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|Origin||Keokuk, Iowa, United States|
|Genres||Garage rock, psychedelic rock|
1990 to present
Ready Steady Go
Craig Moore's Russian Spies
Nick Bloom (The Pagans)
Billy Harper (The Pagans)
Gary Cooper (The Pagans)
GONN is a 1960s American garage rock band from Keokuk, Iowa whose signature song is "Blackout of Gretely". Although releasing only two singles in 1966-67, the band also recorded numerous other tracks that have been collected on three retrospective albums. Following a 1989 solo album released by bandleader Craig Moore, GONN reunited in 1990 and released a 30th-year reunion album in 1996. In 2004, GONN was inducted into the Iowa Rock 'n' Roll Music Association Hall of Fame. They have mounted European tours in 1997, 2001, and 2009, and recorded & released an all-new, all-original album called GONN '45 Fully Loaded in 2012.
 Bandleader Craig Moore (born April 15, 1947 in Fort Madison, Iowa) grew up in Keokuk, along the Mississippi River. Before he learned to play an instrument he hung around other high school rock bands, particularly The Gallows and The Outcasts. Together with Gerry Gabel (the younger brother of a classmate), Moore organized a band called The Pagans in 1965 with Larry LaMaster and a schoolmate on drums. Moore was taught how to play bass guitar by Roger Dougherty, bassist of The Outcasts, who gave him three basic lessons and sent him back to The Pagans with "Last Night" by The Mar-Keys and "Steppin' Out" by Paul Revere and The Raiders his only repertoire on the instrument. Moore says he played the three-note bass riff on "Gloria" backwards for six months and nobody knew the difference. By the summer of 1966, The Pagans consisted of founding members Craig Moore (bass guitar) and Gerry Gabel (organ), plus Gary Stepp (rhythm guitar), also from Keokuk. Rex Garrett (lead guitar) and Brent Colvin (drums) from Fort Madison were in a band together called The Rogues and were added to the band after an impromptu meeting at a Rogues practice during which Rex and Brent simply walked out with Craig, Gerry and Gary and never went back. Garrett's mother did not like the band name, so after some discussion, the bandmembers finally settled on "gone" but with a "psychedelicized" spelling, in tribute to a band from Ottumwa that the band admired called MADD, which had a similar all-caps, double-letter spelling (and predates the anti-drunk driving organization MADD). Craig Moore put it: We were throwing words and names around; we were almost the Trees, after The Leaves.
It was this line-up that recorded the band's classic first single, "Blackout of Gretely" (written by Moore and Garrett), which was initially released on the Burlington, Iowa label, Emir Records in a pressing of just 600 copies. In early 1967, this same line-up recorded (twice) what would have been their second single, "Doin' Me In", but it was not released until many years later.
Later in 1967, Larry LaMaster - who had been a guitarist in an earlier incarnation of The Pagans - was added, and the band also brought in a different drummer, Dave Johnson (who was only 14 when he joined GONN). A second, lesser-known single was recorded in Freddie Tieken's IT Studio of Quincy, Illinois. (After GONN broke up, the last two original members, Moore and Gabel became members of Tieken's band, Freddie Tieken and the Rockers, which became Ilmo Smokehouse in 1969-70).
The band appeared at the Iowa State Fair from 1966 to 1968 and finished second in the 1967 competition (behind Echos V). GONN opened for several national acts at the Burlington Memorial Auditorium, including The Trolls, The Mob, The American Breed and others. GONN put in many appearances in teen centers and Knights of Columbus halls throughout the region, traveling everywhere in a 1951 (or 1952) hearse. They gained renown as the "loudest band in town" and notoriety for performing in front of a large Nazi flag. Following three additional line-up changes in the latter years, the band finally broke up in 1969.
The bandmembers kept in close contact even after their breakup, and most of the members remained in music. The band's fame grew over time as "Blackout of Gretely" became better known, and the band began receiving letters and telephone calls from fans around the world. The song was included on a number of bootleg compilation albums, and a live version of the song was included on the first EP by the Fuzztones, Leave Your Mind At Home (1984). At length, the release of a 1985 retrospective album of GONN's mid-1960s recordings on Voxx Records brought numerous gems into the open.
However, "Blackout of Gretely" and their other recordings were slow to appear on legitimate garage rock compilation albums, especially those released in America. For instance, other than the British release Best of Pebbles, Volume 1, no songs by GONN were ever released on any of the LPs in the Pebbles series, although "Blackout of Gretely" would eventually appear on the CD reissure of Pebbles, Volume 1. Since Iowa was not one of the regions featured, the band also missed out on inclusion in the Highs in the Mid-Sixties series. One reason may have been the unusually long timing of the song (4:29); typical garage rock records are less than three minutes in length. In 2000, Lenny Kaye told Craig Moore in person at a Patti Smith Group concert that "Blackout of Gretely" would have been included on the original Nuggets#1: Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 double LP in 1972 except that it was too long. The song was, however, featured on the Nuggets box set released by Rhino Records in 1998.
