Gary Puckett and the Union Gap still playing the hits
February 17, 2015
Gary Puckett formed the Union Gap in 1967.
He came up with the idea of the band’s name and to wear the Civil War uniforms, like Paul Revere and the Raiders wore Revolutionary War outfits.
"I was lucky to put together a group of talented musicians and take that [idea] to a guy at a recording company who wanted to make some records," Puckett told The Park Record during a telephone interview from his home in Clearwater, Florida. "But in those days, I couldn’t see myself in an imagination or vision at the age that I am now. So, to make a bunch of recordings that have withstood the test of time and become the fabric of American pop music is pretty darn awesome to me."
Puckett, known for the hits "Woman Woman," "Young Girl," "Lady Willpower" and "Over You," will show Park City why his songs have stood the test of time during a four-night stand at the Egyptian Theatre, starting on Thursday, Feb. 19.
"The show is built around the Union Gap’s recordings, so we will certainly play the hits and the B-sides, as well as the album cuts that have become fan hits over the years," Puckett said. "We do a few other things in the show as well. We do a little a cappella thing as well."
The a cappella segment was inspired by Puckett’s parents.
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"My mom and dad were both singers," Puckett said. "He was in two barbershop quartets. One was called the Four Dads and the other was called The Four Quarters. They were really good, but didn’t go anywhere, except to the local concert performances.
"My mom was part of the Sweet Adelines, the female counter part of the barbershop quartets," he said. "It was always fun to sit in the audience to hear them sing and it was fun to sit with them in the audience and hear them break out in songs."
The performance will also feature a U.S. veterans tribute, something he has done since the early 1980s.
During the tribute, Puckett will take some time to talk about a program called Veterans Solutions, an organization founded by his friend Robert Maggi.
"Robert lives in my neighborhood and is a very successful guy in the investment world and has a wonderful family," Puckett said. "He is also a wounded Vietnam veteran."
Maggie discovered a benefit program through the Veterans Administration years ago.
"The thing is only 25 percent of the vets know about it," Puckett said. "Once he told me about this program, I told Bob about the tribute I do to the veterans and will tell everyone during my concerts about this benefit."
In addition to the songs and veterans’ tribute, the concert will feature stories.
"I’ll talk about my experiences in music, like when I met Elvis," he said. "I try to move people, if I can, and certainly the tribute to the vets certainly is a good thing. I think it’s a lot of fun and I invite everyone to come out to it."
Puckett decided to pursue music as a profession because of his parents. The couple played in a band called the Dick Halverson Big Band right out of high school.
"That’s how they met," Puckett said. "They came from that era and wanted all of their kids to have an appreciation of music, although they didn’t pressure any of us to go beyond that."
They sat Puckett at the piano when he was 6 and he took lessons for a few years.
"When I was 15, I found a guitar in my grandmother’s attic," he said. "I grew up in a time when rock ‘n’ roll was about to be born, so the guitar was romantic and fun.
"I gained appreciation for the big band and it wasn’t until I was a little older when I really learned to appreciate the Hit Parade in the ’40s and ’50s," Puckett said. "Then along came Elvis, Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers and those people. When I heard ‘Rock Around the Clock,’ I said, ‘Wow!’"
While a teen in San Diego, Puckett always had a band.
"We played in the naval installations and Marine recruit depots," he said. "Then there was the Boys Clubs and, as I got older, the night clubs. I had a good time cutting my musical teeth there."
Although his parents wanted him to pursue higher education, Puckett turned to his music.
"Music is the universal factor and a part of our lives when we are youthful," he said. "We hear music on the radio. When we are teens, we are social and we hear music when we are out and going to concerts, and in our day the sock hops and dances. And that’s what attracted me to it."
Now, nearly 50 years since the Union Gap was founded, Puckett is still performing the hits.
"God is good and he’s keeping me in good voice and able to perform well," he said. "I have a great band and seeing people love the music all these years later to me is a testimony of its ongoing popularity."
The next step for Puckett and the Union Gap is a live album.
"We have a new CD coming out and it was recorded in the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, a place we play every year for three days," he said. "We’re going to get it out to the fans because they like that kind of thing, and so do we."
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will present Gary Puckett & the Union Gap from Thursday, Feb. 19, through Sunday, Feb. 22. Curtain is 8 p.m. Thursday tickets range from $39 to $65 and tickets for Friday, Saturday and Sunday range from $43 to $70. They can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
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