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Oct 172016
 

john-gary-driscollJune 8, 1987 – John Gary Driscoll was born on 18 April 1946 was an American R&B style rock drummer who performed in a number of successful bands from the 1960s until his death on June 10, 1987.

He first entered the music scene when he joined Ronnie Dio and The Prophets in June 1965, fronted by Ronnie James Dio. The band transformed into The Electric Elves, The Elves, and finally Elf in 1969, releasing a few singles along the way. They were eventually discovered by Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover who went on to produce two of Elf’s three studio albums.

Elf disbanded in 1975 when Gary Driscoll, Ronnie James Dio, Micky Lee Soule (Elf’s keyboardist) and Craig Gruber (their bassist) were recruited by Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore to form the rock band Rainbow.

Driscoll was dismissed from Rainbow shortly after their debut album, entitled Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, was recorded. It is speculated that firing Gary was simply due to his R&B/jazz/funk style of drumming, which did not sit well with Blackmore. Driscoll was later replaced with British hard rocker, Cozy Powell.

By 1975 Elf was no more, disbanded to join Blackmore and his new band, Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow, they recorded an album of the same name and although the line-up never toured, the band and the album won critical acclaim. Despite the success of the album, Blackmore fired all of the band except Dio and replaced Driscoll on drums with Cozy Powell for the follow-up album and world tour. The former band members were suitably irate at being used by Blackmore to secure the services of Ronnie James Dio and regardless of stories about Blackmore’s dislike of Driscoll’s R&B style, the reality is that Blackmore only ever wanted Dio.

After his departure from Rainbow, Driscoll played in the band Dakota (1978–1980, from Scranton, Pa. formally the Jerry Kelly Band), before starting Bible Black with Craig Gruber, future Blue Cheer guitarist Duck McDonald and singer Jeff Fenholt. This band released the albums Ground Zero and, with a few other musicians, Thrasher, neither of which sold well. Driscoll found a day job, and made a little extra money on the side as a session musician and moved between bands.

Driscoll was found dead in a friend’s home in Ithaca, New York in June 1987 at the age of 41. His brutal murder remains unsolved with no apparent motive, although it is rumored to have been drug related. The man initially arrested for the crime was acquitted at trial. There have been leads in the case, and the person of interest has fled the country. There have been varying accounts as to the reason; from drug deals to a ritualistic satanic sacrifice. There is evidence to suggest that the murder was carried out by more than one person, whilst the chief suspect fled America before being charged.

Driscoll did not have the impact on rock music that Dio and Blackmore can rightfully claim but his appearance on that first Rainbow album is enough to cement his place in the genre’s history books.

Listen to his playing on this track, it’s ironic that he was fired for his ‘pop style’ given Blackmore’s reason for letting Dio go in favour of Graham Bonnet and a move towards chart single success. Ignore, if you will, Blackmore’s soloing and hear the drumming. It’s really rather good.