|The Gun Club|
Jeffrey Lee Pierce, seen performing live with The Gun Club in 1985.
|The Cyclones, the Creeping Ritual|
|Origin||Los Angeles, California|
|Genres||Post-punk, punk rock, psychobilly, cowpunk, punk blues|
|Labels||Ruby, Slash Records, Animal Records, Red Rhino, Fire, New Rose Records, Triple X|
|Blondie, the Red Lights, the E-Types, the Individuals, Phast Phreddie & Thee Precisions, The Cyclones, Bags, 45 Grave, the Cramps, Der Stab, the Weirdos, Legal Weapon, Tav Falco's Panther Burns, Bush Tetras, the Johnnys, the Blasters, Fur Bible, the Sisters of Mercy, the Damned, the Jeffrey Lee Pierce Quartet, Clock DVA, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, World of Twist, Cypress Grove, Congo Norvell, Die Haut, Subway Sect, JoBoxers, Freeheat, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Earl Brutus, Tex & the Horseheads, Wayne Kramer, Pennywise|
|Jeffrey Lee Pierce
Kid Congo Powers
Jimmy Joe Uliana
The Gun Club were a post-punk/cowpunk band from Los Angeles, California that existed from 1979 to 1996. Led by flamboyant singer and guitarist Jeffrey Lee Pierce, they merged the contemporary genre of punk rock with the more traditional genres of rockabilly and country music.
The Gun Club were formed by Jeffrey Lee Pierce (guitar and vocals), former head of the Blondie fan club in Los Angeles and previously a member of the Red Lights, the E-Types, the Individuals, Phast Phreddie & Thee Precisions, and the Cyclones.
The Gun Club's precursor band, the Creeping Ritual, formed in late 1979. Along with Pierce (lead vocals and guitar), the first lineup consisted of Brian Tristan (lead guitar), who was later renamed Kid Congo Powers during his stint with the Cramps; Don Snowden (bass), who was at the time a music critic for the Los Angeles Times; and Brad Dunning (drums), now a prominent designer and writer. In April 1980, they changed their name to the Gun Club on a suggestion by Pierce's roommate, Circle Jerks singer Keith Morris. Snowden and Dunning departed in June 1980, replaced by two ex-members of the Bags, Rob Ritter and Terry Graham, respectively. Ritter was temporarily replaced on bass by Anna Statman for two months in the fall of 1980. Tristan left next, to join the Cramps in November 1980, and was replaced by lead and slide guitarist Ward Dotson (ex-Der Stab). During this period, the Gun Club often opened for X, the Bags, Circle Jerks and the Blasters.
Securing a record deal with Ruby Records, a division of Slash, the group released their debut album, Fire of Love, on August 31, 1981. The album was produced by Tito Larriva (of the Plugz) and Chris D. (frontman of the Flesh Eaters). Critic Stevo Olende wrote that the "album's lyrical imagery is plundered from voodoo, '50's EC comics and the blues", while Thom Jurek of AllMusic noted that "nobody has heard music like this before or since".Fire of Love sold well and received strong reviews upon release. Billy Persons of the Weirdos temporarily replaced Ritter for several shows in fall 1981.
In April 1982, the Gun Club signed to Blondie guitarist Chris Stein's Animal Records, a subsidiary of Chrysalis Records. The band temporarily relocated to New York City to record their follow-up album, 1982's Miami. This album featured not only Stein as producer, but Blondie's Debbie Harry singing backup vocals on several tracks. Ritter left in June 1982 to concentrate on his other band, 45 Grave, and changed his name to Rob Graves. Before leaving, Ritter taught all of his bass parts to his former Bags bandmate Patricia Morrison (also ex-Legal Weapon) and trained her as his replacement. For their West Coast shows in August 1982, Annie Ungar was added as a second guitarist. Upon the release of Miami on September 20, 1982, the album received good reviews but was widely criticized for Stein's thin production. Due to increasingly frequent arguments, Pierce dismissed Graham and Dotson in December 1982.
