Gary Puckett and The Union Gap from uniforms to hits


The early days

Gary Puckett had been working locally in a band in the San Diego area trying to make it all happen. He wanted to get out of the nightclubs. He wanted to get into the national music scene and hopefully make some records and to perform with the likes of Chicago and Creedence Clearwater and the Beach Boys and all the others that were making the scene at the time. It took kind of a while to figure it out and put it together but once he did it was an overnight success. He had left a university degree to become a professional musician and was determined to prove he could make it.

Persevere and have faith

Gary went to Los Angeles to find an agent. However, the agent was on the fence about Gary’s band and he realised that he would need a hit record in order to get out on the road. Inspired by his interest in Civil War history, Gary thought of a unique concept to help make his band stand out: they would wear Civil War costumes. The other members of the band were resistant to the idea at first, but Gary persisted and he took them to Western Costume in Los Angeles to rent a costume. When they found the costumes were too expensive, Gary took them to Tijuana, Mexico, to get them tailored.

Once Gary and the band had their Union soldier outfits, they set off on a photographic journey to Knotts Berry Farm, a ghost town attraction outside of San Diego, and took pictures with the sheriff and the saloon girls. With the photos and songs he had written, Gary assembled them into a portfolio and took it to all the record companies. Most of them turned him down, but eventually he found Jerry Fuller at Columbia Records and convinced him to come down and see the band. After making a great impression, Jerry offered Gary and The Union Gap a record deal.

In 1968 Gary Puckett had six consecutive gold records and sold more records than any other recording act...including the Beatles.

The first hit: Woman Woman

The band went into the studio with a 30-piece orchestra and recorded their first hit song, “Woman, Woman.” It was a great success and helped launch their career. The song had been written by a couple of guys from Nashville. They had recorded it as a country record and it sounded very country, had a fuzz guitar in it and all the country elements. But Jerry heard through all of that. He says, I hear a hit song, I just hear it being done differently. And so it was. With Gary’s huge crooner voice, the son instantly climbed to the top of the charts.

Jerry Fuller was smart. He would say, first the song, then the singer.

1968 was an incredible year for Gary Puckett and the Union Gap with six consecutive Gold records in one year.  The band started to go out on the road.  And when the record was printed it came out with a picture of the band on the sleeve of the record. This was unheard of at the time. And to add to Gary’s luck, there was a disjockey program director in Columbus, Ohio who was a Civil War historian. He loved the picture and started playing the song over and over and over on his station. And it went to number one. It started catching on.  And that’s when they started to book the band out onto the road. And that’s when they all started to get sick.

Touring relentlessly and getting sick

Gary Puckett and the Union Gap were touring and doing everything. They picked up the gear, put it in the truck, took it out of the truck, took it into the club, set it up, did the sound check, did the show, tore it down, put it back. And they did that for a couple of months. And they drove themselves, and ended up with flus and colds. Totally run down, just run down. But they were still pumped by the fact that the records were rising on the charts. So they got through it and ended up doing their very first radio promotion show in front of 20,000 people. The song Young Girl followed. But as the decade came to a close, the music changed and Gary Puckett and the Union Gap dissolved. 
Fast forward to the 80’s and Gary Puckett hooks up with the company that puts together The Monkees so he goes out on tour to support their 20 year reunion. As a solo act, he’s having a ball and even starts off the Happy Together tour with The Turtles. Today Gary is still out there playing to packed houses across the globe. Check your local listings to see if he’s coming to a town near you.
To learn more about Gary Puckett head for his website 

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