TCA hosts Gary Puckett and The Union GapWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Gary Puckett and The Union Gap made the most of the ’60s. The decade included six consecutive gold records for the group in 1968 and a performance at the White House for the Nixon family, Prince Charles and Princess Anne.
Instead of playing in Washington, D.C., the group responsible for singles “Woman, Woman,” “Young Girl,” “Lady Willpower,” “Over You” and “Don’t Give Into Him” will come to Tecumseh on April 29.
The name Union Gap comes from a town in Washington state near where Puckett grew up. Puckett’s parents, who had been big-band members, encouraged him to learn the piano as a child.
“They said, ‘What do you think of this?’ and I said, ‘I’d rather go out and chase garter snakes,’” Puckett said during a phone call from his home in Clearwater, Fla.
By the time Puckett was a teenager, he had fallen in love with music — albeit rock ’n’ roll instead of the classical tunes he grew up with.
“My heart was just struck by rock ’n’ roll, by Elvis Presley, by Jerry Lee Lewis, The Everly Brothers,” he recalled. Puckett, also a big fan of the rock film “Blackboard Jungle,” took up a guitar he found in an attic.
Despite their love of music, Puckett’s parents wanted him to pursue a traditional route.
“My folks and my grandparents said, ‘We want you to be in medicine, go to college and study, be a professional person,’” he said.
Puckett gave it a shot and spent two years in college in San Diego before dropping out. He ended up in an 11-man band called The Ravens. The band turned out to have too many members to work, but it led Puckett to a realization.
“Do we do this for the love of rock ’n’ roll or to get paid? There came a point where I realized we do it for both,” he said. Puckett would go through other band formations and names before settling on one that stuck — The Union Gap, featuring the group in Yankee Civil War costumes. Puckett, who had a small collection of war memorabilia, believed the uniforms made the group stand out in an era of paisley and platform shoes.
“I went, ‘Perfect. I’ve got a name; I got an image. Now all we need is a great record,’” Puckett said.
The band went on to meet a young Jerry Fuller of Columbia Records in what would prove to be a crucial collaboration.
“There was a guy who I ultimately discovered, Jerry Fuller, who is given credit for discovering me,” Puckett said with a laugh. Fuller wrote many of the group’s hits, including “Young Girl.”
“Young Girl” with the lyrics of “Young girl, get out of my mind/My love for you is way out of line” was considered racy during its day, something Puckett disputes.
“Looking back, it wasn’t about being racy. It was more about an upstanding guy who just happened to be a little older,” he said. The controversy didn’t slow the song down and in 1974 it was rereleased in England by popular request.
Still the 1970s proved less than kind to Puckett and his band with the advent of glitter rock and disco.
“That’s when things were changing. Decades are sort of marked by their beginning and their end. People were wanting to let it go, forget about it,” Puckett said. Puckett disbanded the group in 1971. He tried to have a solo career, but didn’t have the same amount of success as he had with The Union Gap.
Puckett and The Union Gap would return to the popular music scene in the ’80s as part of the Happy Together Tour and later the Monkees’ reunion tour. Puckett’s songs would also hit the airwaves again as golden oldies on the radio.
“That’s when things got back on track for people like me ousted by the music industry,” Puckett said.
Puckett and the latest formation of The Union Gap plan to give Tecumseh the group’s biggest hits and some covers. “The show is all built around what the people expect and want,” Puckett said. He will also tell the story of when he met Presley
The group will play the Tecumseh Center for the Arts (TCA), 400 N. Maumee St., Tecumseh, at 4 p.m. April 29. Tickets are $26 for youth and seniors and $29 for general admission. Tickets are available at www.thetca.org.
Tags: Blackboard Jungle, by Jerry Lee Lewis, Civil War, Columbia Records, Elvis Presley, Gary Puckett, Jerry Fuller, Prince Charles, Tecumseh, Tecumseh Center for the Arts, The Everly Brothers, The Union Gap