29 April 2017 • Buzzfix • online here
Gary, who was awarded an MBE in 2003 for his charitable services, still
tours with Procol Harum, who have just recorded a new album. Now 71, he
lives in Surrey with his wife, Franky.
“My family moved from London to Southend when I was nine and that’s where I was educated. My father was a professional musician, a Hawaiian guitarist, who performed live shows and made records. Growing up in that environment gave me an early insight into the music profession.
“As a child, I learned to play several instruments, including the piano, so music was all around me. After leaving further education, I worked as an assistant chemist but, by then, I was already gigging with my first band, The Paramounts.
I struggled getting in to work the day after gigs and I knew something had to change. So I left and turned professional.
“We signed a record contract with EMI in 1963 and our first release, Poison Ivy, reached 35 in January 1964.
“Eventually, I got tired of singing mostly cover versions and wanted to write my own material. By then, things had started to dry up for The Paramounts so in ’66, we called it a day.
“Procol Harum was founded in early 1967. I’d started writing with Keith Reid but when we couldn’t find anyone to do our songs, I decided to sing them. We completed the group’s line-up and became a five-piece.
“The band’s name came from our then manager, Guy Stevens. He’d visited a friend’s house and it was their Burmese cat’s pedigree name. It didn’t really mean anything and this ambiguity attracted us.
“A Whiter Shade of Pale was our first single. Keith penned the words and I wrote the music. It reached number one not just here but across the world. Enjoying such a big hit and the exposure it generated meant life was suddenly hectic – but exciting.
“We coped well with the attention success brought, although I’ll never forget leaving London’s National History Museum and being recognised by some girls. I was heading back to the Tube station and they started chasing me. Others joined in and I had a taste of what it must be like to be Mick Jagger.
“Sometimes, people in Britain think A Whiter Shade of Pale is the only thing we released. We followed it up with Homburg and that remains equally popular today. In fact, some fans prefer it.
“I’ve never splashed out on luxuries like fast cars or lots of houses. I bought a property in 1971 and only moved out two years ago. One house is enough for my wife, Franky, and I.
We met before Procol Harum was formed. She was an au pair from Switzerland working in Southend. We’ve been married for nearly fifty years.
“During my career, I’ve worked as a solo artist and with the likes of Ringo Starr and Bill Wyman. I’ve even done some acting, appearing as the Argentinean foreign minister in Evita. The director, Alan Parker, had the faith in me to play the part and I enjoyed it immensely.
“But Procol Harum has continued to tour all around the world. This year marks the band’s fiftieth anniversary and to celebrate we’re touring again and have made a new album.
“Musicians don’t really retire. If you still enjoy what you do, why stop?”
|About the album||Get Novum: Amazon UK / Amazon USA|
Procol Harum albums