Vodka Swan Song: Slam Buckra Dies at 53

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The north state has lost one of its most compelling artists. Musician and artist Slam Buckra died Friday at age 53. He had base of tongue cancer and had been sick for well over a year.

Slam came to Shasta County from San Diego and was a fixture in the area music scene for close to two decades.

To catch Slam Buckra and the Groove Palookas on a hot night was to catch a swirl of sweaty dancing, extemporaneously brilliant dialogue, rip roarin’ blues, vodka toasts, fondling of mannequins and other assorted tomfoolery. All of it was creative — much of it hilarious.

The word compelling keeps coming to mind. Every time I saw him perform he was compelling in some way.

Musically he was an original, but you could hear the threads into many of his favorite artists — Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet), Frank Sinatra. I loved his version of Freddie King’s “Big Legged Woman.” He loved jazz greats who really pushed the boundaries of music like Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus and Sun Ra.

He loved Bob Dylan and would play unpredictable tunes by the master.

Slam was a fabulous blues and rock guitarist who always found rich tones and creative lines. He kept the party deep in the boogie zone and a lot of people left his shows tired and happy from dancing their buns off.

His band was always killer. My favorite Palooka combo was Patrick Wiseman (drums), Jason Fator (bass) and MacKenzie Hughes (horns), but the great Thom Berry (harmonica) often played with him, as did bassist Alan Phillips early on. There were some other fine players whom I’m not recalling names for – please feel free to list in the comments below.

His bio says he opened for the likes of Willie Nelson, R.E.M., Johnny Winter, Mose Allison and Eric Johnson. He played on stage with blues guitar legends Albert King and Albert Collins.

As a songwriter, Slam also left a lasting impression. His song “Frank,” about the iconic Redding bartender Frank Nazarirod, was well-known even by people who didn’t attend his shows – it was heavily played on the jukebox at the Squire Room.

He used crazy sexual imagery in many of his songs – almost bondage-type fantasies (lots of spankin’) that were, to me, more hilarious than gratuitous. From this series, “Spank Watusi” is a hard one to resist.

I like (and relate to) his tune “Life of a Millionare”:

Slam (center) with Groove Palookas Patrick Wiseman (left) and Jason Fator.

I’m searchin’ through my sofa for some nickels and some dimes but I’m havin’ a good time, havin’ a good time/

Having a good time on my hands, six bucks in my pocket, two kamikazes and some fuel for my rocket/

What cha do for a livin’ fella? I said, well buddy I got the life of a millionaire without the money

Two good examples of his music are contained in his albums available on CB Baby — “Vodka Swan” and “Lucky Scars.”

As bold and bizarre as his music was, his physical art was equally captivating. To me, his self-portraits were very honest and revealing. One self-portrait I lived with for a time revealed pain, fragility, humor, beauty and blur all in the same image.

Highly creative people are often haunted and Slam would fit into this category as well.

One night at a show at Vintage Wine Bar he told me that he was basically not playing with a full deck.

At the Post Office Saloon on another occasion, I once walked away from him screaming at my back that he was “gonna bury” me. He later explained it as tomcats bristling under a full moon or something like that.

The drink sometimes brought out demons and Slam had a big ego. He fired flaming arrows that struck through the shoulders and arms of several others around town.

However, when I talked to oodles of musicians about doing a benefit concert for him, every person I discussed it with said they would be happy to take part. It would have been a big gathering, but we got the word he didn’t want it, so it never materialized.

I think everyone respected his creativity, individuality and skill as a player. He had a lot to teach everyone about being a performer. He was a pure entertainer who relished the spotlight all the way.

I also have fond memories of drinking white Russians with him at the Squire and the Clover Club. Once, he came to see me play at an obscure hall on the outskirts of town and nicknamed me Dizzy Dee after hearing me stumble through Jimmy Reed’s “Dizzy.” I’m pretty sure everyone got a nickname.

Aside from being Slam Buckra or Vic Swankly (his Sinatra act), who was he really? His real name was Rick (or Richard) Gazlay and he was born April 18, 1957 and I’m not sure where. Almost no one knew that name.

Slam and the Palookas play the 2009 Taste of Redding.

Around here he was Slam Buckra. The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” was his favorite song. You can play anything by Frank Z or Frank S or Country Dick Montana and think about him.

He checked out just a short time after Captain Beefheart (last month). Maybe that wasn’t a coincidence.

Slam started shows at 7:38 p.m. At the end of e-mails he said he would “seize you later.”

He covered the north state in grooves and gave us all a mighty butt slap with his wit and swagger.

Slam Buckra challenged us to be more creative, and we really deeply desperately needed that.

More on Slam: Click here for a cartoon tribute by Phil Fountain. Click here for information about a celebration of Slam’s life, planned for Sunday, Feb. 13.

Jim Dyar is a news, arts and entertainment journalist for A News Cafe and the former arts and entertainment editor for the Record Searchlight’s D.A.T.E. section. Jim is also a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding. E-mail him at

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of

is a journalist who focuses on arts, entertainment, music and the outdoors. He is a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding and can be reached at
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75 Responses

  1. Slam Buckra was one of those guys for whom the saying "it ain't bragging if you can back it up" was true. As hard as he could sometimes be to get along with in person, you'd have to be deaf, dumb, and too vindictive to deny his musical and crowd-pleasing talents. He once played Manton Corners and had cowboys dancing with blow-up dolls. For an "outsider" he really carved a niche and raised the bar for Redding bands. A lot of guys with his talent and ego wouldn't have stayed so long and tried so hard to fit into a scene that had barely begun to grow more inclusive when he arrived.

    He came, he played, he conquered.

    Nice write-up, Jim.

    Don't Slam (Buckra) the door on the way out.


  2. I remember the first time I saw Slam play with his Groove Palooka's. I won a small, plastic "Grandfather Head" for answering some off the wall, music related question correctly! I really wanted the femur bone as my prize, but Slam strongly suggested I take the "Grandfather Head", instead. I still have that thing, and it always makes me smile. Boy, Slam could sure fire up a room, couldn't he? We were dancing on the tables at the Squire Room on Halloween!