After an abortive attempt in the fall of 1969, a few mini-reunions of GONN occurred in the early 1980s, along with various friends of the band. The first featured Rex Garrett, Gary Stepp and Brent Colvin; another a week later reunited Craig Moore, Larry LaMaster, and Dave Johnson.
On the heels of the successful reception of a 1989 album by Craig Moore and Friends called Agonnagain, GONN held a reunion concert in 1990 on the riverfront in Keokuk. In 1996, six of the seven core members in 1966-67 (excepting Brent Colvin, the band's original drummer) returned to the recording studio for a 30th-year reunion album, Gonn with the Wind. The album features a mix of well-crafted familiar and obscure covers with several original songs, plus a new song, "In the Wind", written by Moore and Garrett especially for the album as a tribute to garage rock fans everywhere. This was their first songwriting collaboration since "Come with Me" in 1967. The release of this album was followed by a two-week tour of Italy, France and the Netherlands in 1997, along with an appearance that year at the Fuzz Fest in Atlanta, where GONN was able to meet a new generation of garage rockers.
Another European tour followed in 2001; this time, only Moore, Gabel and Johnson were able to tour, so they were joined by Jeff Jacks of the Chocolate Watch Band (whom Moore had met in New York in 1999) and Massimo del Pozzo of an Italian band called the Others. The band played eight dates in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium and France.
On July 4, 2004, GONN played a concert in their hometown for the first time in years at Rand Park, and then embarked on an American tour through Alabama and Louisiana, ending at a New Orleans club called the Circle Bar.
In 2005, GONN received an invitation to appear at a special event sponsored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The photo above of Craig Moore is taken from that performance.
On January 5, 2008, GONN reunited for a show in St. Louis, Missouri, and all five original 1967 members were featured in the lineup. Reception was such that the band returned to St. Louis for another show in June 2008. A second reunion album is in the works as of mid-2009.
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Over the years, "Blackout of Gretely" has acquired a life of its own. Singer Craig Moore begins by intoning: "The universe is permeated with the odor of kerosene" over Gerry Gabel's muscular Vox organ, followed by his "blood curdling scream". Rex Garrett's infectious, fuzz-drenched guitar riffs take over at that point, which might be described as an amped-up interpretation of the opening guitar chords on "Satisfaction", or The Standells' "Dirty Water", which it closely resembles. The influences of the Standells and Count Five are also apparent. Moore screams while the howling vocals by Gerry Gabel are a tale in several verses where the singer cannot understand why everything looks so dark, only to discover when he arrives home that he has been wearing sunglasses the whole time. Greg Shaw states that "'Blackout of Gretely' is without doubt one of the Top 10 great punk records of all time" and noted that it had sold for as much as $1000.00 by the mid-1990s. In 2008, the UK publication MOJO Magazine also listed it in the Top 10 garage psych singles of all time.
The unusual title is taken from a 1942 mystery thriller written by J. B. Priestley called The Blackout At Gretley. Gerry Gabel had been reading it and had the book with him at a rehearsal, so with a few minor changes, it inspired the name of the song. Craig Moore took the opening lyric from a throwaway line used humorously by Peter Tork in an interview segment in an early episode of the Monkees television show, except that Tork had said "turpentine". Moore altered the line somewhat, since he thought "kerosene" sounded more sinister. The remaining lyrics were Moore's attempt to tell a short story with a twist at the end, in the manner of O. Henry, since he had been a long-time admirer of the famous author.
Their intended second single, "Doin' Me In" features more screaming: "Girl . . . what are you doin'" is the opening line of a long litany of love-life complaints. About this song, Greg Shaw continues: "[T]he planned follow-up single, 'Doin' Me In' . . . was just as homicidal as the previous monster and much [too] good to languish for 20 years before being heard." This song is more accessible and has been covered by numerous garage rock, punk rock and post punk bands, such as The Cynics, The Untamed Youth, Hellbilly Storm, The Fingers, the Mourning After, the Dutch band The Beavers, the Swedish band the Blacks, and many more. One particularly memorable cover occurred when a copy of "Doin' Me In" was spirited out of the Bomp! Records studios by Greg Shaw and presented to Paula Pierce. A few nights later at a club in Chinatown, she introduced Craig Moore as the "godfather of punk" just before her band the Pandoras tore into a screaming rendition of "Doin' Me In."
In his on-line article "Sifting through the Pebbles", Brent Bozman says of this song: Of all the gems unearthed in the Pebbles series, this one is the most stunning - a tense back-and-forth over two chords on the verse, building into an explosive call-and-response chorus. "Doin' Me In" stands up next to "I Can See For Miles" by the Who or "You Really Got Me" by the Kinks or any other '60s rock anthem you'd care to name, and it's a perfect example of why the garage rock genre still fascinates listeners today. . . .
The songs by GONN were slow to reach the collector community. Greg Shaw contacted Craig Moore in 1984 and offered the band an LP deal once he learned about a reel of unreleased songs that were recorded in the mid-1960s. The result was Gonn: Blackout of Gretely on his Voxx Records label, the ninth volume in the Rough Diamonds series that spotlights garage rock and psychedelic rock bands having more than just a couple of singles to their credit. Additionally, a remastered LP was released by Sundazed Records in 1998 as part of their Beat Rocket series.
