both No. 1 records, as a member of the Righteous Brothers with Bobby Hatfield. As a solo artist, he also recorded “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” which also went to No. 1.
The Vogues recorded top-10 hits in “Five O’Clock World,” “Turn Around Look at Me,” “My Special Angel” and “You’re the One,” and the 1910 Fruitgum Company had top-10 success with “Simon Says,” “1, 2, 3 Red Light,” and “Indian Giver.”
Puckett says his parents recovered from the disappointment of his not finishing college. After all, they were musicians, too.
“There was always a piano in our house,” he said. “They didn’t have any higher education themselves, so they worked hard and wanted to see their kids get it. My mom played the piano and my dad played the sax. At first I think they wanted something more stable for me, but they were musicians and they knew how I felt. Music was always a big part of our lives.”
And he’s managed to survive the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, even during the turbulent 1960s.
“I’m a believer, so I kind of think I had somebody watching over me all that time,” he said. “I kept myself out of any real trouble, and I was always conscious of my health in general. I always tried to eat right and exercise and that kept me out of trouble.”
As for his own musical influences, Puckett has many of them.
“I enjoyed working opposite Burton Cummings [of The Guess Who], and he and Bill Medley have fabulous voices,” said Puckett. “I was also influenced by Elvis a lot. He was great. But when it comes to guys with great voices, there was Tom Jones, Englebert Humperdink, Johnny Mathis. I even loved The Rolling Stones. Not that Mick Jagger was a great singer, but he and Elvis had a lot of attitude.”
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]