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Gary Puckett & The Union Gap

During the late '60s -- a period forever distinguished as rock's most radical, innovative, and far-reaching -- Gary Puckett and the Union Gap forged a series of massive chart ballads almost otherworldly in their sheer earnestness and melodrama. Likely the only pop band of the era to play two nightly shows in the Catskills -- the early gig for their younger fans, the later appearance for the fans' parents -- the group pioneered the hip-to-be-square concept two decades before spiritual descendants Huey Lewis and the News; clad in Civil War-era get-ups (complete with fictitious military ranks) and bizarrely pedophilic lyrics, Puckett and the Union Gap were in their own way as far-out and singular as any other act of the period.

Frontman Puckett was born October 17, 1942, in of all places Hibbing, MN, (where Bob Dylan went to high school). Raised primarily in Yakima, WA, he picked up the guitar as a teen, and while attending college in San Diego played in a number of local bands before quitting school to focus on music. Puckett eventually landed with the Outcasts, a hard rock group comprised of bassist Kerry Chater, keyboardist Gary "Mutha" Withem, tenor saxophonist Dwight Bement, and drummer Paul Wheatbread. Despite earning a strong local following, in 1966 Wheatbread relocated to Los Angeles to serve as the house drummer on the television series Where the Action Is; the remaining members of the Outcasts toured the Pacific Northwest, and on their return, Wheatbread also moved back to San Diego and rejoined the lineup. For reasons unknown, manager Dick Badger -- convinced his charges needed a strong visual hook -- then sent the group to Tijuana, where they were outfitted with Union Army-style Civil War uniforms.

A demo was soon cut in L.A., and Badger arranged a meeting with CBS producer Jerry Fuller. Though impressed by Puckett's soaring baritone, Fuller believed the band's gritty, R&B-influenced approach was all wrong, but agreed to check out their live show at the San Diego bowling alley the Quad Room. Believing Fuller was due to arrive on Saturday, the Outcasts opted to save their energy, delivering an atypically mellow set on Friday night. Fuller, who was in the crowd for both shows, signed the group contingent on their willingness to foster their latent soft rock leanings. Re-christened the Union Gap in honor of a suburb of Yakima, on August 16, 1967, the band recorded its first single, "Woman Woman." Suggesting a mellower Righteous Brothers sans producer Phil Spector's majestic firepower, the single reached the Top Ten late in 1967 and was a million-seller by February of 1968; concurrent CBS press releases gave each member his own imaginary military rank -- Puckett was the general, Bement the sergeant, Chater the corporal, and both Withem and Wheatbread were relegated to privates.

In the spring of 1968, the Union Gap scored their biggest hit, "Young Girl," written by Fuller in the style of "Woman, Woman," but exchanging the age-old theme of infidelity for the age-old theme of the temptation of underage romance: "My love for you is way out of line/you better run, girl, you're much too young, girl," an anguished Puckett wailed. The juggernaut rolled on, and the group continued rattling off hits -- "Lady Willpower," "Over You," and "Don't Give in to Him" among them -- and also headlined at the White House and Disneyland. But there was dissension in the ranks: the Union Gap wanted to write and produce their own material, and Puckett found himself increasingly confined within the CBS-mandated ballad formula. In 1969, stalemate: Fuller assembled a 40-piece studio orchestra for a new song he had written, but Puckett and the Union Gap refused to cut the tune. The session was ultimately canceled, and Fuller never again worked with the group. For the Union Gap, it was a pyrrhic victory.

The band immediately returned to the Top Ten that autumn with the Dick Glasser-produced "This Girl Is a Woman Now," but it was to be their last hit. The follow-up, "Let's Give Adam and Eve Another Chance," tanked, and after management dictated that Puckett's bandmates now receive a weekly salary instead of a percentage of the revenue, Chater and Withem left the band. Bement assumed bass duties, keyboardist Barry McCoy and horn player Richard Gabriel were added, and gospel vocalists the Eddie Kendrick Singers also signed on. The Civil War gear was soon jettisoned, but even so, prospects did not improve. In 1970, Puckett began recording as a solo act, but his efforts were not well-received; the Union Gap remained his live backing unit, until they were dismissed following an appearance at the 1971 Orange County Fair. Puckett's contract with CBS was terminated one year later.

