In the wrong company, it can be hard to explain why the death of an essentially unknown band's singer is something that I think about pretty regularly. In early 2001, Jerry Wick, singer and guitar player for the band Gaunt, was killed by a hit & run driver near his home in Columbus, Ohio. It took several days for the news to filter through the less-immediate communication channels of that era, but a friend recently reminded me that Jon Solomon and I jointly broke the news locally while on the air at WPRB. Given Gaunt's legacy at the station (beginning with 1992's Whitey the Man EP, they were one of the most played and universally adored bands among the airstaff), it's no surprise that Jon and I fielded phone calls from many listeners who were saddened if not downright distressed by this terrible turn of events.
On a personal level, Gaunt completed a lot of musical ideas for me, and Jerry was Gaunt. His hyperactive and sometimes overbearing persona is what gave the band much of its identity, and although they were quickly outpaced (in terms of success and recognition) by some of their contemporaries, Gaunt retained a unique and special identity—the way all things of tragically undervalued cultural significance do.
Their records? Uniformly great. Their live shows? Totally off the hook—Gaunt was the kind of band whose performances could make a roomful of curious strangers feel like close friends on the inside of 40 minutes. The first time I saw them was at CBGBs, and after that it was all Maxwell's all the time. Every four months between 1993 and 95, or so it seems in retrospect, usually with other great bands in tow. They put out a series of killer albums and a fistful of even better singles and EPs before locking horns with a major label for their final LP in 1998, which promptly flopped. A short while later, the band quietly parted ways, and about two years after that, Jerry was gone. That was ten years ago today.
Take a listen to him performing "Love, Death, and Photosynthesis". It's not really representative of what Gaunt sounded like, but it eerily foreshadows the man's tragic death in a manner that's befitting of someone so talented. It's also just a really great song.
More Gaunt/Jerry around the web:
Bela Koe-Krompecher's excellent blog chronicling his relationships with Jerry and Jenny Mae.
Recently unearthed video for Gaunt's "Turn to Ash". (Facebook link, takes about 30 seconds to get going.)
Thrill Jockey Records memorial page.