Gary Link (John Kay & Steppenwolf) 2019 Aug 31, 2019 10:59:48 GMT -6
Post by classic rock revival on Aug 31, 2019 10:59:48 GMT -6
CLASSIC ROCK REVIVAL INTERVIEW
Gary was born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1950 and started playing guitar and piano at age 12. He (like a lot of us) saw the Beatles and life was never the same again. He fronted his 1st band in Pittsburgh playing guitar at the age of 14 and played in various garage bands until he headed for college.
From 1968-1972 he attended PennStateUniversity and played in numerous rock, soul and blues bands around town. In the summer of 1970, he roadied with a band out of Union, Kentucky and befriended Syd McGinnis (now David Letterman’s guitarist). One day while Syd was practicing, he asked Gary to pick up the bass and jam with him, and Gary never put the bass down again.
In 1972 he re-entered the Pittsburgh music scene, met singer-songwriter David Werner and recorded 2 albums. Through David, he met guitarist Mark Doyle, moved to Syracuse, NY and played with The Mark Doyle & Joe Whiting All Star Band and The Buddy Grealy Band. He then met up with Andy Pratt and toured and recorded with Andy from 1975-1977.
In 1977, he returned to Pittsburgh and formed a power trio called “The Dogs” (with Danny Stag, who went on to play and record with “Kingdom Come”). Then, off to L.A. in 1978, he signed his first record deal with “Chopper” and recorded with famed songwriter/producer Jeff Barry.
In 1980, he toured Europe with Dokken and toured and recorded with John Kay and Steppenwolf from 1981-1984. He went on to tour & record with Rita Coolidge from 1986-1991. From 1992-1994 he performed and recorded with various entertainers in and around the Los Angeles area, moved to Nashville in 1994, and presently continues to lay down the groove with the Beaker Street Blues Band & Steppenwolf during summer tours.
Jim: Can you tell us a little about the Beaker Street Blues Band, how you came together?
Gary: I was playing with Al Perkins, Kristine Arnold and Cactus Moser in a band locally. Chuck Schumacher (our present Sax man and band leader) sat in with us. He called me shortly after and asked if I would be interested in playing with his band. We are a six piece blues band and 5 of us sing lead. It’s really cool. The drummer played with Orbison for years, the trumpet player was James Brown’s bandleader for years, the sax player plays harp and flute. We do old blues, rock, and just about everything.
Jim: You play mainly the Nashville,TN., area. Any future plans to go out on the road, other regional areas?
Gary: We just play locally now. A few other dates here and there.
Jim: Beaker Street Blues Band has a cd, 'Early Years'. Is it available elsewhere besides your website or will it be anytime soon?
Gary: That cd was recorded five years ago. It's also available on iTunes. We're currently working on a new one. Beaker Street Blues Band
Jim: You've been performing and recording since the early 70's. Who are some of the artists you worked with back then?
Gary: I did 2 albums in the early 70’s with a guy named David Werner. He was a Ziggy Stardust kinda guy. I toured with Andy Pratt in the mid 70’s and did an album with him called, “Shiver in the Night” (Arif Mardin produced). I Moved to L.A. in ‘78 and signed a deal with a band named Chopper and we did an album. We didn’t tour. I Did a tour of Germany with Dokken in 1980. I got the Wolf gig early ‘82. We toured and recorded til we broke up late ‘84. I then Played with Rita Coolidge from 85-91. I moved to Nashville in ‘94 and played locally until I hooked up with the Wolf again in ‘09.
Jim: You joined Dokken and toured Germany with them in 1980? That's really cool, I didn't know that. How did that come about?
Gary: I was jamming with an all girl band in Manhattan Beach, CA. in ‘79. Don and Bobby Blotzer (pre Ratt) walked in. Don asked if I wanted to jam with him and Bobby. Shortly after we did. Then he called me in fall of ‘80 and told me he had some dates in Germany. We needed a guitarist and drummer. Found Gary Holland and Greg Leon, rehearsed 10-12 songs and did 4-5 dates in Germany. That’s all I have to say about Don.
Jim: Let's talk a bit about your joining John Kay & Steppenwolf in '82. How did that come about?
Gary: Let's talk about me joining the Wolf. I did the Chopper thing in ‘79, we signed a deal but the keyboard player didn’t because he wanted to be exclusive. He plays with Elton John now (Kim Bullard). He went on to play with Poco.
Early ‘82 he called me and asked if I’d be interested in auditioning for the bass gig with Poco (Charlie Harrison was leaving...he subs for me here in the BSBB now...how funny!). I auditioned because I always liked and respected Poco but it wasn’t really my thing at that time. It went well but there was no follow up from either side. Two weeks after that the drummer from JK and the Wolf called Kim and asked him if he knew any bass players...I got the call from John and still have the recording on the cassette from my answering machine. I Went to John’s house on Laurel Canyon for the audition. I Had to play 'Magic Carpet Ride', 'Born To Be Wild', 'Give me News I Can Use,' and one other that I can’t recall. The band liked me and they left me alone with John. We chatted and I asked him what other songs they do. I knew them all because my older brother of 4 years had their albums. I also was in the front row for Canned Heat, the Wolf and The Doors at the Civic Arrna in Pittsburgh in 1967 or ‘68. He then offered me the gig and the rest is history.