Puckett continued making solo appearances in the months to come, but by 1973 he had essentially disappeared from music, opting instead to study acting and dance. He performed in theatrical productions in and around L.A., but his acting career never really took off, and in 1984 he signed on with the Happy Together oldies package tour. Two years later, Puckett was tapped to open for the Monkees on their 20th Anniversary tour, and he remained a staple of the revival circuit into the next century. Among his original bandmates, Bement later joined the oldies act Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids, while Chater relocated to Nashville, where he plied his trade as a songwriter. Wheatbread, meanwhile, turned to concert promotion, and Withem returned to San Diego to teach high-school band. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography


coachwilliam h e w i t t
Strong Voice and good songs
Against my better judgment, I always liked the Union Gap. The bio has the great analysis: a series of massive chart ballads almost otherworldly in their sheer earnestness and melodrama. I could do without This Girl is a Woman Now, but Woman, Woman remains a great song...I hate to have to say it, but that look's all over you.---well written, and classic!
Love it great music great times.
Immediately after I got off active duty in the Marines, I began carrying mail in Chula Vista, CA. That was in '68. Two of the households I delivered to were the Pucketts and the Bements. I enjoyed talking to Dwight's wife as the band was on the road all the time. Great memories.
I love that song Over You
gary puckett was one horny dude. always singin about sex ...
this is one of the best groups of its time
I have loved this group since I first seen them in the 60's. They are my go-to on my pandora !!!!
I. lOVE that song they just don't make songs like that any more
Chuckollinge r @ g m a i l
Saved my sanity / life during a lousy war!
I currently live in Yakima WA and whenever I go to Union Gap (which has basically become the main shopping district of the Yakima area) I always think of this band and great songs. Interesting that they were basically forced to become a softer act than the planned on being...that turned out to be a smart move.
Dude was pretty horny.
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you have started reading this so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in the next 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in big letters this is so scary because it actually works
Great vocal range. On equal to Roy Orbison & Johnny Maestro of the Brooklyn Bridge for powerful full range powerful vocals. Love GP & union Gap.
verry good voice, (gary Puckett)
Love the oldies bring back good memories
gary pucket had a range unmatched by any other artist in his day, and the songs are timeless.... .
It doesn't appear wrong in the Bio but did when the song was playing.
Just want you to know that you made a mistake John Lennon didn't right the song Woman Woman for Gary Puckett. He did write Woman but that's a different song. Thanks :)
I hait you
You sock
You sock
I love you
DAF Wonderful voice one of the all-time best singers with range.
Favorite Gary Puckett and the Union Gap song.
I loved Gary Puckett since I was a very little girl. I actually thought he was singing just for me back then. He is amazing!
I loved Gary Puckett since I was a very little girl. I actually thought he was singing just for me back then. He is amazing!
I saw Gary Puckett at one of the Bossier City, LA casinos at a very small
venue some years ago and he still delivered. Great voice. With the
Union Gap, when he so big and had all of outstanding hits that I still love,
they, along with Jay & the Americans, were one of my all-time favorite
groups--and still are!
Lived in Selah Wa for about 10 years, which is right next to Yakima and Union Gap always suspected that he got the name Union Gap from there. Finding out he was rasied in Yakima confirmed it for me. Enjoy their music, a great band, something that is missing now a days. For me music as devolved rather then evolved.
For my music I would prefer more of the artists I sent in; don't care for Gary Puckett especially. Otherwise, this is great music.
Such a STRONG, deep voice. Perfection.. .
Im 24 and my dad was a Dj so I grew up with music that most people my age aren't aware of. I appreciate it even more now as an adult . Todays music is a bland taste of pop.

bbysmael, that's not unusual for the time period the song was written in. In fact a lot of countries still practice marrying their girls/women at a younger age.
I miss the simple times when people didn't read so much into a possible hidden meaning in the lyrics. The only thing wierd is you talking about your niece that way.
Going to see Gary tonight in concert in Conway, Ar
That smooth vibrato still makes me sigh every time I hear it. Gary is like a mouth full of chocolate pudding (:
I liked Gary and his group but never knew they had a military uniform look. Sad to say when the group was singing in their day, I was too young. Years later I heard their music and fell in love with it. The 1950- to late 1970's years had wonderful music. It so great we can still listen to it.
A a disc jockey in the 60's and 70's one of the most popular groups to be requested on our live instant request show was the Union Gap. Everybody wanted to hear the mellow souds of the Gap and the stories as written in song, of some the band members personal experience. It was pleasure to listen to the group then as well as now. They do bring back some pleasent memories.
DandJ 12
Ahhh Memories!
La Verne :
Gary is the greatest ! Saw him recently at Beau Rivage in Biloxi , Ms.... He had the best concert I've ever been to... and I saw Elvis! Gary's voice is so perfect. I listen to his CD from the show everytime I get into my car! Hoping he comes back to the Beau or somewhere near me soon . He has rejuvinated me! He is only a couple of years younger than me.. but he sings like he did in the beginning. even better! Thanks Gary !
Love to listen... takes me back.... Young Girl...
I went to Viet Nam about the time they got big. Siagon radio was the only place we caught them.
They were a big deal while growing up - I still enjoy listening to them, even singing along to outload - which scares my cats no end!
gary puckett was a great artist in the 60s.bernie weksberg.
I love his music! I lived in a small town in Minnesota and he came and did several small time solo performances back in the 80's. It was amazing
one of the purest baritones ever
Gary has one of the best voices of his time! Saw him solo ...he was in his 60's and still had a great voice!!
see them wil l grass roots and the monkees
and ham h
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