Paul Buckmaster

Tributes to Gus from friends and colleagues

Paul Buckmaster

Arranger

In my capacity as arranger, Gus was the first producer with whom I worked. First met him, on being invited by a musician friend to a session Gus was producing, in the spring of 1968. The artist was Marsha Hunt, arranger, Tony Visconti; my friend was playing trombone on the date.

I had been invited to sit in the control room to observe, and during a session break, Gus and I chatted. He expressed a lively interest in and curiosity toward some of the ideas I had about arranging. (At this time, I had not yet written my first arrangement.)

That lively interest and curiosity was one of the most likable attributes of his character, and soon, we were in an animated discussion about recording techniques, and music in general.

During this early period, I worked with several different producers, including Gus; they were all good, and enjoyable to work with, but, for me, Gus stood head and shoulders above them all. Working with him was always fun — big fun — and out of the studio/work environment too. At meals, as a guest of his and Sheila’s at their home, it was always lively and incredibly enjoyable.

One evening, November 1969, at Ronnie Scott’s club, as a guest of Miles Davis and Tony Hall (who was the only person with whom Miles socialized during his visits to London), I was introduced to Steve Brown, who in turn introduced the young man he was representing, Elton John. Steve asked if he could send me some of Elton’s demos, which indeed I received the following day via messenger. He also asked me to recommend a producer. They had approached George Martin, to produce Elton’s next LP, but he insisted on doing all the arranging. Both Steve and Elton were firmly set on having a separate arranger, hence their approaching me.

Heard about five or six songs, most of which were just piano and vocal, and one or two with a basic rhythm section — guitar, bass guitar, drums. The songs were, Your Song, The King Must Die, The Cage, Take Me To The Pilot, and 60 Years On.

It only took the first hearing for me to call Steve and express my enthusiasm.

I then called Gus, took the tube to his office and played him the demos; it took about a minute of cajoling to persuade him that were we to work together on an Elton John album, it would be sure to be a big success — that’s how sure I was of how great it was going to sound.

I was deeply shocked and saddened at the news that Gus and Sheila were taken from us; Gus and I had been discussing getting together at Austin, Texas, and co-producing/arranging some of the great artists to which that city was home.

Still miss him, and miss the potential of any collaborations we might have made.

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