    After I left Redding, Slam found out I had been dabbling in music, and invited me up to perform at one of his singer/songwriter showcases at the Post Office. He was so gracious, and encouraging to me. That meant so much coming from such an amazingly talented man.

    Slam, you will be sorely missed. You gave me some amazing memories! Thank you so much for sharing your gift with all of us!

  3. Avatar Laurie says:

    Sweet tribute, Jim. You really captured Slam's exuberance.

    He'll be missed down here, but I like to think he's jamming at the best gig ever, trading licks with Mr. Van Vliet right about now…

  4. Avatar Brian J. Kenny says:


    Excellent tribute to a formidable performer and a powerful showman. He was mercurial, to say the least, but powerful art often comes from and with torment in a self-perpetuating cycle that seems to amplify as it becomes increasing difficult to mute.

    I was always interested in knowing the guy behind all of the monickers, but he was not interested in talking about his real person. I always found that slightly sad and somewhat off-putting. There seemed to be some real pain behind the sunglasses and the green-billed gambler's visor.

    I ran into him at the Clover Club one day and we enjoyed a deep conversation about Charles Mingus (I believe one of his handles was Slamwell Mingus Buckra III), Bob Wills, and Duke Ellington. We found some good common ground and I ended up reviewing his album "Lucky Scars" for the RS.

    During that process, I interviewed him three times. He would talk until I hit a nerve then he'd say "Gotta go" and hang up. He was very difficult to catch on the phone, but he was clearly a very intelligent man.

    As I listened to the album and got more into it, I realized that he was a profoundly gifted writer capable of constructing entire multi-layered universes in a short three-minute song. To my mind, "Long Island Dream" is a perfect example of this. You can listen to it on his myspace page if you have never heard it.

    I listened to that 183-second, richly woven tapestry at least fifty times over the course of three days: just trying to figure it out. It is comprised of a series of names and pithy comments, each of which is like the lead-in to a Raymond Chandler "Short-Cuts" story. The names themselves were like stories. Clearly captivated by the song, I asked Slam about it.

    Strangely, he didn't want talk about it, stating "that song is "99% perspiration and 1% inspiration." When I asked him about the 1%, he bristled.

    "That's why I wrote it."

    He wanted to talk about "Mustafa Calhoun," another one of the tracks on the album.

    I wanted to talk about the 1%, because that is where the art is.

    And so it is that "Long Island Dream" will forever remain a mystery, just as Slam Buckra will forever remain a mystery to most, probably even to those who knew him the best.

    And so "Long Island Dream" becomes my metaphor for Slam Buckra: a complex work of art, deeply humanity, interwoven with beauty, glistening over a dark and slightly ominous backdrop.

    He came, he left his mark, and he will be missed.

    Vaya con Dios, Slam

  5. Avatar Barbara Stone says:

    Too bad. He was a great north state artist. My husband and I became fans pretty late unfortunately but we always tried to attend when he played in town. My husband enjoyed the trivia quizzes in between songs. My heart goes out to the family.

  6. I admired his creativity and musical prowess. I'll never forget how down-to-earth he was when I introduced myself to him after one of his performances at Turtle Bay. I was surprised at the fact that he knew who I was and had an appreciation for my own electronic music, which says a lot about his creative nature. He'd occastionally say "Hello" with a short and silly email reply when I'd sent out a newsletter. I had always wanted to collaborate with him. He will be greatly missed.

  7. Avatar "Mr. Karen Sell says:

    I never cared much for that nickname, but whaddyagonna do?

    Have a great journey through the cosmos, Slam.

    You rocked our front yard.

    Your rocked our hearts.

    You opened our minds (and pores).

    You made our feet and everything else move.

    We're wearing wax-paper bonnets today in your honor, and I'm gonna play my ax with a mannequin head as a slide.

    – Tom and Karen Sellers

  8. Avatar Patrick says:

    Slam was among the most creative people I have ever met. He had mad guitar skills. He was fun. I was a fan. He had a nickname for me: "Special Apartment Man". I was fortunate enough to have hosted Slammy after many of his Mt Shasta gigs in my "special apartment" for cozy times with intimate friends. It was a chance to wind down from the Palooka Palooza's. He inspired me to write some drunken poetry and to rekindled my "lost savage self". Without Slam, who will help us navigate the strange darkness?

  9. Avatar Pat Karch says:

    After listenening to Slam, I would either want to quit or practice. He was the moderneer of fused sound, always able to play to other musicians strengths.

    The thought that I too am 53 this year just makes me appreciate even more his composition skills musical ability.

    The North State has lost a legend


  10. Slam donated biographies of blues musicians to the public library. Good work, Slam.

  11. Avatar Gregg Ferreira says:

    Slam Buckra or Rick Gazley as we knew him in San Diego was the most original musician I have ever has the opportunity to play music with. I was in a band with Rick along with Tim the mighty Quinn and Eric Bow Bow Bowen in the early 90's.We recorded " Moon Twang Menagerie" together. As a band leader he was the best. He was able to extract the best out of the people he played with. He was a without a doubt the best guitar player I have ever seen able to extract incredible sounds with the guitar straight through he amp no effects. He was a natural born leader. The two plus years I spent with The Rick Gazley Group were the most influential, inspiring and best years of my musical life. We kept in contact from time to time by email, but in the last year or so that contact diminished. Rick Gazley, Slam Buckra, Vic Swankly you will be sorely missed.. The music world has lost a great one.

    • Avatar Tim Quinn says:


      Dude, I loved Rick like an older and wiser brother. He definitely pushed my buttons (intentionally), but in the 4 years I played in his band (1990-1994…that was about 300 gigs, I think) I learned more about performing than any other time in my musical career. He was truly a unique and wonderful human being, and I loved him. He gave me the room to crank up my amps and do anything I wanted to do…from honky-tonk twang, to traditional jazz, to full-on metal shred. He never restrained my musical explosions onstage…he would only ignite them, and then throw gas on the flames with his own tornado of guitaristry, which I felt I could never really match, even with all my own studied techniques. I always enjoyed your excellent musicianship for the years we played together in Rick's band. I hope you are doing well, bro.

