Bruce Gary - drummer in The Knack - producer of archive Jimi Hendrix recordings - and respected sideman for Jack Bruce, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Stephen Stills, Rod Stewart, Sheryl Crow, Bette Midler, Yoko Ono and Harry Nilsson et al - died on Tuesday from complications of lymphoma. (www.BruceGary.com)
In the late 1970's it wasn't only rock 'n' roll that was in the doldrums - drumming had been eclipsed by the universal drone of techno-perfect but soulless drum machines.
It was into that sterile vacuum that Bruce Gary and his powerhouse drumming for The Knack burst like an incendiary bombardment. The first drum attack on "My Sharona" sounded the death knell for disco. It was shock and awe percussion that demolished the blight of disco handclaps and returned rock to its primal roots.
No less shocking were the contradictions in Bruce himself. He looked as tall and stick-thin as the average Brit rocker - yet his personality was as warm, cosy and "haimishe" as your favorite Jewish grandmother. With a mischievous twinkle. Keith Richards exterior - Ruth Gordon on the inside.
I only had the gift of knowing Bruce for the past few years. I first met him when I was producing some benefit shows and needed a drummer to play with the highly-ranked Brits-in-exile I'd assembled . Spencer Davis, Denny Laine, Andy Summers, Chris Spedding, Phil Chen, Gordon Waller, Laurence Juber... It need a drummer of stature to play with all of those characters - and I found that and more in Bruce. He played like a dervish and provided the unity that bound the unrehearsed musicians together. Watching him thrash the drums on Spencer Davis' "I'm A Man" and Andy Summers' acid-tinged take on the Ventures' "Walk Don't Run" was to see a man possessed... possessed of the pure passion of rock 'n' roll.
Getting to know Bruce was even more pleasurable. Warm, funny, Beatles-obsessed, lanky, goofy, ladies' man... And on Oscar nights he was a perennial at Norby Walters' "Night Of A Hundred Stars" bash at the Beverly Hills Hotel - sat around a table next to a cigar-chewing radio deejay - schmoozing Sean Young and sundry actresses to the manor born...
Most of all I shall miss Bruce and his habit of greeting me - as he did all his friends when he ran into them - by gently cradling my face with his calloused drummer hands while shining a smile as warm as the sun. He was that rarest of people: A musician AND a mensch. Elvis and chicken soup in one package. Happy trails Bruce...