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Gary Thain

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Gary Thain  —  Uriah Heep's bassman

Award presented 2009  
 

Gary Mervin Thain was born in Christchurch, New Zealand on May 15, 1948 and died in Norwood Green, Ealing, London on December 8th, 1975.  He had two older brothers, Arthur and Conrad (who has passed away), and a younger brother Brian.  An old school friend describes Gary's personality as being quiet, maybe broody even, but also as just your average teenager, with a passion for music.  Gary went to a catholic school called Xavier College in Christchurch.  He started performing around age 13.  Gary also won a singing contest in his high school with the song Where Have all the Flowers Gone.

 
 

Gary Thain

 
 

The official start to his career was with the New Zealand group The Strangers.  Besides his brother Arthur (Lead Guitar and Vocals), the other members were Graeme Ching (Rhythm Guitar and Lead Vocals) and Dave Beattie (Drums).  Gary wrote his first (released) song I'll Never be Blue with The Strangers in 1965 at age 16.  The Strangers released 3 Singles.  After The Strangers split up Gary became part of The Secrets, but they released only one single It's You (written by Paul Muggleston) in 1966, with You're Wrong on the flipside (co-written by Gary and Paul).  The other band members were Derek Wright on Lead Guitar and Vocals, Paul Muggleston on Rhythm Guitar and Vocals, Wayne Allen on Drums.  After their one Single, The Secrets split up.  It was still 1966 and Gary and Paul joined up with Peter Dawkins and Dave Chapman of The Others, taking the name Me and The Others to the UK, touring England, Scotland, Wales and Germany, where they played at the famous PN Hit House.  In 1967 after Me and The Others ceased to exist, Gary and Peter Dawkins became part of a new professional group which they called The New Nadir.  They were especially popular in Switzerland, where they played Jazz influenced music in a lot of clubs, for about six months.  The other members were Ed Carter on guitar and a drummer named Mike Kowalski who had replaced the original drummer, Peter Dawkins.  Besides playing their own music, they also worked as a backing band for an all-female group called The Toys.  The New Nadir recorded an album for the Witchseason label, but it was never released.  In 1968 The New Nadir dissolved and Mike and Ed have since played in many bands together — even becoming part of The Beach Boys backing band.  Gary of course joined the Keef Hartley Band, and not only did he play on six of their albums, but he got to be part of Woodstock in 1969 with the Keef Hartley Band.  They played on the second day (before Santana).  However, there is no video footage available.

 
 

The Strangers


The Secrets


Me and The Others


The New Nadir

 
 

Another Festival worth mentioning (even though a much smaller scale event) was the Bath Blues Festival held on June 28th, 1969.  The KHB played along with the Likes of Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac that day in front of an audience of about 40,000.  Not only did Gary co-write a lot of material for the KHB, he also sang lead vocals to one of his compositions: You Say You're Together Now.  That song can be found on the 72nd Brave LP released in 1972.  Early in that year, Gary received a phone call from Ken Hensley and joined Uriah Heep as their 3rd bass player (replacing Mark Clarke) - the rest is, as they say, history.  Up until then Gary had only played Jazz and Blues material, and now found himself in a totally different genre.  However, his playing style stayed unique - using no plectrum and all his fingers.  Gary's first gig with Uriah Heep was on February 1st, 1972 at the Whiskey A Go-Go in Los Angeles, California.  However, the earliest known Uriah Heep recording with Gary in the lineup (Bootleg) is either from Feb 27th, 1972 (Columbia Coliseum, South Carolina, USA) or a Youngstown, Ohio appearance.  The latter was a support performance (Bootleg) for the band Cactus sometime in February of 1972.  The first album that Gary recorded with Uriah Heep was Demons and Wizards (released May 1972), only 4 months after he joined Uriah Heep.  The Magician's Birthday followed later that same year, and by that time Gary co-wrote some of the songs (Spider Woman and Sweet Lorraine).  The remastered edition (released 2003) also includes Crystal Ball and Gary's Song, which he wrote during that time.  (Gary's Song being an alternate version of Crystal Ball).  Unfortunately, 1974 saw Gary'e last recording contributions on Wonderworld which was recorded in Munich, Germany.

 
 

Gary Thain on stage with Uriah Heep

 
 

On September 15th, 1974, Gary received an electrical shock during the song July Morning, while on stage at The Moody Coliseum in Dallas, Texas, and his health never fully recovered.  So drastic was the outcome that in late January of 1975 Gary had to leave the band.  The very last known recording with Gary on bass is dated November 25th, 1974 and it took place in Brisbane, Australia.  There are some very interesting comments about that bootleg recording on the official David Byron website, and to quote: "This is one of the best audience recordings of the band ever to surface, not for the sound quality, but the content itself, as the band was very strong on this date, and the crowd really reacted to the show.  A good bit of improvisation is laid into this one, and there is lots of talking between tracks, as well as long renditions of certain tracks that didn't appear much on other shows".  Only three tour dates are listed after this show, before Gary left the band, so this show marks the end of an era of sorts, the classic line-up is done.  The rebuilding process began but the same intensity or presence that was created during those past three years was never regained — a sad but true fact that even the most dedicated of Heepster must accept.  All in all, Gary Thain participated in over 140 live performances all over the world with Uriah Heep, in just 3 years.  After continued struggles with health and drug problems, Gary died on December 8th, 1975, in his flat at Norwood Green from an overdose of heroin at the young age of 27.