      Rick and I opened (and I think you, too) for Albert King 2 weeks before Albert died. That was at the Bacchanal in San Diego. Albert played through Rick's rig (which was the same set up as Albert's regular set up). Of course, Albert was pissed and fighting the rig at first. But, after the first couple songs, Albert was roaring like a tsunami from hell. I think that was Albert's second to last gig, before he died two weeks later.

      Were you on that gig, too?


      ps…shout out to Eric Bowen. Shout out to Pat Burke, too. You both were some of the best drummers I have worked with.

  12. Avatar John"O'Liv says:

    I had the great honor to share a stage with Slam for 3 years, from '98 to '01 as his Bassist for hire. He was by far the most talented singer/songwriter/entertainer that I have ever had the privilege to work with. As a trio with P-Trickle or J-Zone on drums, we had some of the most intense improv jams one could ever hope to be a part of. Throw Kenzio in the mix om Trumpet, and things became "Other worldly". There are lots of stories, but none that should ever be shared out side of the Band Circle. What happens as a Palooka, should remain with the Palookas.

    I will truly miss you my brother, and will always remember our times together. I'm gonna go crank "Frank" on the JukeBox and tip a White Russian for 'ya.

    "I'll have another glass a that!"

    Palooka for life,


  13. Avatar Alan Phillips says:

    Hey Johno (et al)…

    All I can say to my fellow, greater-Palooks and fans, is a mighty, "Yeah, Man!"

    (IF so, when is the wake?)

    Alan "Sinbad-Watusi" Phillips

    • Avatar frank n bree says:

      How are you my old friend?

      • Avatar Alan Ernesto Phillip says:

        I'm okay… all the dang-things considering…

        I sure miss your smiling and beautiful faces (you can figure out who's who ;-). Pat, Slam & I confabulated many a time about you two – mostly behind your backs. You two were true-blue to that man's masterful mixology! I love you both for it – you guys GOT IT, way before most! The joyous memories of the sights & sounds of your support and friendships to Slam surely flashed by on his way up… Thanks…

    • Avatar Kristy Coffee says:

      Hey Alan! Loved when Slam and Leonard got over themselves and you guys started playing at Billy's! One of my favorite bands! Hope all is well with you.

      • Avatar Alan Ernesto Phillip says:

        Dearest Kristy,

        How nice it is to hear from you and for remembering…

        I remember when we were starting to hit it large locally and Leo wouldn't hire us at Billy's unless we did a "freebie" for him to "check us out first". So, we did his employee/VIP-client Christmas party. For free.

        When we showed up after to see about making some noise-n-bucks… Leo coldly refused to give us a paying slot! Slam felt VERY disrespected by that treatment. I concurred.

        But… Time wore us all down and we made LOTS-o-dough-n-laughs for all the other Northstate clubs. Then, we got that slot. It was so cool that you remembered those days. I still hear the over-served echoes of what Slam shouted out in that nightime alley, "…it was my Thrilla-in-Manilla! My Sillies with the Billies!" (as in Hill…) Wow, I forgot ALL about that until you brought it up…

        You, Kristy, took such great care of us, your customers and your erstwhile bosses! Thank you for your love, respect & expert diplomacy!! Slammy Davis Jr. loved you too (as do we Palookas still)!!



        • Avatar Kristy Coffee says:

          Thanks, my friend. You made me smile. I never knew the story about Leonard and Slam. How typical. I wasn't invited to that party, probably the reason I never knew the story. That made me smile too. Always loved it when you guys played…someone told me once, "you KNOW the band's good when the cocktail waitresses stop and dance!" What fun and a great experience for me. I loved that time, although I wouldn't do it again. Hope your life is happy.

          Peace, kristy

  14. Avatar Jon Lewis says:

    Slam was a fire-and-ice ride the whole way and I'm humbled to have been a passenger for at least part of it. The dude had crazy talent and crazy demons and it was often breathtaking to watch those two wrestle with each other.

    Slam could leave you spellbound one minute and infuriated the next, but such is the function of art.

    When I became editor of the Searchlight's brand new DATE section, I featured Slam on the front page of the very first issue in March of 1997 and I can't think of a more fitting artist for that honor (such as it was). I'm happy to say I enjoyed 14 more years of friendship and great music from Slam and his Groove Palookas.

    Sometimes the brightest flames burn out the quickest. The lights just got a littler dimmer around here but I've no doubt that a swanky lounge somewhere in the hereafter just booked one of the coolest acts around.

    Godspeed, Slam.

    • Avatar Alan Ernesto Phillip says:

      Hey Lew,

      Well said! It is dimmer, and tearier today. I miss him too. You may not have known it, man, but you were always one of the Groove Palookas!

      We loved your many inspired writings & hang-age – and Eddie Maravilla's classic shots of early Slam and the Groove Palookas. Wow! (Are those available for viewing on-line anywhere?)

      I can still see that incredible cover shot of Slam at 'the Brickworks' yawping with his mighty guitar-tone and voice – it also shows me humbly in the background nearly forgetting my parts in sheer awe of the fiery-force that seemed to have been breathed into him that magical night. Perhaps, by the very Gods with whom he now must be playing, paying and wrestling. I still remember that snapshot-moment… and your great work and friendship for Slam, Slam-fans and your fellow Palookas over the years: "Yeah, Man!"…

      Here's wishing you and your dear ones, the best,


      [Note to Jim: He was born Richard F. Gazlay in San Francisco, CA., 4/18/57. And I have to agree with Johno: Some of our wacky-Palooka-action stays in Palookaville. Right Palookas?!] 😉


      Excerpt (and cool link, below) for you Jon, copied from my early mourning-comment on Phil's awesome post:

      As [arguably] the first Groove Palooka for the "King of the Northstate!," I feel compelled to break out of my funked-up funk for a few minutes to thank you, Phil, from the very bottom of my old, blued, baboon-tattooed heart.

      What a great tribute to the man's many talents – and, for his fans. (Not forgetting the masterfully worded tribute by Jim Dyar – and that cool DATE feature by Jon Lewis & Eddie Maravilla, I remember from way back in 1997!)

