WHEELING – When Gary Puckett burst onto the national music scene in 1967, he and his band, the Union Gap, sought to “capture the world.”
Riding the wave of their hit debut album, “Woman, Woman,” they captured much of the pop rock world with powerful, provocative lyrics infused with Puckett’s tenor voice. While the individual members of his group have changed over the years, Puckett has endured. His music still resonates with audiences, whose composition spans generations.
In short, the Puckett brand has maintained its popularity among the nostalgic crowd – and its shows of yesteryear draw crowds. This will be evident on Saturday, April 23, when Gary Puckett and the Union Gap perform at the Rock, Roll and Doo Wop concert at the Capitol Theater in Wheeling.
The concert, which begins at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.), also includes Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Bob Miranda and the Reflections and the Vogues.
Puckett, who turns 80 on October 17, explained what he thinks lies behind his half-century of performance and why his popularity has remained at such a high level.
“I don’t know; maybe they just think I’m a nice guy or something,” he joked over the phone from his home in Clearwater, Florida. to be able to continue to go out and meet the fans and play the songs for them. I guess I will continue to be there as long as the good Lord allows me.
Written by Jim Glaser and Jimmy Payne and recorded in August 1967, “Woman, Woman” was Puckett & the Gap’s debut single and quickly became a million seller. Entering the Billboard Hot 100 chart on November 12, 1967, it peaked at No. 4 in January 1968.
“Woman, Woman” was one of four Billboard Top 10 singles from Puckett & Co. in the United States in 1968. The other three, written by Jerry Fuller: “Young Girl”, “Lady Willpower” (both reaching #2 on Billboard) and “Over You” (#7). They sold more singles in America than the Beatles that year – Puckett estimating “14 or 15 million” vinyl records purchased by their followers – and their stardom led to bookings on television shows such as those hosted by Glen Campbell, Red Skelton, Jonathan Winters, the Smothers Brothers and Ed Sullivan.
It was also the year that Gary Puckett and the Union Gap organized a command performance at the White House for Prince Charles.
Throughout, Gary dressed himself and the band in Union Army-style Civil War uniforms, with Puckett striving for a different image than any other singers of that era. No bell bottoms for our boys.
A significant portion of the fans who show up for Gary Puckett and the new version of Union Gap these days weren’t even born when the songs were released decades ago. This means that the children and grandchildren of those who listened live in the 60s crossed generational lines backwards, going back in time for their choice of music.
“I notice young people in the crowd, and often ask them how they know the music,” said Puckett, married with two daughters and four grandchildren. “Their responses are varied, but often they say, ‘Well, I don’t care that much about the music of my generation, so I searched your airwaves or the internet and I went through the 60s, or your music in particular.’
“Or they’ll say they learned it from their grandparents or their parents. I find it encouraging, and I’m really happy to know that young people like our music.
“People (of all ages) keep coming out and singing.”
Born in Hibbing, Minnesota (home of Bob Dylan) but raised primarily in Yakima, Washington, Puckett was encouraged by his parents to become a dentist. He and they realized that a career in dental and gum care was out of the question when, during his two years (1961 and 1962) at San Diego City College, trump cards in astronomy kept him from attending. ‘to fail.
Puckett dropped out of college after two years and focused on a life in music. He was 20 years old. He played in local bands until the mid-1960s, when his band called Gary and the Remarkables was renamed The Union Gap (after a town near Yakima).
This set the stage for Columbia Records’ “Woman, Woman” under a contract drafted by Fuller, a CBS songwriter and record producer who would find and sign new talent. Puckett had convinced Columbia to print a photo of him and the band in Civil War regalia on the sleeve containing the 45 rpm record. He thought, rightly, that it would help sell records.
“A disc jockey/program director at a radio station in Columbus, Ohio, who was a Civil War historian, once had this record in this cover,” Puckett said. “He was like, ‘That’s a great picture. I wonder what this record looks like? So he named it a click pick, played it on the station, and it went to number one in Columbus.
“Columbia Records has a regional office in Cleveland, which is not far away. Cleveland called me and said, “Hey, you got a hit in Columbus.” ”
Next on the label’s wish list was to distribute “Woman, Woman” nationally and make it a hit wherever records were sold or played. It was such a good song that it sold out. Wish granted. Mission accomplished.
Eventually, Puckett and his Civil Warriors became disenchanted with Fuller’s influence. Gary and the Gap wanted to write and produce their own material and not adhere to Fuller’s guidelines. The band and producer therefore parted ways in 1969. Puckett began a solo career in 1970, releasing the original band from Union Gap the following year.
Puckett, whose solo endeavors lacked the success he had with the band, dipped his toes into dance and theater in the 1970s until surfacing on the oldies show circuit in the early 1970s. 1980s. He’s been around ever since, never getting tired of playing the oldies.
As Puckett said in an interview with Charles Gabrean as seen on YouTube, “People say, ‘Aren’t you sick of ‘Woman, Woman,’ ‘Young Girl,’ ‘Lady Willpower,'” Over You”, “This Girl is a woman now ‘whatever?’ I go, ‘No, because when I see the look on people’s faces and I see them singing and smiling and how much they love these songs, it just elicits a whole new response from me of ‘Wow, I see him again’. There he is.'”