BMHOF Class of 1997
Working as both a highly sought-after session artist and producer, Gary Mallaber is perhaps one of the most prolific musicians to come out of Buffalo. Inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame in 1997, Mallaber has over 80 gold and platinum records to his name.
Born in Buffalo in 1946, Mallaber began playing music at the age of 6, graduated from Lafayette High School with a music diploma and attended the University of Buffalo for two years. In 1967 Gary was playing with Stan Szalest’s band Stan and the Ravens. When that band broke up, he joined with members of Tony Galla& the Rising Sons to form the group Raven. Raven become the house band at Harry Altman’s club the Inferno in the Glen Park Casino, and they were regulars at many Western New York clubs like Aliota’s on Hertel.
In 1968 Raven moved to New York City, where the band appeared at clubs including weekly engagements at Steve Paul’s The Scene. Jimi Hendrix heralded them as “one of the best blues/jazz bands ever” and George Harrison offered to produce Raven on the Beatles record label – Apple Records. They recorded what is now recognized as a classic Buffalo album for Columbia Records and opened for such groups as the Young Rascals, ProcolHarum, the Byrds, Grand Funk Railroad and Led Zeppelin. They also toured England and turned down an offer to perform at Woodstock.
When Raven broke up in 1969, Mallaber met Van Morrison in an East Village nightclub. They immediately started collaborating together, composing a body of work that eventually became Morrison’s seminal hit record “Moondance.”Mallaber would go on to play drums on two more Morrison records, “Tupelo Honey” and “St. Dominic’s Preview.”
After working with Morrison,Mallaber decided to permanently relocate to Los Angeles to work as a session musician. Upon arrival, he would meet and later collaborated with the famed SoCal writing circle consisting of Paul Williams, Ned Doheny, Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon and Bonnie Raitt.
Mallaber is best known for his collaboration with the Steve Miller Band. He recorded on most of the band’s classic records, including 11 albums and seven hit singles. Gary wrote eight songs and was the producer of the album “Abacadabra.” In addition to touring with the Steve Miller Band, he toured with Taj Mahal, Dave Mason, Greg Kihn and many others.
His work with Morrison and Miller is only the surface as he also recorded hit singles with Eddie Money, Bruce Springsteen, Peter Frampton, Poco and Paul Williams. Other groups/artists that he recorded with include: Joan Armatrading, The Beach Boys, David Cassidy, Tom Rush, Bob Seger, Barbara Streisand, Cher, America, Los Lobos, Poco and many more.
In addition to recording and touring, Mallaber has an extensive background in movie soundtracks and television shows. He recorded the music for the cult classic, Brian DePalma’s“Phantom of the Paradise” and can be seen as the drummer of the bands in the movie. Most recently he worked on the music for the Showtime Series “Californication.” For a complete listing of Gary’s recordings, movie and television work check his webpage, garymallaber.com.
Mallaber never forgets his roots and he retains his connections to Western New York. On Oct. 2 and 3, 2015, he and the surviving members of Raven (Jim Calire and Tony Galla) performed “Comin’Home” concerts at the Sportsmans Tavern. These were historic, sold out shows. Mallaber continues to live in LA, where he is one of the pioneers of rock drumming and an influence on future session drummers, especially those from Western New York trying to get established in LA.
(Updated by Rick Falkowski, November 2015)
Videos (click on the link):
In the studio with Gary Mallaber from Scream Factory's Blu-ray Collectors Edition of Phantom of the Paradise.
Gary Mallaber on working with Bruce Springsteen
The Steve Miller Band – “Keep On Rock’n Me”
Gary Mallaber sitting in on “Fly Like an Eagle” at Root Five in Hamburg
Back - 1997