      Were "Slam Buckra" to see your true artistic tribute: I could hear his signature tenor-to-falsetto laugh in knowing admiration as he lovingly and genuinely inspected every aspect, enjoying all the accuracies and messages. And then he would snap tall and say to you in that familiar baritone growl, "Hey daddy-o. How'bout you-n-me head over to that Squire Room and trade chops?"

      With my deepest admiration and respect for Patrick Wiseman, Thom Berry, and all the other, greater Groove Palookas, I want to express my sincerest condolences to them – and to "Slam's" dear ones.

      Thanks for the therapy.

      Phil? Jim? [Jon & Eddie?] What do I owe ya?

      Well done, my friends…

      …now, here I sadly-n-happily goes,

      back down to old photos-n-videos…


      • Avatar Janice Powell says:

        Those were the days, my friend! I remember traveling to Red Bluff to hear you guys play at Francisco's…that Slam never missed an opportunity to play a gig !

        Slam and The Groove Palookas really fired up the music scene in the northstate in the '90s and will always be my favorite local band.

        Fondly remembered as Slam's favorite mail lady,


        • Avatar Alan Ernesto Phillip says:

          Hi Janice!

          Those were the days…

          Ahhh, yes, Francisco's…. They – and the great ladies at the Ritz up in Mt. Shasta – always took the BEST care of us. They did not seem to share the collective brain stem of most local club owners who rationalized making bank at the bar & cover charges from Slam & the Palookas while paying chump-change for the rarest of shows. Francisco's & the Ritz, always paid top dollar for the unique talent and made bank to boot! Slam never forgot that…

          JP, you were always Slam's most-favoritest mail-lady – for sure! And you were always our favorite flower-girl too!! When many recoiled as we began, you were one of the first to really get-it and get real with Slam and the Palookas. You made Slam laugh many times and to feel so dearly welcomed every time you showed up for a gig… I am sure he saw your beautiful, smiling face lighting up a bouquet of real love on his way to the great mystery… Thanks…

  15. Avatar John"O'Liv says:

    To Alan and all the other Palooks, we will always be part of a very special family. Please let me know if any tributes are planned. He'd hate it' but what better reason to have one, eh?


    • Avatar Alan Ernesto Phillip says:

      Here, here, my fellow Palooka!

      What say ye all?!

      • Avatar Kenzio Snatchmo Mack says:

        To Palookavile:

        Alan, Johno, P-trickle, Johnny 6-Gun, J-Zone, Buster-P, Philly Rowe, T-Whack, Scallion, and the select few side-men.

        It wasn't always rosy, but we were blessed to be on stage with his genius. We loved him, he loved us.

        We were fortunate enough to be the closest to a man, who lived in a great deal of seclusion.

        The youngest of Palookas (Jason, Patrick and myself), I'm sure were loved by the man, as if we were his children. P & I were introduced to many of Redding's finest/not-so-finest bars and clubs at the age of 18…but always under supervision. 😉

        I'm sorry I couldn't help my friend/mentor more, in his last days. I hope instead, that there will be a time for our Palooka Secret Society and Buckra-teers to re-unite and celebrate the man's genius.


        • Avatar John "Olivia Ne says:

          Hey Kenzio, shoot me a link to the photos you have up. I'd love to see them. And call if you wanna chat. Let me know about a gathering, and I'll try and make it up. I'd love to see all the Palooks, and share some Slamisms.


          • Avatar Kristy Coffee says:

            John, how are you? It's been a long time. I have a great picture of you guys in your clown masks playing I will Survive. (I'm on stage with you guys and I think I'm dancing. It was my last night at Billy's.

    • Avatar Alan Ernesto Phillip says:

      YEAH, MAN!!

      Hey, if the lovely Janet-G needs any help, I will humbly and kindly serve in any way I can…

  16. Avatar Linda Gutierrez says:

    I was saddened to learn of Slam's passing. I had heard he was terminally ill but like when I heard my Mom had cancer many years ago you just keep hoping that the doctors made a mistake or the day would never come. But as is life, the time does come. I did not know him very well but, we did talk when I would see him and he always had a smile and something funny to say. I will miss his bright smile and his talent. Since I love music so much, it was really a great pleasure to hear his great guitar playing. My heart goes out to his family. I know when it is my time I will see along with all the other great musicians of our time. Bye Slam.

    • Avatar Linda Gutierrez says:

      Opps I made a typing error..I meant to say When it is my time I will him along side all the other great musicians of our time.

  17. Avatar Brian and Roxanne Nu says:

    Slam we miss you already. One of the best all around entertainers we ever knew. Amazingly smooth and talented guitarist, strong vocalist and song writer. One of my favorite songs was "the night I sunk the 8 ball with the little spider on it." We hired Slam and the Grove Palooka's to play at two parties at our house and they were great. At one party Slam and my Uncle Joe (a very talented vocalist, 3rd runnerup in the Senior Idol contest) staged an impromptu Frank Sinatra tune singing contest during one of the bands breaks. The two of them put down some serious Sinatra so we still call it the not to famous "Frank Off." He was always gracious and very funny.

  18. Avatar frank n bree says:

    I still have, And cherish my certificate from slam for attending 'A lot of slam shows'.

