I first met Gerry while attending a show that he was drumming for. The band is DG Kicks and they play every Tuesday night at a local tavern. I struck up a conversation with him during one of the breaks and started asking Gerry about where he played before. He said he was touring with Debbie Reynolds currently and was a former player for Harrah’s “house band.” I immediately thought of Bobby Darin knowing he had played there and asked Gerry if he got the chance to drum for Bobby. His reply was “Oh, yes, and it was such a great time.” I immediately was hooked.
A few weeks later I again ran into Gerry and this time I asked him if I could interview him about Bobby Darin. He said of course but it was a very long time ago and his memory wasn’t what it was but he would do the best he can.
The following is my conversation with him . . .
Andrea: When did you first start drumming?
Gerry: It all started with a snare drum that I got as a Christmas present when I was in high school. I told my parents that I was interested in becoming a drummer. They weren’t too thrilled but the funny thing is my brother is a drummer too! ... (Laughs).
Andrea: When did you come to Reno?
Gerry: It was 1964. I started out doing freelance drumming in different clubs when Bill Harrah arrived and built a new hotel (Harrah’s) in 1969. He heard about my drumming from other people and asked me to join the house band. Which was a big job in those days!
Andrea: How were you told what performers you would be playing for?
Gerry: We were told in advance. I was told that I would be playing percussion for Bobby Darin.
Andrea: What did you think about the idea of playing for Bobby?
Gerry: Oh, I was quite excited!! I just loved him and his music.
Andrea: So when you first met Bobby, what went through your mind?
Gerry: I couldn’t get over what a nice man he was. He never thought of himself as a Superstar to the extent of being rude or unapproachable. He never thought he was better than anyone. I remember that. He was so very friendly and would talk with everyone.
Andrea: What else can you tell me about Bobby?
Gerry: I remember his show would last 90 minutes and there was never an empty seat. Bobby would pack them in. This was back when they had dinner shows, nothing like they have now. And people would dress to the hilt! He had this incredible energy during the show and you would never see him tired or worn out.
Bill Harrah was very strict on the performers to start on time so there was this little clock on stage that the performer would watch because they only had a certain time to do their show.
Bobby was an unbelievable performer. It was always a good show. After that, it was important to get the audience out to the slot machines! ... (Laughs). Sometimes the celebrities would go to the casino floor and deal cards ... I’m sure Bobby did that once or twice!
I also remember going to Bobby’s dressing room after the show and I would bring my congo drums and Bobby would sing and I would sit there all night and play until morning! We had some very late nights and incredible parties in that dressing room! ... (Laughs). It was a very exciting time. He was incredible.
There was also a lady that performed ... I can’t remember her name now, but she would show up once in a while to sing with Bobby. I’m sorry I can’t remember.
Bobby was also very proud of his scar from heart surgery. He would open his shirt to show everyone! ... (Laughs).
Bobby would play for one to two weeks then move on. I never saw him needing oxygen during breaks. He had this incredible energy. You would never know he wasn’t well.
Andrea: What songs do you remember playing with Bobby on stage?
Gerry: Oh, the most popular ones like "Beyond the Sea' and "Mack the Knife" come to mind but there were so many, I’m sure if you mention one or two to me, we played them all. (Andrea: I mentioned a few other titles and he knew them all). Bobby also showed up with his own band. And they were very good.
Andrea: Do you remember any of Bobby’s band?
Gerry: Oh yes, I remember Bob Rosario. I played with him a couple of times in Vegas. And Billy Mack and the drummer ... oh, I can’t remember his name now.
Andrea: Do you remember where you were when you first heard about Bobby’s passing? What did you feel?
Gerry: I remember it being a very sad day. We had such a nice time together and he was such a nice guy, it was very hard to lose him. I’m sorry I don’t remember exactly where I was. I can tell you that it was such a nice musical experience for me to play with Bobby Darin and I feel very blessed to have known him.
Andrea: What other entertainers did you play for?
Gerry: The list is endless ... I got a call from this guy that needed a drummer asap as their performer was to go on that night. I told the guy that I just got home from touring and I had too much to do. I was tired ... but I asked him who the entertainer was and he said “Sinatra”! I said what time should I be there! ... (Laughs!). There was also Sammy Davis ... another great guy. We all had lunch together at the Steak House and Sammy congratulated me on being such a great drummer ... I remember that! Don Rickles was another one ... he was such a nice man too. If I told you all the performers I played for, we would be here until tomorrow!
Andrea: What have you been doing since that time?
Gerry: I have toured with Debbie Reynolds since 1986. That was a great time but unfortunately now I can’t travel as much ... doctor’s orders ... so I play here and there. But you will always find me on Tuesday nights with the DG Kicks Band. Thank you so much for this. I appreciate your talking with me and remembering Bobby Darin.
Andrea: Oh, thank you, for calling. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you answering all my questions!
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