Bruce Gary is best known as drummer in the band The Knack. The Los Angeles-based rocker was propelled to fame with his stuttering rhythm on the band's 1979 smash hit My Sharona.
Born in Burbank, California, the young Gary was a bundle of energy and for that reason his parents allowed him to set up the drum kit that his cousin had offered him after getting bored with it. Gary left home at 15 and was drawn to the musical scene of Topanga Canyon, California. He made friends with guitarist Randy California.
In the 60's and early 70's he played with bluesman Albert Collins. By the time he was twenty-four he was touring and recording with former Cream bassist Jack Bruce and guitarist Mick Taylor, who had just left the Rolling Stones. This stellar lineup also included jazz pianist Carla Bley. Gary also worked with Dr. John in the 70's.
In 1978 Bruce Gary found himself in a band with singer Doug Fieger, guitarist Berton Averre, and bassist Prescott Niles. The group was named The Knack. Fieger and Averre brought in a tune they'd written about Sharona Alperin, a teenage girl Fieger was obsessed with. Despite his initial reservations about the song, Gary came up with a beat to match My Sharona's stuttering style. My Sharona became a huge hit.
Bruce later said he approached the song like a surf stomp. As he explained, drummers in surf bands often play songs using no cymbals, just kick drum, snare drum, and toms. He also borrowed from the drum part to Going to a Go Go by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. The final ingredient, he said, was the drum rudiment called a flam, in which one drumstick strikes the drum just before the other does; the flam registers as a single beat, but with a particularly full sound. Bruce Gary's immediately recognisable kick-and-snare-drum intro helped propel the power-pop anthem to the top of the US charts.
Despite the single's huge success, The Knack's follow-up efforts were critically panned and Gary quit the band in 1981 to spend time drumming for Arthur Lee, Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, Albert King, John Lee Hooker, Rod Stewart and George Harrison, Bette Midler, Yoko Ono, Harry Nilsson and The Doors' guitarist Robby Krieger, just to name a few.
Seven years after the band's initial succes, in 1986, hiphop icons Run-DMC used Gary's distinctive opening of My Sharona as a sample for their hit single It's Tricky.
In 1990 Bruce Gary served as a drum teacher on director Oliver Stone's biopic The Doors.
His session work has encompassed rock, blues, surf, country and even Broadway show tunes.
In addition to his recorded work, Bruce has developed a successful career "behind the boards". He co-produced a series of critically acclaimed posthumous releases from Jimi Hendrix, including the platinum selling "Blues" compilation.
Other projects include the completion of his CD of drum samples "Bruce Gary's Drum Vocabulary", a stellar performance of "The End" with Robby Krieger on the "Complete Doors" DVD, a recording of The Beatles' "Help" for a GTE commercial and a reunion with his bandmates, The Knack, for a track on the Badfinger tribute album "Come And Get It".
Bruce was honored to tour Japan with The Ventures following the death of the original Ventures drummer Mel Taylor. He followed this by producing and playing on The Ventures CD "New Depths" and the Spirit/Randy California "Cosmic Smile". Additionally, he toured with Randy Meisner (Eagles), Spencer Davis and Denny Laine (Moody Blues/Wings) for private corporate functions.
Bruce recently recorded tracks in a band with Jack Bruce (Cream) and Andy Summers (Police). He also produced and performed on a track for an all-star John Lee Hooker tribute CD.
Bruce Gary died of lymphatic cancer on August 22, 2006. He was 55 years old. He had been one of rock 'n' roll's preeminent drummers for more than three decades.