July 22, 1999 – Gary C. “Gar” Samuelson (Megadeth) was born on February 18th 1958 in Dunkirk, New York. Little is known about his early years other than that he was of Swedish descent and that the family moved from New York to Florida in the early 1980s.
He became best known as the drummer for thrash metal band Megadeth, working in the band from 1984 to 1987. Prior to Megadeth he and Chris Poland played in a jazz fusion band called The New Yorkers, and that before this, both practiced and played together for many years.
After meeting with Dave Mustaine and Dave Ellefson of Megadeth in 1984, he joined the band, and Poland soon followed, this being what Mustaine refers to as ‘the first real line-up’. Samuelson would go on to serve as the band’s drummer until 1987, appearing on the albums Killing Is My Business… and Business Is Good!, and Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?, as well as serving through tours, until he was ultimately fired for his drug addiction. Gar’s style was heavily influenced by years of jazz training. This is exemplified in the tracks “These Boots”, “Rattlehead”, and “Killing Is My Business… and Business Is Good!”.
Gary and his brother Stew then formed, along with Billy Brehme, Travis Karcher and Andy Freeman, the band Fatal Opera, which released a self-titled album in 1995 and the Eleventh Hour in 1997. He was considered a very unorthodox drummer among the other thrash metal bands of the 1980s even though he is considered as one of the most influential drummers to thrash metal, having pioneered the incorporation of jazz fusion into the subgenre.
He died of liver failure on July 22, 1999 at the age of 41.
The success of Megadeth‘s break though single, “Peace Sells“, is often credited to the snarling vocals of Dave Mustaine or the thundering bassline of Dave Ellefson. However, in a new interview, former Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland has claimed that drummer Gar Samuelson had more to do with the track’s composition than first thought. As Classic Rock Magazine reported, Poland credits the drummer for turning the song from an 8 minute marathon into the shorter, punchier version that we all know today: “I think originally it was eight minutes long, and Gar said, ‘You know what? This is too good a song to drag it out like this. Let’s shorten the arrangement, cut it down to size and make it a single.’ “Dave said, ‘Yeah, let’s do that.’
I honestly think Dave respected Gar’s opinion on stuff he was the only guy in the band Dave wouldn’t mess with. “He totally respected Gar, and thank God he did, If Gar hadn’t talked Dave into shortening the song…”