Rocks Off readers of a certain age will fondly remember Jerry Gaskill as the drummer from pioneering proto-grunge/metal band King's X. Perhaps many of you, like us, even had tickets to trio's show earlier this year at Warehouse Live that was cancelled after Gaskill had a heart attack. More bad news came after Hurricane Sandy passed through the East Coast last week.
Gaskill's childhood friend, producer Ed Frost, lives 15 minutes away from Gaskill and the drummer's new wife, Julie, in Highlands, New Jersey. Frost's neighbors still don't have electricity, but many others no longer have homes. The newlyweds are staying with family for now.
"The takeaway is they're not Metallica," says Frost of King's X. "They're working musicians. They have to work or they don't eat."
Frost wanted to do something to help, so he did. He donated some money and started up a Web site, www.GiveForward.com/JerryGaskill. The goal is $25,000; by day four, the amount had reached 58 percent of that.
"I'm speechless," says Frost. "I'm trying to write thank-you notes as I go, but there's over 180 donors so far."
Frost worries that these giant hurricanes happen more often now, that the weather is different than it used to be. A ten-foot storm surge brought more than four feet of water into the Gaskills' house in nearby Seaside Heights. Their whole block is likely to be condemned -- in fact, the entire Seaside Heights music scene is washed away.
And now a nor'easter is on its way. The people there have no heaters and it is getting bitterly cold. Hurricane Gloria was the last major hurricane in 1988 but it was nothing like this. Many of us here in Houston have been through several hurricanes, and even more tropical storms, but only Ike really compares to what they're going through now, and they aren't as experienced as us.
Gaskill grew up with Frost's older brother. Frost is executive-producing Gaskill's second solo album at Dan Karkos' Underdog Studios in Nashville. They started work in January with Michael Wagener of Accept, who also mixed Metallica's Master of Puppets. But that was all before Gaskill's heart attack, his marriage and the hurricane.
Friends thought Gaskill was going to die in February. The drummer, 55 years old, had played music the night before in New York City and didn't feel well, but he just went home. Suddenly he had a heart attack that Frost - himself a health-care professional by trade - says was beyond serious, the most serious heart attack he's ever seen anybody recover from.
But Gaskill didn't just come back, he came back stronger than ever. He married Julie, took King's X out on a successful tour with Kansas, and had studio time and airplane tickets booked to finish up that album in Nashville next month.
That's when Hurricane Sandy took away his home. So the album Gaskill started in January seems set to change dramatically in tone, in structure and especially in content. They're writing lyrics for it now, lyrics by a man who weathered two unimaginable tragedies but gained a soul mate along the way.
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It could be the album of a lifetime.