Coincident with the release of their 1996 reunion album, a comprehensive CD of the band's 1960s recordings was released called Frenzology; although it is out of print. The album features a 28-page booklet containing considerably more GONN lore. Currently available is the compilation CD "GONN For Good - The Best Of GONN 1966-2009" which features tracks from the 1960s as well as the reunion album, live material, and an exclusive bonus track.
The band has also issued numerous 7" singles, including reissues of "Blackout of Gretely" in 1988 and 1994 that both sold out.
The Iowa Rock 'n' Roll Music Association (IRRMA) was formed in 1997 and is a non-profit educational and entertainment organization honoring Iowa rock and roll music. The organization's headquarters in Arnolds Park, Iowa is about 100 miles West of the cornfield where an airplane crash took the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper and their young pilot on February 3, 1959, "the Day the Music Died".
Spurred by "Project GONN" of The PSPOT (an internet-based resource dedicated to the '60s music underground), a grassroots campaign led to the nomination of GONN in The Iowa Music Association Hall Of Fame And Museum. The band was inducted in a ceremony in 2004 and, as with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was celebrated with a live concert by the inductees.
The IRRMA post on the induction of GONN describes the band this way: "GONN quickly evolved into a heavily English and West Coast-influenced no-holds-barred garage band; taking their sound and attitude from the likes of the Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones, the Chocolate Watch Band, the Doors, and the Raiders."
Craig Moore has remained active in music throughout his life and has been involved in numerous bands over the years and up to the present, although he has not been a full-time member of a rock band since 1987. He also produced LP's for blues legend Luther Allison Gonna Be A Live One In Here Tonight (1979), and southern rockers The Dave Chastain Band Rockin' Roulette (1980), among others. Former Ilmo Smokehouse bandmates Slink Rand & Dennis Tieken, and GONN songwriting partner Rex Garrett all made guest appearances on his 1989 solo LP AGONNAGAIN. He met his wife Marina while touring Volgograd, Russia (formerly Stalingrad) after the 2001 GONN European tour. He is the owner of a collectible records/pop culture shop called Younger than Yesterday and lives in Peoria, Illinois. His most recent solo album is Still Tomorrow Yesterday, which came out in 2004 and features guest performances by friends Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja from the Yardbirds, and Eddie Phillips of The Creation. Through October into mid-November 2008 he toured on bass and vocals as special guest on THE FUZZTONES GONN PRIMITIVE TOUR of Europe with Fuzztones Rudi Protrudi, Mike Czekaj and Lana Loveland, and UK guitarist Bob Hughes from the Yorkshire group Flight 13'. A live album of their set, which they performed all over Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway, awaits an undetermined release date. YouTube videos of the recent tour abound.
Gerry Gabel is the head of the music department at Texas Christian University and has authored and produced several orchestral compositions. He was also in Ilmo Smokehouse with Craig Moore in the early 1970s, and scored and conducted a string quartet for a track on Moore's 2004 album. Most recently he has been involved in producing concert performances in a musical exchange program with similar music departments at universities in Ukraine. Several of Gabel's orchestral compositions will be performed in 2009/2010 in Ukraine, and he has been commissioned to write a special piece for one of these 2010 performances.
Rex Garrett and Dave Johnson performed with several bands throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. Each has children that now play in rock bands, among them Dana Johnson whose first band Urban Discipline is featured on a bonus cut on Gonn with the Wind performing a Craig Moore song. Rex & wife Dee Dee's son Ryan has recorded and toured on bass with various rock groups, and Garrett's oldest son Brent produced the GONN Iowa Hall of Fame Induction promotional DVD and the live-in-Cleveland videos you can see on their Myspace page.
Larry LaMaster retired from an insurance company in the '90s and now lives with wife Gayle near Kansas City, Missouri. Dave Johnson is with JCPenney; Rex Garrett works on the Santa Fe Railroad like his father before him and still lives in Fort Madison, Iowa; Gary Stepp is a foreman at a factory, and has been elected to the city council in Keokuk, where he still lives with wife June. Brent Colvin is married and working in construction in northeastern Iowa.
While other members came and went before the end of GONN in 1969, it is only the first two line-ups that the band actually recognizes as the 'real' GONN:
With the group briefly while still known as GONN, from mid-1968 through 1969
With the group for as little as one or two shows during change-over periods 1967-1969
Side A of the album includes: "Come With Me"," You can't Judge A Book", "Death of an Angel", "You're Lookin' Fine", "Don't Need Your Lovin'", "Bad Little Woman" and "Blackout Of Gretely". Craig Moore recorded two more tracks with THE OTHERS at Delta Studio in Rome, Italy the same year and performed live with the band at MISTY LANE "EXPO 2000 Fest". A recording of "Don't Need Your Lovin'" with Craig Moore, Rudi Protrudi, The Others and The Chocolate Watchband during a studio session in Rome exists, although it's not been published yet.