Gary Smith, Drummer for Chase, Original Drummer for Survivor, Studio Drummer
Gary and bassist Dennis Johnson, checking the “answering service” (no cell phones), between sessions at Paragon Recording, Chicago.
Gary was one of the first call studio drummers in Chicago throughout the 70's, 80's and 90's until 1995 when he moved from the area. He's recorded at every major studio in and around Chicago, as well as at CBS, San Francisco, Criteria Studios, Miami, The Record Plant and Johnny Yuma's, L.A., and with CHASE, live at the Budokan, Tokyo. Gary has played on several thousand sessions, from record dates and sound tracks to hundreds of commercials. While playing drums for United Airline's "Fly the Friendly Skies" campaign in the 80's, one of the sessions was dubbed into 120 national radio and television spots. He also drummed for Judge Reinhold in the movie "Vice Versa," and on occasion was called to replace another drummer's tracks on a record - after the initial recording. While in Chicago, Gary played the music for many WGN-TV shows, as well as the weather, news, and sports ID's, and the themes for the Cubs, White Sox, and Chicago Bulls.

There was a great deal of session work in Chicago in the late 20th century, although fewer record projects than commercials. Of the 12,000 or so union musicians in the Chicago area, some 50 to 60 made up a pool of players who worked on almost all of the estimated 7500 commercial sessions that were recorded in Chicago at the three major commercial studios (Universal, Chicago Recording Company, and Streeterville) every year.* The sessions were top flight and numerous because the ad agencies were doing 95% of their postproduction work in Chicago and the clients wanted the music to be close to the postproduction. Music is made close to where the postproduction is done because so many commercials and films were, and still are, post-scored. Music producers like the late Dick Marx (singer/songwriter Richard's father) and Dick Reynolds of Com/Track created high standards for those that followed. The acclaimed Chicago Symphony Orchestra members, pop stars, celebrities, well-known musicians and vocalists from every style of music were involved. It was not uncommon for Smith to see the likes of Levon Helm or Randy Travis preparing to sing on a commercial that he had just recorded. Many of the studio musicians also performed with some of the world's top acts. The players read and played well in any style, incorporating odd bars and time signatures while making it sound natural, preferably in just a few takes, with metronomic time. Gary's commercials air internationally and some have been running in Europe for as long as 20 years.

Of course, it's not Basie, The Beatles, or Brahms, it's Budweiser. Nevertheless, playing drums on a "jingle" session could be as gratifying as some record dates, for the technical nuances, the variety of styles, and the enjoyment of performing with some of the world's finest musicians. The mantra for Chicago studio players was "Relax, or your fired!"

*Source: Ruth L. Ratny's Chicago SCREEN MAGAZINE, Vol. 4, No. 19


For more information about some of the artists and musicians Gary's worked with, please visit these websites:

Headphone hair and beard to match, Chicago Recording Company, Studio A
A sampling of Gary's work for WGN can be viewed here. Most of the percussion was played by Mark Walker, who is now on faculty at Berklee College of Music. Bassists are Steve Rodby (Metheny) and Darryl "Munch" Jones (Miles Davis, Sting, Stones).
Lost SoulCleveland Rocks "Sweet Fools," by Essence, appears on these two albums. Written by Jim Peterik, produced by Willie Henderson, arranged by James Mack, with Dennis Johnson on bass, listen to Gary play "Sweet Fools" on YouTube or download here. "Lost Soul" is also available on iTunes.
The recordings from Gary's sessions with Vic Damone for his original album "I Just Called To Say I Love You," have since appeared on several of his releases. The songs, with Gary on the drums and Mark Beringer on bass, can be heard throughout Vic's catalog.

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