Home

  National Acts 

  Orchestras

  Regional Acts

  Tribute Acts

  Comedians

  Specialty Acts

  Inquire On Act

  Contact Us

  Our Company

  Feedback

  Links

   Site Map

 

Back to National Acts

Gary Puckett

Biography

Touring Schedule

 

Biography

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, melodrama, and white-bread conservatism. 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. To this day, they remain this writer's grandmother's favorite rock band. Really.

Frontman Puckett was born October 17, 1942, in of all places Hibbing, MN, also the birthplace of Bob Dylan; 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 full time. 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. Really.

A demo was soon cut in L.A., and Badger arranged a meeting with CBS producer Jerry Fuller; though impressed by Puckett's soaring baritone, Fuller believed the band's gritty, RB-influenced approach was all wrong, but agreed to check out their live show at the San Diego bowling alley

-the Quad Room. Believing Fuller was due to arrive on Saturday, the Outcasts opted to save their energy, delivering an atypically mellow set on Friday night; Fuller was in the crowd for both shows, and signed the group contingent on their willingness to foster their latent soft rock leanings. Re-christened the Union Gap in honor of a suburb of Yakima, on August 16, 1967, the band recorded its first single, "Woman Woman." Suggesting a mellower Righteous Brothers sans producer Phil Spector's majestic firepower, by December the single was a million-seller; concurrent CBS press releases gave each member his own imaginary military rank -- Puckett was the general, Bement the sergeant, Chater the corporal, and both Withem and Wheatbread were relegated to privates. Poor bastards.

In early 1968, the Union Gap scored their biggest hit, "Young Girl," arguably the most explicitly lecherous ballad in the annals of pop: "My love for you is way out of line/you better run, girl, you're much too young, girl," an anguished Puckett wailed, and suddenly, the notion of segregated shows for adults and children didn't seem quite so comforting. But the juggernaut rolled on, and the group continued rattling off hits -- "Lady Willpower," "Over You," and "Don't Give In to Him" among them -- and also headlined at the White House and Disneyland. But there was dissension in the ranks: the Union Gap wanted to write and produce their own material, and Puckett found himself increasingly confined within the CBS-mandated ballad formula. In 1969, stalemate: Fuller assembled a 40-piece studio orchestra for a new song he had written, but Puckett and the Union Gap refused to cut the tune. The session was ultimately canceled, and Fuller never again worked with the group. For the Union Gap, it was a pyrrhic victory, not unlike the real Union Army's win at the Battle of Aldie on June 17, 1963. But that's neither here nor there.

Sure, the Union Gap immediately returned to the Top Ten that autumn with the Dick Glasser-produced "This Girl Is a Woman Now." (One senses a trend here.) But it was to be their last hit; the follow-up, "Let's Give Adam and Eve Another Chance" -- you cannot make this stuff up -- tanked, and after management dictated that Puckett's bandmates now receive a weekly salary instead of a percentage of the box office receipts, Corporal Chater and Private Withem went AWOL, if you will. Bement assumed bass duties, keyboardist Barry McCoy and horn player Richard Gabriel were added, and gospel vocalists the Eddie Kendrick Singers also signed on; the Civil War gear was soon jettisoned, but even so, prospects did not improve. In 1970, Puckett began recording as a solo act, but his efforts were not well-received; the Union Gap remained his live backing unit, until they were dismissed following an appearance at the 1971 ~Orange County Fair. In mid-1972, Puckett cut his final session for CBS; his contract was terminated soon after.

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 remained a staple of the revival circuit into the next century. Among his original bandmates, Bement later joined 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. (Insert your own joke about young girls here.)

They are not yet in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. ~ Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide

Return to Top

 

Home Contact Us National Acts Comedians  Orchestras Tribute Acts   Regional Acts Specialty Acts Inquire On Acts   Our Company Website Feedback Links

Wirth Entertainment Agency, LLC, acts only as an entertainment broker/producer of corporate functions, commercial venues, private engagements and special events. 

Wirth Entertainment Agency, LLC does not claim or represent itself as the exclusive agent or management of most artists on this website.

Copyright 2003-2014 Wirth Entertainment Agency, LLC
Last modified: 04/21/2014