Jim: The 'Paradox,' album released in '84 wasn't as bluesy as the band's previous releases. It had more of a jazz/fusion, Steely Dan style sound to it, but a good album nonetheless. A couple of the standout songs on that album for me were, 'Only The Strong Survive,' and 'The Fixer.' Do you have any memories of that album you could share with us, any standout tunes for you?
Gary: We did 'Paradox' at American Recorders with Richie Podolar and Bill Cooper. It's always fun working with those guys. Richie is famous for "that was a great take guys," I don't think it could be done any better but let's do another one anyhow!!! He was a classic. I think a lot of the 'jazz/fusion' was due to Michael Wilk's synthesizer influence with John. No standout tunes for me per se. It was a fun time.....I loved playing with the Palmer Brothers.
Jim: That period of the Wolf from '82 to '84 was a busy time as far as touring goes. You guys were doing a lot of shows, 5 or more a week. Can you give us a general idea of what it was like being on the road with the Wolf in those days?
Gary: We were quite busy those few years. My first tour with them was across Canada starting in Vancouver B.C. and ending in Halifax. We played a few dives here and there but also some cool venues. We did a week at Harrah's in Tahoe and Reno once or twice a year. I'm not really a fan of long drives in a vehicle (John had a 28 foot Airstream motor home) we toured in. We got along great and had some good times.....I can't really elaborate on those.
Jim: In late 1984 John Kay decided to call it quits for a while and the group disbanded. You joined Rita Coolidge's band for the next 6 years. How did that come about?
Gary: We disbanded in November of '84. I laid low in L.A. for a year or so. Ron Rainey managed Rita Coolidge as well as the Wolf. Thom Mooney was a friend of mine and he was Rita's band leader, drummer, and boyfriend at that time. Curtis Teal was leaving Rita's band to play with Etta James. Ron Rainey called me and asked if I'd be interested in joining Rita's band. I asked him what I had to do and he said, 'nothing'. So we rehearsed in Hollywood for a week and that was that. It was a fun gig. Rita was a class act. We didn't tour extensively. The first tour was Air Force bases in Korea, Japan and Hawaii with a stop in Indonesia. That was cool.....I wanted to be a pilot so I made the best of those dates. We did a few shows in Australia after that. We did a week on the SS Norway, a small tour of England, Spain, and Portugal.
Jim: In 2009 you rejoined John Kay & Steppenwolf and all of us die-hard fans, the Wolfpack, were thrilled to see you back with the band. You remained with them for the next 10 years up to their last show in Baxter, Kansas, in 2018. How was it that you came to rejoin the Wolf?
Gary: I moved to Nashville in 1994. I played locally for a few years in various bands. A lot of musicians live there and I was the new guy in town. A local rag called 'Hill and Hamlets,' did a spread on me at one point. Jutta (John Kay's wife) was a friend of the editors and saw the article. Around the same time I did a show out there with Al Perkins, Kristine Arnold, Cactus Moser and a few others. We were called the Hipower Band. The Wolf's production manager/monitor guy, Chris Bray was doing the sound. He told John Kay he saw us and had good things to say, (thanks Chris)! John realized I was still in the music biz. One day Charlie Wolf called me and said he wanted to talk to me over lunch about the Wolf. He told me what they had been up to and that John wanted me back in the band. I called John and that was that.
Jim: I know the show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville in 2018 was a special gig for the Wolf and the Wolfpack. Sadly, I missed that show. Any highlights from that gig you can share with us?
Gary: The Ryman show was a blast!!! I had never played there.....nor had John. A lot of Wolfpackers showed up that weekend for a few get togethers and the show. It was great, a lot of fans I kind of knew but never met as well as other alumni were there. We had a great show. The crowd was great and a lot of friends as well as Wolfpackers were there. Sorry you missed it. It was a great weekend.
Jim: Gary, I would like to thank you very much for doing this interview with me. Being the bass guitarist for John Kay & Steppenwolf for the better part of 12 years makes you one of my Rock and Roll Hero's. In closing, is there anything you'd like to say to the Wolfpack and all the other Rock n Roll Rebels out there?
Gary: As you know we did our last show in October of last year. I MISS IT TERRIBLY!!! It was an honor and privilege sharing the stage with John and all and playing all those great songs. People always asked me if I ever get tired playing the songs over and over. 'NEVER.' I loved every second of it. Sure we had some moments here and there but overall it was some of the best times of my musical life. It was cool also because I was able to connect with friends from all over, some of which I hadn't seen in 40 years. I would do it all again in a heartbeat if the opportunity arose again. I hope to see some of you again down the road somewhere. But in the meantime, as that Wolf saying goes.....STAY WELL AND STAY WILD!
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Gary's bio used with permission. Interview 8/31/19