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Gary Puckett & the Union Gap Biography
Gary Puckett & The Union Gap (initially credited as The Union Gap featuring Gary Puckett) was an American pop rock group active in the late 1960s. Their biggest hits were "Woman, Woman"; "Over You"; "Young Girl"; and "Lady Willpower." It was formed by Gary Puckett, Gary 'Mutha' Withem, Dwight Bement, Kerry Chater, and Paul Wheatbread, who eventually named it The Union Gap. It featured costumes that were based on the Union Army uniforms worn during the American Civil War. They were noticed by Jerry Fuller, who gave them a recording contract with Columbia Records. The group eventually grew unhappy with doing material written and produced by other people, leading them to stop working with Fuller. The band eventually disbanded and Puckett went on to do both solo work and collaborations.
Singer Gary Puckett (born October 17, 1942, Hibbing, Minnesota) grew up in Yakima, Washington - close to the city of Union Gap - and Twin Falls, Idaho. He began playing guitar in his teens, and graduated from Twin Falls High School before attending college in San Diego, California. There, he quit college and played in several local bands before joining the Outcasts, a local hard rock group, which produced two singles, but they were unsuccessful.
Following the breakup of the Outcasts, Puckett formed a new group called Gary and the Remarkables, comprising bassist Kerry Chater (born August 7, 1945, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), keyboardist Gary 'Mutha' Withem (born August 22, 1946, San Diego),tenor saxophonist Dwight Bement (born December 28, 1945, San Diego), and drummer Paul Wheatbread (born February 8, 1946, San Diego).
In 1966, the band toured the Pacific Northwest without Wheatbread, who was recruited as the house drummer on the television series, Where the Action Is; he later rejoined the line-up. Under manager Dick Badger the band was renamed The Union Gap in early 1967, and kitted themselves out with Union Army-style Civil War uniforms as a visual gimmick. They then recorded a demo, which was heard by CBS record producer and songwriter Jerry Fuller. Impressed by Puckett's tenor voice and the band's soft rock leanings, Fuller signed them to a recording contract with Columbia Records.
The band recorded their first single, "Woman Woman", a song written by Jim Glaser and Jimmy Payne, in August 1967. It became their first hit, reaching #3 in Cash Box magazine and #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was quickly certified as a million-selling Gold disc.
This was followed during the next two years by "Young Girl" (#1 in Cash Box, #2 in Billboard), "Lady Willpower" (#1 in Cash Box, #2 in Billboard), "Over You" (#5 in Cash Box, #7 in Billboard), and "Don't Give in to Him" (#15). All were produced by Fuller, who also wrote "Young Girl," "Lady Willpower," and "Over You". Although the band never had a Billboard #1 record in the United States, "Young Girl" hit #1 on the UK singles chart for 4 weeks in May/June 1968. "Young Girl" was the second million selling disc for the band, which it reached less than two months after issue; "Lady Willpower" and "Over You" also won gold discs. The band headlined at a White House reception for Prince Charles and at Disneyland in 1968, and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1969, losing out to José Feliciano.
The band, however, wanted to write and produce its own material, and Puckett resented singing the power ballads written by Fuller. In 1969 Fuller prepared a 40-piece studio orchestra to record a new song he had written, but Puckett and the group refused to record it, the session was canceled, and Fuller never again worked with the group. The band returned to the charts with "This Girl Is a Woman Now," produced by Dick Glasser, but later releases failed to make the Billboard Top 40. Chater and Withem left the band; Bement took over on bass guitar and keyboardist, Barry McCoy, and horn player, Richard Gabriel, were added. In 1970 Puckett began recording as a solo act, but with limited success; the Union Gap remained his live backing band until they were dismissed following an appearance at the 1971 Orange County Fair. Puckett's recording contract was terminated one year later.
Solo careers and personal lives:
After the Union Gap was disbanded, Puckett had modest success as a solo artist, mostly performing and re-recording the band's songs. By 1973 he had essentially disappeared from music, opting instead to study acting and dance and performing in theatrical productions in and around Los Angeles. A comeback tour engineered by music writer Thomas K. Arnold brought him to Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1981, and from that point on he became a regular on the national oldies circuit. Puckett was on the bill for the first major Monkees reunion tour in 1986, along with The Grass Roots featuring Rob Grill and the current version of Herman's Hermits (minus Peter Noone). He has also released some new material, including a 2001 holiday album entitled Gary Puckett at Christmas. In 1994 and 2002 Puckett performed at the Moondance Jam near Walker, Minnesota. As of 2010, Puckett continued to perform live concerts in venues across the US, including "package" oldies circuit tours with The Association and The Lettermen. On June 20, 2010, Puckett performed for the first time in Union Gap, Washington, the namesake city of his former band. Puckett is married to Lorrie and they live with Lorrie's two daughters, Syd and Michaela; they currently reside in Clearwater, Florida. Bement later joined the oldies act Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids. Chater relocated to Nashville, Tennessee where he worked as a songwriter, and had a minor solo hit in 1977 with "Part Time Love." Wheatbread turned to concert promotion, and Withem returned to San Diego to teach high-school band.
On his 2010 Australian tour Puckett was joined by Australia's Lucky Starr, a regular on popular television programs Bandstand and Six O'Clock Rock.
Current band lineup is Woody Lingle (bass and vocals), Jamie Hilboldt (keyboards and vocals) and Mike Candito (drums and vocals)