In 1979, Jeffrey Lee Pierce, the former head of the Blondie fan club in Los Angeles, formed a rockabilly band called The Cyclones with Brian Tristan (who later became known as Kid Congo Powers during his time in The Cramps), Don Snowdon, who at the time was a music critic for the L.A. Times, and Brad Dunning.
Pierce played guitar, Tristan on lead guitar, Snowdon on bass and Dunning played drums and Pleasant Gehman sang. Gehman played one show with the band, at Gazzari’s, a club on Sunset Strip. The Go-Go’s were the opening act. After adopting the name The Creeping Ritual, Pierce moved to lead vocals and the band spent time playing shows at local venues.
They soon changed their name to The Gun Club, a name suggested by Pierce’s roommate Keith Morris (Black Flag, Circle Jerks, OFF!). They opened for the bands X and The Blasters, among others. The band merged the genres of punk rock, blues and country, creating a sound all their own.
Snowdon and Dunning left in early 1980, being replaced by 2 ex-members of The Bags (aka Alice Bag Band), Rob Ritter and Terry Graham. Kid Congo left before recording the first album to join The Cramps. He was replaced by Ward Dotson, who played lead and slide guitar on the band’s first album, Fire Of Love, recorded for Ruby Records, a division of Slash Records, in 1981.
The album was produced by Titto Lariva of The Plugz and Flesheaters frontman Chris D, and contained songs like Sex Beat, She’s Like Heroin To Me, Black Train and Preachin’ The Blues, a Robert Johnson cover. The album sold well and received good reviews.
By 1982, the band had signed to Blondie guitarist Chris Stein’s Animal Records and temporarily relocated to New York City to record their 2nd album, Miami. Stein produced the album and also featured Debbie Harry on backup vocals on some tracks. Rob Ritter left shortly after recording the album, teaching his bass parts to his former Bags bandmate Patricia Morrison. Due to increasing tension, Pierce dismissed Graham and Dotson around this time.
They were replaced by Jim Duckworth and Dee Pop (formerly of NYC band Bush Tetras). During this time, Pierce concentrated only on singing. Pop only lasted 8 months before leaving and Graham came back to resume his place on drums. Duckworth left and Kid Congo resumed his place on guitar. As Pierce returned to guitar playing, this line up recorded the band’s 3rd album, The Las Vegas Story. They toured the album, and then broke up. They played their farewell shows in the winter of 1984.
Pierce recorded a solo album, Wildweed, in 1985. After a short stint of spoken word performances, Pierce decided to form a new version of the band in 1986, with Kid Congo (who was also playing for Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds), Pierce’s girlfriend Romi Mori on bass and Nick Sanderson, formerly of Clock DVA on drums. They recorded the album Mother Juno in 1987, which received good reviews and was a successful comeback for the band. Kid Congo returned full time in 1990 and the band released their 5th album, Pastoral Hide And Seek. Sanderson left after the 1991 mini album Divinity, and was replaced by Simon Fish. Kid Congo left in 1992 to focus on other projects.
Without their lead guitarist, Pierce took over both lead and rhythm guitar and the band recorded their final album, 1993’s Lucky Jim.
Pierce and Mori had been dating since the late 1980’s, but Sanderson and Mori had been getting increasingly close, and eloped in 1994, leaving band with no rhythm section.
Pierce, who had been off of drugs and alcohol, soon began to start using again.
He made a few live appearances in 1994 but remained reclusive, writing his autobiography. He returned to Los Angeles, after 10 years in London.
In 1995, with his health failing, he was only able to play a few shows with the band, which included Mike Martt and Kid Congo on guitar, bassist Randy Bradbury (later replaced by Elizabeth Montague) and drummer Brock Avery.
Pierce decided to visit his father in Utah where he suffered a stroke and was taken to hospital. He was to undergo surgery to remove a blood clot in his brain but died on March 31st, 1996.
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