  19. Avatar Paul Bowker says:

    I'm sorry to hear of Slam's passing I really enjoyed his music . I was one of the people whom he mentioned listening for free at the Taste of Redding in 09 , his band was awesome as was he.i

  20. Avatar owen says:

    back in the late seventies we used to go downtown san diego on saturdays and hit the thrift stores,and i found this manaquin before he did,he challenged me to a basketball shoot off,and i never saw a guy try so hard to win anything,well he got the prize,and i started singing " oh manny ,you came and you gave without taking,but it bet you away" …so manny became part of the act way back then, at"jerry herreras spirit of 76 club"……we thought that place was the big time young…i always thought we would get together someday with our buckets of old cassette tapes of rehearsals and shows before they turned to dust …we were so proud of our crappy little tape recorders ….a lot of you may never hear that early innocent fresh young "king of pop"..but when he sang harmony with bass player al smith,it was pure magic..thank god for crappy little tape recorders….bag up those old tapes and stick em in the fridge …you never know….i remember after shooting baskets,he told me that when he was very young a doctor told his family that he was going to be very tall ,and i think that always ticked him off ,i mean that was kind o a setup for dissapointment..i think he could have been more mainstream in LA with a more commercial sound,but i think he was safer kind of tucked away from the jungle ,i asked him why he was up there ,he just said "man,i just love that place" ..while not the most famous alumni of lajolla high school,he may have been the most complex,and it was an honor to be his original stickman

    • Avatar Jamie Gazlay says:

      Owen, I was so happy to see a familiar name writing a post for Rick. I havent spoken to you in almost thirty years! I still remember your white painting pants 🙂 I hope that you are doing well. It would be really interesting to hear about your life after all this time. All the best.


    • Avatar Patrick says:


      The other Burke!

      Give me a call. Been yackin' with Jamie. I let him know. Also spoke with Mark Grimm. I also see that Gregg Ferreira left a post.

      There was some great music in the day. Rick Gazlay and the Super Barracudas. I might leave a few photos on the Slam Buckra Facebook.

      Played with and still play with some great guitar players, but you can't get much better than Rick.

      The beauty of it was, is that he knew it and he liked to be pushed to the limit as much as he pushed.

      I've got some old tapes in the fridge. Lots. I'll thaw them out and put them on some CD's.

      Who knows how all this really works, but Rick, I hope you can hear all the love from your old pals and fellow musicians. I'll be thinking about you every JL telethon,

      My thoughts & prayers for JG.

      I guess I'm OG Stickman 2

      • Avatar Gregg Ferreira says:

        Mr. Burke,

        How are my friend. I remember you supplyin' me with some of that salve for my splitting fingers back at Blind Melon's. You still wearing that Alworth Jersey? I have been lookin' in my photo's for some old Gazlay photo's if you have some please share.. we had some fun times back then.

        • Avatar Patrick says:


          How are you?

          Still wearing Alworth when I can. Not much of any reason lately.

          My site with contact info.

          Maybe if Jamie comes down to SD this summer we can get together with all the Gazlay players and go hang out and tell some outrages stories.

          We would get together and play when he would come down. Maybe every couple years. But, it had been quite awhile since he had been this way.

          Always missed playing with him. But he had to fly the coop. I can honestly say, the music he played will never be duplicated.

          From listening to Art Bell's Dreamland with Richard Hoglan to watching Jerry Lewis movies, he was lots of fun to hang with.

          Then on top of that we played some amazing music.

          You guys were great with Tim and Eric.

          That's when I was out with Borracho Y Loco and the Bonedaddy's.

          Hope to hear from you, PJB

          • Avatar Tim Quinn says:


            Dude, I loved Rick like an older and wiser brother. He definitely pushed my buttons (intentionally), but in the 4 years I played in his band (1990-1994…that was at least 300-400 gigs, I think) I learned more about performing than any other time in my musical career. He was truly a unique and wonderful human being, and I loved him. He gave me the room to crank up my dual-amps and do anything I wanted to do…from honky-tonk twang, to traditional jazz, to full-on metal shred. He never restrained my musical explosions onstage…he would only ignite them, and then throw gas on the flames with his own tornado of guitaristry, which I felt I could never really match, even with all my own studied techniques. I always enjoyed your excellent musicianship on the gigs we played together in Rick's band. You were always such a cool dude…so subtle and aloof. You taught me a lot musically, as well. You always pushed my buttons as much as Rick did (you s.o.b. you) I love you both for that. I always felt you were one of the finest drummers I have played with. I hope you are doing well, bro.

            Rick and I opened (and I think you, too) for Albert King 2 weeks before Albert died. That was at the Bacchanal in San Diego. Albert played through Rick's rig (which was the same set up as Albert's regular set up). Of course, Albert was pissed and fighting the rig at first. But, after the first couple songs, Albert was roaring like a tsunami from hell. I think that was Albert's second to last gig, before he died two weeks later.

            Were you on that gig, too?


      • Avatar owen burke says:

        i thought it was the voodoo baracudas..i mean really…wouldnt that be more like it……..was i in that band?

  21. Avatar Matt Scallion says:

    I, too, feel very fortunate to have been a member of his band. Slam taught me a thing or two about artistic integrity, among other things, and offered some wonderful words of encouragement during our time together. I was lucky to be his friend.

  22. Avatar Dean Williams says:

    The Redding scene became a lot dimmer since this bright light left it when he could no longer perform. A terrible irony for a singer to be stricken with a cancer that took his voice from him and the rest of us. I saw him many times and in all his guises, but I'll never forget the first time I heard him – at the old Red, White and Brew Pub. An incredible, shockingly adept musician. I won a ten pound bag of ketchup that evening.

    Thanks Jim, for the memorable memorial.

  23. Avatar Kristy Coffee says:

    What a nice tribute to Slam. I worked at Billy Bombay's back in the day.(Todd, Leonard, Rodney, Cassleman, Jaurez, Bruce and Brandi) When Slam and his Groove Palooka's started playing at Bombay's, I remember three deep at the bar and we actually had to stop letting people in because we were at full capasity. His music was fun, funky and totally danceable! My favorite song was his version of "I Will Survive". The guys would put on their clown masks and it would bring the house down. I'm sad to lose such a great music connection.

    Rest in Peace, my friend.

    • Avatar John "Olivia Ne says:

      Kristy, good to see your still around the area.

      Yeah, the Bombay days where good ones. I remember a night when Leonard had said something to Slam about his stage rap, so Slam vowed not to say a word the whole night. After 5 or 6 songs with no banter at all, I just couldn't take it any more. I stepped to the mic and proceded to do my best Slam impersination. Don't know if it pissed Slam off, or made him proud, but it sure was fun walk in Masters shoes for a night.


