Gary Smith, Drummer for Chase, Original Drummer for Survivor, Studio Drummer
Bill Chase and the Ennea Band, L to R:  Jerry Van Blair, Alan Ware, Phil Porter, Angel South, Gary Smith, Dennis Johnson, G.G. Shinn, Ted Piercefield, and Bill Chase
Grandson of a Boston Conservatory schooled violinist, music was genetic for Gary. A Phoenix, Arizona native, he became fascinated with the drums as a young boy. Gary pieced his first drum set together at age 12, and 3 years later his band played opposite Vince (Alice Cooper) Furnier’s group at the VIP teen club in Phoenix. The following year, Gary began playing club dates, shows and house band gigs, backing local and touring jazz, rock, and R&B singers and musicians. At 17, Gary opened for Blues Image and The Rascals with singer "Small Paul" Hamilton at the Phoenix Coliseum. In 1968, as a member of the Charles Lewis Quintet, Gary played a stint with the late jazz great, Joe Williams. Every night Mr. Williams sang the song "Young Man On the Way Up." The lyrics were not lost on Gary: "May the birth of your goal be the death of your soul, I hope not, young man on the way up."

At 19, Gary became the drummer for Capitol recording artist Steve Forman’s Eclectic Mouse and Smith performed in conjunction with "The Mouse" and the ASU Symphony at a standing room only concert in ASU’s Grady Gammage Auditorium. Following the show, guitarist Bill Spooner asked Gary if he would be interested in joining his new band. Gary admired Bill's guitar work but had committed to Forman’s group and had to pass. Bill's band would become The Tubes. Spooner chose another drummer that Gary had close ties with, Prairie Prince. Gary and Prairie were high school classmates, and Smith started Prince out on the drum set. Steve Forman went on to become one of L.A.’s premiere percussionists, with prodigious record and movie track credits. Forman now teaches "Rhythm Theory (and Practice!)" while completing his doctorate at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, in Glasgow. 

After the Eclectic Mouse, Gary joined Philly sax man John Renner’s Six Pound Smile. Although not yet 21, he worked at the Las Vegas International Hotel (now the Las Vegas Hilton) playing in the Crown Room, which shared the 30th floor with Elvis Presley’s penthouse. While there Gary met the "King," who was headlining in the Main Showroom, as well as Gladys Knight, starring in the Show Lounge with the Pips. Elvis would come through the kitchen to listen to the band from inside the black curtained bussing station of the Crown Room. Several years later, Gary appeared in two Ludwig drum ads with Elvis’ drummer Ron Tutt, as well as two other ads including the Ludwig 75th Anniversary Poster
Chase - Backstage After a Concert in Johannesburg, S.A.
In the fall of 1971 both Capitol's Goose Creek Symphony and Epic’s Chase came calling. Gary accepted an invitation from innovative bass player Dennis Johnson to audition for phenominal trumpet player Bill Chase's jazz/rock group. Johnson today leads several live bands in Chicago, and has long been an in demand studio musician, having recorded with Dennis De Young (Styx), Rick Danko (The Band) and Jerry Butler. The talented original Chase drummer Jay Burrid left the band during the second album's production after tiring from the band's grueling touring schedule. At this time the first album lead singer Terry Richards also moved on. Picked from several candidates including Wille Ornelas, who subsequently landed on the Sonny and Cher Show, Gary was asked to be the new Chase drummer and finished recording the Ennea album with Bill Chase and company, joining the band at CBS Studios, San Francisco, along with new singer, Louisiana legend G.G. Shinn. Chase received a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist that year in company with Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Joe Frank and Reynolds, Carly Simon, and Bill Withers (Carly Simon won), and attended the 14th Annual Grammy Awards. Chase toured the U.S. and world twice, and while in Johannesburg, South Africa, Gary played with Robert "Mutt" Lange and his band Hocus with his then wife, singer Stevie Vann. Chase was #1 on Downbeat Magazine’s pop list and #2 to Blood Sweat and Tears in the jazz/rock category at the time.

After problems arose with a new booking agency and the band experienced several near catastrophes in small planes, Gary, along with Dennis Johnson and trumpeter/vocalist Ted Piercefield left the band in late 1972 for South Florida. Asked to return a few months later for another album and tour, they rehearsed with Chase, but decided against staying. Bill Chase had recruited Gary's hand picked rhythm section with Wally Yohn (keys) and Jerry Manfredi (bass) and asked Gary to stay on. After another week's rehearsal, and although Universal Studios owner Murray Allen offered Gary the house studio drummer position should he stay in Chicago, Smith returned to Florida to play in the band that he, Johnson and Piercefield had formed, fittingly called "X." For several months, they, along with guitarist/vocalist Clay Cropper and organist Auggie Bucci appeared throughout South Florida. Many musicians including Jaco Pastorious came to sit-in with "X" on numerous occasions. Gary and Dennis also "moonlighted" with guitarist Mike Pinera (Iron Butterfly, Blues Image) at The Flying Machine in Ft. Lauderdale. Although the band broke attendance records in the clubs, "X" disbanded prior to signing an offered record deal with Bell/Atlantic Records. Following their stint in "X," Gary and bassist Johnson played in Louisiana with Chase singer G.G. Shinn along with future Toto lead singer Bobby Kimball and White Trash sax man John Smith. Unfortunately, that band never made it into the studio.

Gary returned to Phoenix in 1973, playing with Epic recording artists Cottonwood South, and Arizona star, singer Alice Tatum. Gary met Greg Rolie there, keyboardist/songwriter/vocalist for Santana, who had recently left that band. Greg asked Gary if he’d like to play in the new group he was forming. Home after nearly 3 years on the road and about to be married, Gary declined. That band was Journey. Rolie hired Prairie Prince for the record demo, although Prince decided not to stay with the group due to his commitment with The Tubes.

In 1974, Gary moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he played in Clay Cropper's group Maxima with Dennis Johnson on bass, Georgia guitar and pedal steel great Marvin Taylor and keyboardist Greg Guiffria, who later became leader of the rock group Angel and then of his namesake group, Guiffria. Maxima came together to back A & M recording artists Dino and Sembello, playing tour dates with Ike and Tina Turner and Spirit. It was that year when four members of the reformed Chase band died; leader Bill Chase, Wally Yohn, keyboards, Walter Clark, drums, and John Emma, guitar, as well as the pilot Dan Ludwig and his co-pilot, in a tragic airplane crash. 
Click to Enlarge Image of Chase with Gary Smith on the Ennea Album Cover
Watch Closely Now AlbumChase Live Concert Series Volume 3

Gary and the remaining members of Chase from the first two albums, along with Walter Johnson on lead trumpet, recorded a 4th Chase album in honor of Bill Chase in 1976. Jim Peterik represented the Chase "Pure Music" alumni, singing Pete Townsend’s "The Song Is Over." Gary co-wrote one of the album’s songs, "Writing on the Wall." The "Watch Closely Now" CD can be found at Tommy Martin’s, along with a collection of live Chase concerts. Gary played on "The Concert Series Volume 3."


A double CD of the Chase albums "Ennea" and "Pure Music" is available at:
The CHASE albums are also now available on iTunes.

Click For Information About The Chase Book

Click: Portrait of Bill Chase to read Gary’s article about Bill Chase and the band.

Chase Revisited Poster

Check out for information regarding the 2007 St. Paul CHASE REVISITED CONCERT, as well as the October 14, 2010 Boston and May 26, 2011 Minneapolis events. You'll find CD's, pictures, music samples and more from CHASE and CHASE REVISITED here. Special thanks to Joe Morrissey. Visit for information regarding the Chicago Chase concert on October 24th, 2011. Chase Revisited also performed at The L.A. Jazz Institute's "Groovin' On" big band festival on October 14th, 2012.

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