Quicksilver Messenger Service guitarist Gary Duncan dead at 72

Gary Duncan
Gary Duncan in 1989 (Image credit: Clayton Call / Getty Images)

Quicksilver Messenger Service guitarist and singer Gary Duncan has died at the age of 72. 

The news was broken by San Francisco scenester Professor Poster (opens in new tab), who wrote "It is with much sadness that I share the passing of one of San Francisco's fine guitarists and notable musicians that go back to the beginnings, Gary Duncan.

"Once guitarist with The Brogues, then most notably with Quicksilver Messenger Service, where the complex interplay between himself and fellow-guitarist John Cipollina did much to define the unique contributions that made up the San Francisco Sound and based band. Rest in Peace you old Guitar Slinger.

"You will be remembered with fondness by all of us that saw and heard you play over the many years."

Duncan grew up in Ceres, California, and in mid 1965 joined The Brogues, in Merced, CA. The band recorded a pair of singles including the garage rock classic I Ain't No Miracle Worker. The Brogues also featured drummer Greg Elmore, and both men were invited to join Quicksilver Messenger Service in time for the band's first shows at the end of 1965. 

Quicksilver swiftly built up a following as part of the San Francisco acid rock scene with like Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead. They also played at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, alongside The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Big Brother & The Holding Company, and Canned Heat

"In Quicksilver we played a lot of old blues and folk tunes and improvised," Duncan told Craig Morrison in 2001. "We had our own arrangements and had open places where we would just wail. ‘Cause we were so stoned all the time anyway, on acid and everything else, that sitting down and just playing one tune for three or four hours was nothin’. 

"That was no big deal whatsoever. At rehearsals we’d sit there and play for seven, eight hours straight, ten hours. We’d play ‘til we’d just fall over and the hands were bleeding. I’d go in the rehearsal place and take a bunch of amphetamine and some LSD and just play for like a day and a half. And end up in the weirdest fucking places, not knowing whether or not if it was actually any good or not, but being there."

A cause of death has not yet been confirmed. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 37 years in music industry, online for 24. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.