Beyond the Pale
'Another good man down'
Gary hailed from Boston, latterly living in South Carolina: but, as
Roland notes, most of us knew him only in his musical capacity. The
tally of days we spent together – preparing our two
gigs at Los Angeles. two at
at Lejre in Denmark,
two in London
(one as the Palers’ Project, opening for Procol Rarum) and
Westbury Long Island, and
Zoetermeer in the Netherlands
– represents a tiny
fraction of twenty years’ e-acquaintance. But six of those three- or
four- day spells intensively rehearsing the music we jointly loved
so much, and which had played a significant part in shaping our
tastes – if not our very lives – certainly forged a bond of shared
excitement, ambition, and (in general!) satisfaction at a job well
Gary first joined
The Palers’ Band in 2003, an immaculately
well-prepared guitarist who also turned a useful hand to bass guitar
and was a very capable keyboard player too. He came with a lot of
rock-band and theatre-pit experience and, though self-taught, was a
literate musician with a good practical knowledge of harmony: so it
was a pleasure to discuss chord-voicings and the niceties of
arrangement with him. He was gifted with a very musical ear, and it
was years before I discovered … imagine my surprise … that he was
completely deaf in the other.
As well as the precious few days one spent playing spent with ‘Shep’
(as Mr Brooker occasionally called him) there were of course months
of e-mail exchange in preparation for the complex 'Beyond the Pale'
fan conventions at which he loved to play. ‘Shep’ was
an amusing writer, yet some threads had a surprisingly
serious side. I remember quite a long correspondence in which I
strove to dispel his reluctance, as a person of Jewish heritage,
about going to play in Germany. I’m glad he felt able to 'let
history be history', as he
was a key element in the celebrations … and I believe he did not
regret his decision!
As well as his adept and accurate live work, and his song-writing, Gary was a keen and very capable home studio user. He worked quickly, eschewing sequencers and MIDIfication, and his (largely) one-man recordings radiate energy and confidence. Many of these tracks – Juicy John Pink, The Pursuit of Happiness, Wish Me Well, All Our Dreams are Sold, Crucifiction Lane, and 80% of In Held ’Twas in I – found their way on to the second and third Palers’ Project 2CDs.
Cognoscenti will note a pretty heavy Trower emphasis in the foregoing list. In a note Gary revealed that he’d ‘attacked the guitar parts with utmost respect to Trower’s awesome playing, while imbuing it with my own spirit’ (I wish I’d found time to finish my own heavily-reimagined Crucifiction Lane, for which Gary flew in an immaculate guitar solo, recreating my fumbling guide track with characteristically intense arm vibrato). I recall a person very close to Procol Harum, listening to Gary on CD, commenting that he was in a sense ‘more Trower than Trower’. I wish it wasn’t too late to share this compliment with Gary, and I know it will be galling for all his wide-ranging Procol ‘family’ in various countries to come to terms with the notion that we sha’n’t be communicating again. Our sincere condolences, of course, go out to his real family … though few of us have met or know them: expressions of sympathy may be left by visiting www.georgefuneralhomes.com
‘Another good man down. Gary was an omnipresent member of the Palers’ Band and a great supporter of Procol Harum. An enthusiastic guitar player himself, he was always appreciative of the music while holding firm opinions of his own. A guitar malfunction on my Strat prior to the first Ledreborg concert resulted in Gary coming to the rescue with his own guitar, which fortunately in the event was not needed. It put my mind at rest, though, knowing it was available should the worst have happened.
‘We enjoyed many after show parties/gigs at which various Procol members happily joined the Palers’ Band and Gary Shepard was always there with his bouncy positivity and musical contributions. He once lent me his guitar for a rendition of Repent at the Wuppertal party: Very generous, as I’m sure he would have rather played it himself! He is a sad loss to the Procol community and will be much missed. RIP, Gary.’ (thanks, Geoff)
At 'Echoes in the Night',
2013's 'Beyond the Pale' Convention in Wuppertal, Germany: