Garric’s journey from Tahoe to rock stardom: Alice Cooper’s bass player kept up the fight until he made big time
Three snapshots in the life of Chuck Garric reveal a metamorphosis from Tahoe kid to rock star.
— Just a toddler, Chuck is killing time at Tahoe Valley Elementary School where his parents are taking afternoon target practice. The family tours around the region for archery competitions, but while they practice in their hometown little Chucky gets bored. He sings his favorite song and spins around and around and around. He finally gets so dizzy he falls into a wall, smashes his face and chips a tooth. His folks must wonder which direction will this daydreaming, whirling dervish of energy take as he grows older.
— Teenage Chuck is in the Reno Convention Center watching is first concert. Ted Nugent flies across the stage wearing just a loincloth. Everything is intense. The music is so loud. The drums and the amps and the guitars look huge – so is the stage, and the crowd. Chuck is so excited he feels like he’s going to jump out of his skin. His life is changed.
— Although he had failed an audition, circumstances have changed and a 34-year-old Garric is for the first time meeting the band leader. “You must be my bass player,” the man in street clothes says. “Do you know the songs?” Garric nods yes. Waving his hand, the band leader responds, “OK, have a good gig.” A little while later Garric is on stage with his bass, a school bell rings, he jumps off a platform and is startled as a sword-wielding man in make-up and gothic attire walks past. “That’s the guy!” Garric says to himself. “That’s not the guy I met an hour ago. This is Alice Cooper!”
Those of course are just snapshots. The way Chuck Garric made it to the grandest of all rock ‘n’ roll stages was by hard work and perseverance.
Ink that bass player
A possessor of a muscular torso covered in tattoos, Garric certainly has the look of an Alice Cooper band member.
“When I first saw him I thought ‘wow, this guy looks like a boxer,’ ” Cooper said. “He looks like a real strong street character – that’s good. It’s not the pretty boy thing.”
Certainly, looks can be deceiving, if you consider that Garric, to many, might appear a little bit scary.
“My first impression was a typical one that most people probably have – wow, what a weirdo, must be a druggie,” South Shore CPA Bruce Cable said of Garric. “But I can honestly say Chuck is one of the nicest people I have ever met in my life. He’d probably do anything to help other people. I doubt if there is a mean bone in his body.”
A lot of the tattoos came after Garric joined Alice Cooper in 2002.
Longtime friend and Garric’s South Lake Tahoe band mate in Lochhaven, Robey O’Day, had recently had his arms “sleeved.” They shared a laugh when they saw each other at an Alice Cooper show several years ago – Garric had had his arms sleeved also.
“To me he looks the same because we grew up together,” said O’Day, who used to dress up as Alice Cooper on Halloween.
A Tahoe kid
Chuck Garric is one of five children of Marian “Red” Garric and the late Charles Garric, who was a fireman for the city of South Lake Tahoe.
The Garrics’ passion was archery. Musically, Red liked country and Charles enjoyed bluegrass and played banjo.
Garric’s first instrument was a trumpet, but his neighbors thought he could be more helpful playing something else.
“I talked Red into buying him a bass from Montgomery Wards,” said Mike Cocores, who played guitar.
His brother John Cocores played drums.
The left-handed Garric learned to play right-handed bass.
“He thanked me all the time for getting him a right-handed bass,” Red Garric said. “It made things a lot easier for him later on.”
When Garric was 14 he and the Cocores brothers, calling themselves A Touch of Class, won a talent show at the Sahara Tahoe, now called the Horizon Resort Casino. It was the same stage where Alice Cooper’s “Welcome to My Nightmare” tour had played in 1975.
The band’s winning song was George Benson’s “Give Me The Night,” with Garric playing the funky bass line.
“After we won the competition we did what any good rock band would do – we broke up,” Garric said.
Garric later attend the Nugent-Humble Pie concert in Reno.
“I really loved that Southern ’70s rock and he just blew my mind that night,” he said.
Kegger to remember
Garric also was blown away at a show in a much smaller venue at a backyard kegger. The band had guitarists O’Day, Mike Miller and drummer Joe Bonzo.
I remember them playing “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath and I thought I was at I rock concert,” Garric said. “I thought, ‘This is the best band I had ever heard in my life. These guys ripped. They had long hair and they died it black. This is unbelievable, I’d do anything to play with these guys.’ ”
After the bass player was killed in a traffic accident, Garric joined Lochhaven.
“We would open up with “The Hellion” by Judas Priest; it was a full-on rock metal band,” he said. “I thought I had made it. We had a riot. We could play anything. We’d played Judas Priest to Motley Crue, Queensryche, Rush, Van Halen, Dio, Alice Cooper. You name it we played it all. We were the Motley Crue, if you will, of Tahoe.”
“They also learned Iron Maiden and Garric wore black and white pants like its bassist Steve Harris,” O’Day recalled, laughing as he looked through a stack of old photographs.
Lochhaven decided it was time to make it big.
“We moved to L.A. and things got a little rough for everybody,” Garric said. “Little did we know there were a billion bands in Los Angeles. We lasted about a week.”
While the rest of Lochhaven left L.A., Garric remained. He attended the Dick Grove School of Music, where he learned to how to read music, how to play all types of different styles of music, what to listen for and be an overall, well-rounded bass player. But his passion was rock.
“It was more dangerous, more exciting,” he said. “It was less about school and being technically correct and more about self-expression and reckless. I like that a lot more than the other side of it. I liked the energy of playing live.”
Garric played in various bands in L.A., honing his craft and networking.
He had a daughter named Alicia and moved back to Tahoe in 1995. He was miffed at the Tahoe music scene.
“All there was was the hippie bands,” Garric said. “They were great bands but you’d go there and everybody was drinking water and dancing with no shoes on. I was going, “Where’s the rock?”
Ex-Lochhaven players Garric, Miller and Tom Hobbs formed a group called Diabolical.
“We do a set of half-originals, half-covers that would consist of White Zombie, Sonic Youth, Ministry, Janes Addiction, anything that was rockin’ and would get people going,” Garric said.
Record deal out of Rojos
In 1996 Garric joined Derek, Ian and Jon Morris and Blue to form a band named Turd, which was audacious as the name implies.
“Turd was by far one of the best bands I ever played in,” Garric said. “Ian with his vocal ability and just the writing alone was in a league by itself. That band had every potential to be there. Just as good as the Stooges or right there with Alice Cooper and the Stooges and MC 5. It was just a beer drinking, hell-raising band.”
“We got a record deal right out of Rojos,” said Derek Morris. The band went down to L.A. and recorded “Turdsville USA” then came back to Rojos for a CD release party.
“We were there about two weeks at the most,” Garric said. “We knocked out about 12 songs and when they got the bill for the studio time and the beer bill we’d actually spent more money on beer than recording. I went to the studio a month after that to say hi to the owner and he said he was still finding beer cans behind the couch or whatever.”
The name came from a reference the Morris brothers’ grandfather used for them: “A bunch of little turds.” The name was conducive to a lot of fun. Another album was called “Turd Up The Volume,” and a third album which never materialized was to be named “Turd World War.”
But folks in L.A. didn’t get it.
“In the ’90s, man, in L.A. it was not good,” Garric said. “It was making the transition from techno and dance and electronic music and the rock music that we were playing was kind of pushed over. Turd, they just couldn’t understand why a band would call themselves that. I don’t know why they were taking themselves so seriously.”
The hard-rocking band didn’t last long in L.A.
“It was hard to get through a couple of shows without someone being too impaired to play an entire set,” Garric said. “It was not the most glamorous of times. With the condition we were in and how we lived our lives at the time, it was destined for a huge success or just a crash. It was just something inevitable with the way we were going. You can only sleep on your buddy’s floor for so long or borrow beer money for so long. Everybody had families and careers we wanted to pursue.”
Garric decided to remain in L.A. and build a good life for his daughter.
“Alicia is a major reason for my success,” Garric said. “She was my inspiration. She kept me going and helped get my priorities in line which happens to anyone who becomes a parent.”
Garric’s schooling paid off. He was able to get work as a studio engineer while he raised Alicia as a single dad. Then he answered the call to return to the stage.
Help Wanted: Rock Star
“I was asked to audition with L.A. Guns and I got the gig,” Garric said. “In the summer of ’99 we went on a tour of the states opening up for Poison and Rat. That’s where it kind of began for me.”
Garric left the group when the original members of LA Guns reunited.
When Ronny James Dio’s bass player had a visa problem, Ozzy Ozbourne bassist Bob Daisley recommended he audition Garric, saying “He’s hungry. He’s fun. He gets it. It would be seamless.”
“At end of the audition Ronny asked me if I had a passport and I told him yeah. And he hands me a set list of about 20 songs and said, ‘Learn these and come and rehearse and we’ll see you in Russia.’ So before you know it I’m on a plane with Dio to co-headline a tour with Motorhead.”
But when Dio returned to the United States, Garric was out of the band again. Later, Dio traveled to Europe and Japan and Garric was hired once again.
When he wasn’t touring, Garric was able to get work engineering.
Garric and another bassist auditioned for Alice Cooper.
“I trust my band always and my guitar player who was Ryan Roxie at the time and Eric Dover,” Cooper said. “I said find me a bass player. I don’t want to go look for a bass player. You guys are playing with this guy. You guys know who the good bass players are. You’ve got to find me a guy who fits in with what we do and who understands it’s going to be a show and who you respect as a bass player.”
A second chance
Unfortunately, “they picked the other guy,” Garric said. “But that guy just did not work out. They called me and asked if I still wanted to be in the band — there would be no rehearsals, no more auditions. The said ‘O.K., we’ve got a gig in San Diego. It’s for Fox TV, two songs.’ That was the first time I met Alice Cooper.”
With no rehearsal and hardly a sound check, Garric played the songs to perfection.
To say Cooper was pleased Garric joined the band in 2002 would be an understatement.
“Chuck is one of those guys who every single night you never have to worry about,” Cooper said. “He’s a stone-cold professional. When you can depend upon the guys in your band every night to be as up and as on as you are then it’s going to make a great tour. And he’s really a very mediocre poker player, which is very important to me.”
Cooper said Garric’s appearance help him fit in.
“If you look at Chuck on stage, you immediately go, biker,” Cooper said. “This guy looks like he would rip you to pieces in a dark alley. But he’s one of the smartest guys I know. Totally intelligent, he totally gets it. A great sense of humor. A total surprise when you get to know him.”
Garric has been involved with the songwriting in the past two Alice Cooper albums and is working with another album tentatively set for summer 2008 and called “Along Came A Spider.”
When he is not working with Alice Cooper, Garric oversees his Studio City business Voice Trax West Recording Studio along with his partner Lindsay Bern, whom he met when she was a Lake Tahoe performer in “Grease” in the 1990s.
“This is not a typical story for a native of Lake Tahoe,” Garric said. “It’s not something that just happens every day. So I am just very, very blessed to have this opportunity to live my dream. So how does it feel? It feels (bleeping) great.”