      • Avatar Kristy Coffee says:

        I was glad when they finally got over themselves and you guys started playing there. Until that happened, Brandi and I would have to sneak across the street (during our shift, of course) to The Post Office or West Side Station. What a hoot! You guys were one of my favorite bands. Let me know if there's some sort of gathering that you guys get together, I would love to see everybody and pay my repects to Slammie. xo

  24. Avatar Jamie Gazlay says:

    I missed out on knowing Rick the way everyone else here did. I knew Rick, or Uncle Kee as a fun loving, silly uncle who played with us as kids. To this day, when i think of Rick, I see clowns,manikins, colourful visors and clothing, and can hear his deep booming laugh.

    Although i have heard stories I never knew the tortured artist…..

    There was a time when he was easy to get along with, where he didn't live in seclusion, and when he was inseparable from his brothers. Everyone in the Gazlay family has a great respect and admiration for Rick's music……. That last comment is a huge understatement.

    Rick lost his oldest brother to a stroke only a few months ago but still leaves behind two sisters, two older brothers, his father, my sister Jodi and I, and our Cousin Lance. It is so unfortunate that he never met my daughter.

    I feel saddened that I never really knew him in my adulthood but feel grateful that I can remember him through the rose coloured glasses of my childhood.

    I love you Uncle Kee.

  25. Avatar david turner says:

    hi all,

    late to the party. i've known rick/slam since we were in 7th grade; 1969. i knew the man/boy that became slam. we grew apart in recent years. yes, he could

    be difficult…

    hi owen!

    clear spot, the barracudas, the group, the palookas. all great bands. it was fun

    to watch the changing lineups. the power trio, the great dueling guitar lineups.

    i remember his awe when he opened for alvin lee in san diego. the red guitar

    witth the peace sign, the very same that played "going home" at woodstock,

    was set on the stage. rick bowed to the floor in front of it.

    so many memories…

    all of us who shared his experiences are richer for it.


  26. Avatar Jamie Mehan says:

    Damn, Rick…

    It wuz like I said, you n I on the stage, not 6 months ago, yowlin' and scowlin' like it wuz Patricks II, or the Fox..but up here in the Great Northwest-everybody watching, wanting to get the inside jokes, wonderin why the hell I never treated them to such a furious psychotic fusillade of phlyin phalanges. I played and sang some songs he didn't remember playing, and he and I did our dueling deedleeedeedleelittleitaly solos around each other and made big plans to be in touch and record and sit in and wrap the magic around us for a little bit longer before you had to leave, a few shots, alot of laffs, alot of love, and dammit I can't see through the rain right now-all the old gang-keep him in yer brain and let him out on stage..tree of life lost a leaf of soul -Jamie

  27. Avatar Chet Cannon says:

    We knew Rick here in San Diegoville in the 80's and he was whooping half the town into a Rock 'n Rollin Blues laced submission hold night after night. . . . Saddened by this news. Thanks for the good times Rest well Mr. Rick Gazlay! All Aboard. . .

  28. Avatar John Gazlay says:

    My youngest brother…Slam Buckra…Rick

    He first appeared on stage at the age of 12, backing me up on a classical

    acoustic guitar. I was a folk singer. It was in 1970 in Tacoma, WA, at the Court "C" coffeehouse. He and brother Dave and I all learned guitar at the same time period. We all began writing songs as we learned to play.

    In southern California, San Diego, in 1974 we 3 brothers started a musical group known as, "Parts" Rick was 17.. We started out as an acoustic trio, all 3 of us playing acoustic guitars. Our songs and stage demeanor was known for being off the wall. We played The Troubador in L.A. a number of times in 75

    and 76, also The Ice House, McCabes, The Bla Bla Cafe and others. We were on French tv during that period after we had turned electric. Owen Burke was our drummer, our cousin Patrick Horner was our bassist, later Al Smith was our bassist, and Jim Papageorge and John Collins of Soundtrax Recording Studio

    in San Diego were our managers, among others. These were great and colorful days for us, days that could never be replaced.

    Rick, Dave and myself along with oldest brother Gerry formed a concert promotion company in 1981. We promoted Mose Allison, Albert Collins, Albert King, John Hammond Jr, Dizzy Gillispie, and Kris Kristofferson, all in San Diego venues. The company was called American Pacific Productions. At this point brother Rick had formed his band Clear Spot, later becoming Slam Buckra.

    Of course brother Dave and I have many, many memories. The loss of my brother is huge and all consuming. Albert King thought he was a truly great

    blues guitarist, but he was so much more than that artistically, and of course

    much more than just an artist.

    Things will never be the same without him…

    John Gazlay

  29. Avatar david turner says:

    John, thanks for writing that. Court C, 1970. Man-o-man, it was a different world then. The following year, my mom hired Rick and Dave Duffield to play at her office party. That was a strange gig…

    I don't know where this all will end up, but please extend my condolences and warmest thoughts to your entire family.


    David Turner

  30. Avatar Rick Wilkins says:

    Wow, this news hits hard. I played in Rick Galzay's band for a while back in the late 80s. I learned a lot about the biz and great music from him. It was great fun and a challenge to play to the level he needed for support. The matching jacket and visor combos, the Lee Press-on nails, the awesome sounds, the 1099.

  31. Avatar owen burke says:

    john ,how couldyou not mention skippy lows legendary showcase at the roosevelt hotel in la . .here goes….so anyway we hang around all night ..,we were the last ones to figure out we were going on last..and during the last bad comic (his big finish was an impression of boz skaggs).. the boredom and the booze set in i recall rick prodding him a bit to move it along,and i beleive i made a contribution or two,..well,..this guy could see which way the wind was blowing and wrapped it up and grumbled his way out ..we scrambled up there and were ready to play,and rick said something im sure we thought was funny ,but it was too late, the audience had already been beaten to death ,and there was a mild reaction.well,i noticed that boz had been pacing around and he stepped up to the stage and said".. its not so easy ,is it?"…bad idea …rick gazlay+microphone =trouble,. ..rick looks down at him "hey ,i remember your act, was very.. special" ……and for the next couple of minutes his critique of this poor guys act was one of the funniest things i ever heard in my life,i remember having to stand up because my side was cramping from laughing so hard,and i remember boz threatening to kill him,so i guess we were lucky to have had him as long as we did…conversations with him and his brothers together were sometimes so funny i can actually still recall some of them ……………

  32. Avatar owen burke says:

    and i remember him holding little jamie ,looking down delivering a soft jerry lewis type "small human?,..small huuuumaaaaaan….."

