During the late '60s -- a period forever distinguished as rock's most radical, innovative, and far-reaching -- Gary Puckett and the Union Gap forged a series of massive chart ballads almost otherworldly in their sheer earnestness and melodrama. Likely the only pop band of the era to play two nightly shows in the Catskills -- the early gig for their younger fans, the later appearance for the fans' parents -- the group pioneered the hip-to-be-square concept two decades before spiritual descendants Huey Lewis and the News; clad in Civil War-era get-ups (complete with fictitious military ranks) and bizarrely pedophilic lyrics, Puckett and the Union Gap were in their own way as far-out and singular as any other act of the period.
Frontman Puckett was born October 17, 1942, in of all places Hibbing, MN, (where Bob Dylan went to high school). Raised primarily in Yakima, WA, he picked up the guitar as a teen, and while attending college in San Diego played in a number of local bands before quitting school to focus on music. Puckett eventually landed with the Outcasts, a hard rock group comprised of bassist Kerry Chater, keyboardist Gary "Mutha" Withem, tenor saxophonist Dwight Bement, and drummer Paul Wheatbread. Despite earning a strong local following, in 1966 Wheatbread relocated to Los Angeles to serve as the house drummer on the television series Where the Action Is; the remaining members of the Outcasts toured the Pacific Northwest, and on their return, Wheatbread also moved back to San Diego and rejoined the lineup. For reasons unknown, manager Dick Badger -- convinced his charges needed a strong visual hook -- then sent the group to Tijuana, where they were outfitted with Union Army-style Civil War uniforms.
Puckett continued making solo appearances in the months to come, but by 1973 he had essentially disappeared from music, opting instead to study acting and dance. He performed in theatrical productions in and around L.A., but his acting career never really took off, and in 1984 he signed on with the Happy Together oldies package tour. Two years later, Puckett was tapped to open for the Monkees on their 20th Anniversary tour, and he remained a staple of the revival circuit into the next century. Among his original bandmates, Bement later joined the oldies act Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids, while Chater relocated to Nashville, where he plied his trade as a songwriter. Wheatbread, meanwhile, turned to concert promotion, and Withem returned to San Diego to teach high-school band.
Frank Flac & mp3@320