Bassist Gustafson dead at 72

Bassist and vocalist John Gustafson has died at the age of 72.

He’s best known for stints with the Ian Gillan Band, Roxy Music and as a member of prog outfit Quatermass. He was also a revered session man who recorded for Steve Hackett, Ian Hunter, Rick Wakeman, Jerry Lee Lewis and many others.

The Liverpool-born musician’s career began with Liverpool outfit The Big Three, formed from the ashes of previous bands and thought to be one of the UK’s first-ever rock’n’roll trios. They’re reputed to have been the only band the Beatles regarded as genuine “competition” and were signed to Brian Epstein’s NEMS firm on John Lennon’s recommendation. They’re remembered for their single Some Other Guy, a demo recorded for Decca in 1963.

Gustafson then spent some time with the Merseybeats before fronting Quatermass, who released their acclaimed self-titled album in 1970, re-released last year. Later he played with Deep Purple’s Roger Glover in his Butterfly Ball project, and spent three years with Roxy Music from 1973.

He appeared on four Gillan albums between 1976 and 1978, played with Gordon Giltrap in the early 80s and reformed Johnny Kidd’s backing band the Pirates later in the decade. He released one solo album, Goose Grease, in 1997.

In a 2007 interview Gustafson said of his early days: “I can’t recall another rock trio at that time in Liverpool, although I can’t be sure. We got away with it at first by being loud and aggressive until we developed a trio playing style. Whether or not we influenced any other trios is open to debate.”

He added: “Any playing style I had came from listening to all my favourite kinds of music, and it’s only natural to want to play like the people you admire, even if you can’t equal it. A certain amount of flexibility develops. A great help was the many years of studio work, and being on sessions with many great players – far better than I.”

Bernie Torme, one-time member of Quatermass, said via Facebook last night: “RIP to the great John Gustafson, who did so much for music from The Big Three onwards. A true one off. Honoured to have met him and chatted back in the day.”

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