Gary Thain was born on May 15, 1948, and died on December 8, 1975 at the age of 27 years and 207 days. His death was the result of an overdose of heroin, an addiction that developed after he was electrocuted on stage a year before his death and began suffering from various health problems. Thain was primarily a bass player, but played guitar and sang as well. During most of his short life he was the bassist for the Keef Hartley Band and Uriah Heep, and toured all over the world as a professional musician.
He was a native of New Zealand where he grew up in a musical family. One of his older brothers was a bandmate during his school years,and Thain started playing music at a young age. When he was only 16 years old he wrote his first published song with a band called the Strangers, and they recorded 3 singles before breaking up. At 17 he decided to move to Australia and pursue a career in rock and roll. He was a member of several bands before signing on with a group called Me and the Others. With this band he toured in Europe and England, and when he found himself once again looking for a gig, he joined New Nadir, making England his home base. His tenure with the group gave him experience playing a jazz-based type of rock, and his resume grew more impressive.
Thain joined the Keef Hartley Band in 1968, and was an integral part of that group until their breakup in 1972. He not only played bass and guitar, but wrote songs and contributed vocals on 6 albums recorded with them. Their genre was blues-based rock, and Thain thrived in what was a new setting for him. The band toured extensively until they lost their frontman, and he moved on to his biggest and final position as bassist for the English band Uriah Heep.
He was invited to join the hard rock and metal band as their 3rd bassist that same year. Uriah Heep had enjoyed some success before he became a member, but there is widespread agreement among fans and critics alike that the lineup with him included was the classic and best version of the group. They had recorded 3 albums previously, and Thain was on board for their 4th and for several subsequent records. The band’s biggest sales and highest reputation were achieved during his tenure, and they were and are considered among the top 4 metal bands of the 70s, along with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple.
Over the next 3 years the band toured all over the world to support their popular albums, and Thain participated in over 140 shows. In late 1974 they were performing at a concert in Dallas, Texas, when the bass player was hit by a powerful electric shock while on stage. Soon he began to experience health issues that were apparently the result of this incident. His increasing use of heroin became a problem and the combination of medical maladies and drug addiction led to his being let go from Uriah Heep. His difficulties came to an end in late 1975 when he overdosed on heroin in his apartment in England and died at 27.
Uriah Heep soldiered on with a new bassist, and in fact have continued to record and tour up to the present day. They have 23 studio albums under their collective belts and several live recordings. While they have never again hit the heights of popularity and success that they did in the mid-70s, the band has a cult following and they always draw large audiences to their shows.
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