Jerry Gaskill here, the legend, the phenomenon, the greatest…hold on, I’m getting ahead of myself.
I was born on a lovely winter day in South Jersey, December 27, 1957. I was always loved and supported by my parents. I’ve been making music or at least interested in making music for as long as I can remember. I can’t actually recall a specific time when I decided to play drums. It’s as though it’s something I’ve always done. I was four years old when I got my first real drum. Before that I had a toy kit and even then it was my way to get chicks. One fine day my dad went to the local music store in Bridgeton, NJ where I was born to get my first real drum which was a snare. I remember being very excited. Life could make all sense now with a real drum. Finally he comes home and tells me he has bad news. The news was he wasn’t able to get the drum. I immediately started crying profusely. That drum was all that mattered to me. As I’m still crying he asked me to go to the car to get something he had left in there, possibly his cigarettes but I don’t completely remember. I went to the car still weeping madly. I opened the door and sitting most beautifully on the passenger seat of the car was my drum. My dad couldn’t have made it a better experience for me. He knew exactly how much that drum meant to me. From there, a neighbor who lived directly across the street from us had a huge marching bass drum in his attic. He told me I could have it and thus my first real kit. A huge kick drum with this big ball of a beater on the pedal that felt like a clump of lambs wool was wrapped around a ball; more of a mallet than a beater. Needless to say I was delighted.
We set them up in my bedroom and playing them was the most important thing to me. Playing made sense. My next kit was a kick drum, snare and one rack tom with a ride cymbal and hi hats. A company named Kent made them. I was really happening now. My brother and my dad were both guitar players. I wanted more than anything in the world to have a band. So my dad my brother and I started one. We were called Jerry and the Knights. We were an entirely instrumental band and played anything from a waltz to a polka to country and western to Beatle tunes. Actually before Jerry and the Knights we did a couple of shows under the name The Question Marks because we didn’t know what to call ourselves. I remember playing a party for Miss New Jersey who was a friend of ours. It was at a bar and I was seven years old. I felt special because I was performing in a bar. I was badass. At one point Miss New Jersey came up to me and kissed me right on the lips. I was very excited about that. Oh, she must really like me. Then she looked me straight in the eyes and said that was for your dad. That was interesting. My young mind wandered off and landed in a place where I’m thinking, “Are we gonna get paid for this. And sure enough I got two dollars for that gig. It was the most money in the world to me at the time. I was big time now.
Next, still before the official Jerry and the Knights my brother, me and two other friends formed a band to audition for a Kool Aid commercial in New York City. I remember driving to the city. I am seven years old and I had not been in that kind of traffic before in my life. Every time we passed an eighteen-wheeler it completely freaked me out. It was all so huge. We made it into the city. We were all kids in the band and I recall us just going up and down in the elevators and having a blast. We went to the Empire State Building and we walked outside on I believe the 86th floor and you can actually feel the building swaying. That was also quite freaky to me and I ran right back inside where I felt safer. I did venture out again later and all was fine. The Chrysler building was the most amazing structure to me. It was so huge and beautiful to me. I kept getting it confused with the Empire State Building. Everything was so massive and unbelievable. So to the music. We ended up somehow in this producer guy’s apartment. He had us stand in front of him and pretend we were playing our instruments. It was strange to me but I’m thinking I’m on my way to being a star. So I did it happily. From there we went to a studio and set up our gear and actually played some music. I don’t remember what we played but I do remember this. At one point they stopped us and from the control room they asked if we could do something that featured the drummer. We played Wipeout by The Safaris. It was a hit at the time. This was 1966 I believe. So I may have been eight or nine at the most. We didn’t do the commercial and it just kind of faded away but it was a truly great experience. Just a few years ago I was talking to my mom about this and she informed me at that point that they weren’t interested in the band but they were interested in the drummer. The parents decided rather than hurt anyone’s feelings or whatever they might feel to let the whole thing slide. Maybe that’s good. Otherwise I could be one of those where are they now child star guys.
From there Jerry and the Knights played talent shows, wedding receptions, lodge parties, personal parties. Whatever. We played forty Saturdays in a row at the Moose Lodge. We also had a regular spot on a show that was put on at a children’s home in Absecon, NJ. They would wheel the children in on stretchers or wheel chairs and we would perform with a bunch of other acts. Another truly great experience. Afterwards we would visit the children who couldn’t leave their rooms. I’ve always been thankful to be a part of that. And the children were always delighted.
When I was twelve I used to go to pool parties at this certain pool place but I can’t remember what it was called. There was a band named Frog Ocean Road who played every time. They were like gods to me. They played all the music I loved and they did it well. They were all 18 and 19 at the time. They were amazing to me. As time went on I actually became the drummer of that band. I was now one of my local heroes. I did this until I was eighteen. At eighteen I had a born again experience if you will and found myself playing churches. I was involved for a few years in the whole church kind of thing. Not there now but I don’t regret the experience. Sometimes I feel like Paul when he talked about being a Pharisee of Pharisee’s. I felt he was saying, don’t tell me I don’t understand what I’m talking about because I’ve been there. That’s how I feel about the church. Enough said.
I moved to Springfield, Missouri in 1978. I met a guy named Dave Gouty who played guitar. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that when I got to Springfield that I would meet other musicians. Dave Gouty was the first. He introduced me to Greg Volz. We formed a band with one other guy named Mike Schmidt. It was through this connection that I eventually met Doug Pinnick and then Ty Tabor. Eventually Doug, Ty and I after playing in different bands and recording projects although never with all three of us at the same time, decided to be a band together. The rest is history and I’ll be glad to answer any questions and who knows maybe I’ll go into more detail at a future date. But that’s kind of the story. And from there the whole legend, phenomenon thing happened. I hope when it gets right down to it that you love the music. That’s where it all starts. And I speak of the legend thing with a bit of humor in my heart although it is true. Thank you and all my love…