‘They love that music’: Puckett’s hits endure

By John Benson

Ohio was where the hit parade began for Puckett.

Ohio holds a special place in the heart of ’60s pop rocker Gary Puckett.

It was in the Buckeye State that Puckett and his Union Gap band first tasted radio success, when a Columbus radio station started playing “Woman, Woman.” Soon, Cleveland station WIXY-AM 1260 started spinning the song, and the rest is, well, history.

“I remember a guy on the radio who was really terrific,” said Puckett, now living in Tampa, Fla. “He was really, I’ll use the word strange but I say it affectionately. His name was Wild Child, Dick Kemp. He was pretty wild on the air for that period of time – 1967 and 1968 – but he jumped on that record, and so Ohio is the birthplace of the Union Gap. Even though we lived in San Diego, Ohio is basically where the hits started.”

And their success didn’t stop there with six consecutive gold records and numerous Top 10 Billboard hits, including “Young Girl,” “Over You,” “This Girl is a Woman Now” and “Lady Willpower.” Characterized in the same squeaky-clean image as Jay and the Americans and Gary Lewis, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap were balladeers during a time of psychedelic rock.

By 1971, Puckett disbanded the Union Gap, and for the next decade the performer pursued the theatrical stage. However, the musical climate eventually shifted back with the golden oldie once again becoming relevant.

“By that point, [promoters] were starting to say the baby boom generation wants to hear their music, so let’s get out there and do it,” Puckett said. “So in 1984 is when it really got us in front of audiences again.”

Titled “Happy Together,” Puckett joined forces with fellow ’60s bands The Turtles, The Association and Spanky & Our Gang for a well-received tour. Two years later, The Monkees — with its television series airing on MTV at the time — joined the fray, and it was like old times for all of the oldie bands.

Touring the hits ever since, Puckett hints a new concert DVD/CD is scheduled for later this year, as well as a possible television show gig. In the meantime, he’s excited about returning to Northeast Ohio for a show Friday at the Stambaugh Auditorium. As for why people keep coming out to hear Puckett, that’s simple:

“They love that music,” Puckett said. “I sometimes wonder that myself, but they just plain love the music. I just returned from three weeks in Australia, and we did 12 shows and each show was sold out. The people want to hear that music and sing along to all of those hits and more. So that’s the reason for it. We made a lot of music that’s still considered really good.

“In fact, when I hear it on the radio today, I’m really pleased with it because so many of those records can sound dated. And to me, they don’t sound dated. They sound like an orchestrated singer singing his music. And so that’s why they come to see it. They love that music, and fortunately they’re ‘GP’ supporters as well and want to see and hear who I am now.”

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