In January 1983, Graham and Dotson were replaced by guitarist Jim Duckworth (formerly of Tav Falco's Panther Burns) and drummer Dee Pop (formerly of the New York band Bush Tetras). Along with bassist Jimmy Joe Uliana, who filled in for Morrison, this lineup recorded the Death Party EP, released April 13, 1983 by Animal. During this time, Pierce refrained from playing guitar, focusing solely on singing. This lineup was very short-lived though; Pop lasted only eight months before Graham returned. On the eve of a September 1983 Australian tour, both Duckworth and Graham refused to get on the plane. Without a guitarist or drummer, Pierce asked drummer Billy Pommer Jr. and guitarist Spencer P. Jones from supporting act the Johnnys to fill in for the remainder of the tour, while Powers also returned on guitar. When they returned to the US in November, Graham resumed his place on drums.
Pierce returned to guitar playing during this lineup, and both he and Powers are credited with guitar on their third album, The Las Vegas Story (the Blasters' Dave Alvin also played lead guitar on a handful of tracks). Released on June 25, 1984, this album marked a significant change for the band; it represented a shift away from the punk rock of Fire of Love and Miami and a step towards a more polished, alternative rock sound. After US gigs supporting Siouxsie and the Banshees, the band embarked on a fall 1984 tour throughout Europe in support of the album, though Graham again departed during the tour at the end of October. In November, he was replaced with former roadie Peter Kablean, known as Desi Desperate. The band broke up in January 1985, with Pierce remaining in London with then-girlfriend Romi Mori.
During the break-up, Powers, Morrison, and Desperate formed a band called Fur Bible (Morrison later joined the Sisters of Mercy and the Damned), while Pierce embarked on a solo career. Pierce assembled a band, the Jeffrey Lee Pierce Quartet, consisting of former members of the Cure and Roxy Music, and released Wildweed in 1985. He organized a new band to tour in support of the album, including Mori on guitar and Nick Sanderson of Clock DVA on drums.
After a short stint doing spoken word performances, Pierce decided to reform a new version of the band in October 1986. Powers, who had also been recruited into Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at this time, resumed his place at guitar, with Mori switching to bass and Sanderson retaining his spot on drums. This lineup of the Gun Club recorded a handful of albums, including Mother Juno, released October 19, 1987 on Red Rhino Records. This album, produced by Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins, was a successful comeback, garnering a positive critical reception. After the release of Nick Cave's album The Good Son, Powers departed the Bad Seeds in May 1990 to focus more on the Gun Club.
The band's fifth studio effort, Pastoral Hide and Seek, which Pierce produced himself, was released October 1, 1990 on the Fire label. Sanderson departed in December 1990 to focus on his other project, World of Twist. Desperate rejoined to record the Divinity album, released in August 1991 on New Rose Records, but the band were inactive during the remainder of that year as Pierce was hospitalized during his travels in India and Vietnam. Pierce also recorded with Cypress Grove.
Simon Fish, who had previously played with Pierce on one of his solo albums, joined the band in March 1992. At the conclusion of a European tour in May 1992, Powers left the band to focus on his other project, Congo Norvell. In February 1993, the band reconvened as a trio of Pierce, Mori and the returning Sanderson, to record the Lucky Jim album. For their spring 1993 European tour, they were joined by guitarist Rainer Lingk of Die Haut. Lucky Jim was released September 20, 1993 by Triple X Records, and Robert Marche (formerly of Subway Sect and JoBoxers) joined on guitar in October.
In May 1994, Mori and Pierce split up, and she and Sanderson left the Gun Club (Mori and Sanderson formed Freeheat in 1999 with Jim Reid and Ben Lurie of the Jesus and Mary Chain). Sanderson and Marche formed Earl Brutus. In the fall of 1994, Pierce put together a new lineup featuring Marche, bassist Efe and the returning Fish, lasting until November.
An increasingly ill Pierce put together a penultimate Gun Club lineup for two shows in Los Angeles in August and September 1995, including guitarists Powers and Mike Martt (ex-Tex & the Horseheads), and the Wayne Kramer rhythm section of bassist Randy Bradbury and drummer Brock Avery. The final lineup of the Gun Club, with bassist Elizabeth Montague replacing Bradbury (who was touring with Pennywise), played only one show, the band's last, at The Palace in Hollywood on December 18, 1995.
On March 25, 1996, Pierce was found unconscious at his father's home in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was hospitalized and remained in a coma until his death from a brain hemorrhage on March 31, effectively ending the Gun Club.
The White Stripes played "For the Love of Ivy" and "Jack on Fire" (both from Fire of Love) at live shows. That band's vocalist and guitarist, Jack White, said, "'Sex Beat', 'She's Like Heroin to Me', and 'For the Love of Ivy'...why are these songs not taught in schools?"