  33. Avatar Gary Schneider says:

    I remember many night hanging with Rick, I knew him as Rick. We use to go to Karaoke bars just to have a few drinks and laugh our asses off. Later he would host his own show to which he would actually think up new songs by performing them during karaoke. If you have ever heard his version of "Kiss" origonally by Prince you would know this is where this came from. So many memories and to this day I have no idea why he left San Diego. I use to think of him as a walking secret cause you werent getting in unless he wanted you too. Thanks for the times Rick, Rest in peace my friend!

  34. I am Rick's first cousin Patrick Horner. I go by the stage name of Dr. Vivard. I was Rick's first bassist, and taught him beginning guitar. Although he would credit me with this, of course he is the one that turned the rudiments that I taught him into the master player that he became. Owen, how are you? So many memories, so much fun, what a crazy bunch we were. We all need to get together, by some means, and share these memories. We played some good stuff too. I ended up losing touch with San Diego and missed out on way too much. I remember Rick and I would run around LaJolla reciting Frank Zappa lyrics to the old folks which were in abundance. Brown Shoes Don't Make It, Who are the Brain Police – I think he was in the seventh grade and I was a few years older. We were Cream fanatics, and when Led Zeppelin came out with their first record I remember the record store owner telling us they were the new Cream, and we listened on headphones in amazement. A few years later, when I played Ornette Coleman and Mingus, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk for him – his imagination was captured. In our later days together I put Rick and the rest of the band through some trials and tribulations of my own doing. He was always supportive of me. Even A few years ago he would remember some of

    his favorite bass lines that I played and which he always gave me complete

    (within reason) freedom to play as I sought fit. RIck evolved into a musician who was a master of the fingerboard able to execute anything at anytime. His playing is beyond categorization. He doesn't neatly fit into any genre. Fortunately for us. Both the depth and variety of his music is astonishing. He along with his brothers were very close to my Mom which meant a lot to me. He told me when he was feeling sick he would gain strength from some momentos she had given him. Even toward the end, with so much time having elapsed without communication (my fault) he would give me so much encouragement about my poetry, it was overwhelming. As I have read others say, he was so encouraging of other artists, that is if he liked you. Heaven help Mose Allison, he never liked him. I read that he went after Mose on stage over something. Anyway, I am so devastated by this, as well as his oldest brothers recent death, I need to go. To all my cousins, please get in touch with me. John knows how. You too Owen, and how is your brother Hollis – say hello for me.

    • Avatar Alan Ernesto Phillip says:

      Dr. Vivard, Gregg, Owen, Chet, Patrick, Jamie, David, John, Rick W., and Gary (et al),

      Thank you SO much for sharing the the early history of the man "who fell to earth" for us northstaters in 1996.

      He was Slam for us from 1997 (he seemed to just HATE it when I called him "Rick" after habitually calling him Rick before he indelibly adopted "Slam"). We all came to know, love, respect – and situationally-recoil (+/-) from his antics now and then. He let me see the "inside of his face" before we parted ways for a couple of years.

      He told me why he left San-D… just after Rick and I collided with Mojo Nixon on stage one wacky-fracas in Chico, he felt I was a real pal for streetly backing his play and he shared a lot of stories with me that included many of your (now familiar) names.

      We all knew he was quite different, encouraging, seasoned, unique, shocking and inspiring. Yet many of us Nor-Cal'rs didn't know from whence he came… I have to humbly and sincerely thank you gentlemen for adding more illuminating tiles to the brilliant mosaic… of Rick "Slam Buckra" Gazlay:

      I used to love hearing him redirect or disarm any kind of confrontation with his gravely signature and characteristic baritone,

      " Do you know who I am?!"


    • Avatar john gazlay says:

      Well, I just wanted to say Rick was very respectful of Mose Allison. And Mose Allison did a masterful show. There was no incident as cousin Patrick has mentioned. Rick was respectful of people of Mose Allison’s stature and he has always been a favorite of mine.

  35. Avatar Alan Ernesto Phillip says:

    Calling all Buckra-teers & Palooka-nauts!

    Date Sunday, February 13 · 4:11pm – 7:53pm

    Location Vintage Wine Bar and Restaurant

    This just in from Kenzio Snatchmo Mackelhoy, who sez:

    "Friends, Fans, and Fins of Slam Buckra and the Groove Palookas will be celebrating the life, music and creativity of our good friend Slam, this Sunday the 13th at Vintage Wine Bar in Downtown Redding…starting at 4:11 to 7:53pm. "

    We'll be playing Slam's favorite tunes, drinking beer, showcasing/playing some of Slam's compositions….(and drinking beer) Come on by!

    We're sure Slam would like for you to dress your "Stage Best"…

    "Peas, Loaf, and Hominy"….

    The Palookas

  36. Avatar Alice Stuart says:

    I was getting ready to touch bases with Slam again and figure out how to do another show together in the fall. Then I received an email giving me the sad news. I'm very sad and wish I could be there on February 13th to celebrate his life, but it's a long drive from Olympia, WA. Not that he wasn't worth it.

    What an incredibly wacky person he was with personality miles long. He and his band backed me up at Biscuits and Blues in S.F. once and he was always able to scare up a gig for us when I came thru Redding. I, too, remember drinking a lot of Black Russians (and having to be escorted back to where I was staying) because as Slam would tell you, I did'nt measure up to him in the drinking department.

    I was glad to read about some of his history in the comments here. I never knew his real name and I doubt that many people did. All I knew was that his intellect and creativity was off the scale. I'm honored that he called me friend. RIP, Slam. I love you.

    • Avatar Syd Peritz says:

      OMG! Is this Alice Stuart, the guitarist?

      You had a fro in the 70s and ran through a Leslie speaker sometimes?

      If it is..I saw you in concert in Sparks, Nev. at a funky little club outside of town. I was 21 or 22 at the time and on the road. Great show…You rocked!

  37. Avatar Kristi Cobbler Masse says:

    Oh Slammie~ Today you are being remember and I am just now finding out. You were loved by many and will missed. By random chance again you and I cross paths only to see you have left us. Cheers, salute and rest easy my friend. Now you are playing with some of the greats. Peace Kristi

  38. Avatar Larry Czoka says:







    Super Barracudas

    Patricks II

    Silver Fox



    The Bacchanal (Alvin Lee, Edgar Winter, Leon Russell, Stray Cats)

    Willie Nelson – Wrangler Jeans Battle of the Bands, Austin TX

    Mary's by the Pier (Blind Melons)


    Mandolin Wind

    These are all a part of the fond memories of playing bass with Rick's bands in San Diego – some of the best times of my life.

    Thanks Rick


  39. Avatar BooGee says:

    This isn't my real name. This is the name that Rick gave me.

    I have had an itching feeling for a couple of days now to get back in touch with Rick after a long time apart, and then I find this news and it breaks my heart. He's someone you never quite get out of your system.

    It was the early 90's in San Diego when he was doubling as a Karaoke host that I came to know him. We became good friends for a while, but it's difficult to maintain a friendship when he led such a private life. He spoke to me of his brother who he helped when he was way down on his luck, just needing a shower and a meal. Rick introduced me to some pagan practices, for lack of a better term to use here. And, he even invited me up on stage to sing with his band, though Tim told me that he had to compensate since I was singing his harmony.

    Anyway, it is a shock to hear that it was a cancer related to his tongue and therefore his voice that surfaced, and quite unbelievable that he didn't beat it as he was a formidable spirit. It's most grievous that I wasn't prompted sooner to find him to connect with him. I regret this and I grieve. I also wish I still had a copy of his Moontwang Menagerie cassette tape he gave me. I lost it sometime ago.

    I suppose he is being remembered just the way he would want to be, especially being so young.

    I will light a candle for him and hope he hears a message of love and peace.

  40. Avatar Ric Lee says:

    I played drums for Rick many times at Patricks II and Blind Melons in San Diego. My favorite memory was one night at Patricks II Rick introduced me on drums 17 times in a row as was his brilliant humor.. I got the joke but the club management didn't. They tried to censor him. it didn't work of course.

    Travel the cosmos well my friend……

    Ric Lee

  41. Avatar Julie Brown-Lucas says:

    Wow, I'm shocked and saddened. I'm also very bummed that I've just found out. 🙁 I met Rick when we both worked at Sharp Memorial Hospital in 1984. Come to find out he had a band. I was a teenager, so I had to wait until I turned 21 to see him play. So I checked it out and was floored. His talent and humor cannot be compared to anyone I have, or will ever meet. I still have odds and ends given to me by him at various shows. A can of clam juice, a childrens squeaky mallet, and a back scratcher. To me he will always be Rick Gazlay and the Voodoo Barracudas….playing at Tubamans, Blind Melons, Patricks II, KGB Battle of the Bands, Winston's, etc. Of the dozens of shows I attended I was truly entertained 100% of the time. Rick had the ability to bring out the fun and quirky sides of all the people he encountered. He is with his beloved Freckles now… Rick.

  42. Avatar BooGee says:

    I can't believe I'm posting a comment on Rick at 3:33 AM on 1/30/12. It is Rick prompting me to do so, you know. His spirit is formidable and still with us if you just pause to feel it. Point in fact, I got that itching feeling again which started a few days ago to remember Rick. It began with just thoughts and memories, culminating with an eagerness to connect with him just hours ago, that being 1/29/12, exactly one year after this tribute was written for him.

    It's not real surprising because if you knew the spiritual side of Rick, you could fairly anticipate that he wouldn't leave this world so easily, at least not in spirit. No, I think he rather enjoys being remembered as much as we enjoy remembering him.

    So, if you're there Rick listening to our thoughts and reading our posts, we still love you. I still love you.

  43. Avatar BooGee says:

    Rick, where are you now? I know you can't be completely gone, because you're still in our memories. I'm thinking of you and wishing you were here, and near.

  44. Avatar Syd Peritz says:

    I played keyboards with him right before he took off for Redding. It was myself, Pat Burke on Drums, Cliff Morse on Bass, and sometimes another guitarist/singer Jamie Mehan. Rick's guitar work was stunning at times. Inbetween all the zaniness and retro stage props once in awhile he would drop-kick a riff into the kick-ass zone, not for lack of talent, just only when he chose to. He employed extreme dynamics in a way that created the perfect backdrop for embellishing what was already awesome on it's own.

    We warmed up Leon Russell and still got a standing ovation and encore. We were tight as a band at this point but Rick's over-the-top solos, when he was on, just sealed the deal. At times I swear he was host to Hendricks, Albert Collins and Freddy King all at the same time.

    I kind of felt for Rick…I mean, in a disturbed sense, I know he really didn't fit into this world comfortably. He identified a lot with Brando and reasonably so. I found an old LIFE Mag at an antique store with Brando on the cover and made sure to send it to him.

    The last time I saw him he was dancing and singing his way up Garnet Ave. by himself at 3 in the morning after all the clubs and bars were closed. Something about keeping an eye out for somebody named Slam Buckra…

    RIP Brother Rick

    Luv and Miss U


  45. Avatar Dennis Raney says:

    I first met Slam at Las Bebidas where I was the Bar Tender/Manager. He became an instant favorite. His knowledge of music history far surpassed mine. Slam was a 'Great' one. Thom Berry and the rest who jammed and played with him, Patrick 'The Shirtless Stud' Cuco on the conga's .It sucks to just find out now he has passed.

    Love you man.


  46. Avatar John Gazlay says:

    Thank you all for your memories of my brother Rick. I think of him every day but not for too long, got to still get thru the day. I really appreciate all your comments.

  47. Avatar BooGee says:

    Thinking of Rick. Missing him so much. I always thought there would be time. I was wrong. Love him.