Inductee Biography for GOOSE CREEK SYMPHONY
The legend of Goose Creek Symphony began with Charles Gearheart in the Hollers of Goose Creek, Kentucky. As a youth he loved listening to big band music and all the great country artists including Roy Acuff and Hank Williams. He began playing music when he was four years old. He came to Phoenix in the 1950s, finding his way to 2005 AMEHOF inductee Floyd Ramsey’s recording studio. For a short time he went by the name of Ritchie Hart and in 1960 recorded a hit a song called “The Great Duane” that got him a guest spot on Dick Clark’s TV show, “American Bandstand.” He quickly found the idea of pop stardom unappealing and decided he wanted to form a band instead.
After serving in the Army, Charlie returned to Phoenix and started jamming and began playing with local musicians. He also resumed recording at Ramsey’s. A unique sound began to emerge and the band took shape. When pressed to find a name for the band, he came up with the idea to name it after his hometown, Goose Creek. They added Symphony to the name and the band was born. They signed a record deal with Capitol Records, recording three albums. Their third release on Capitol contained a hit single of their version of Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz.”
Goose Creek Symphony became the backup band for Bobbie Gentry for a short time following their record deal. She had had a major hit with “Ode to Billie Joe” in 1967 and her Mississippi roots fit well with Goose Creek’s Southern sound. They toured and performed together, backing her on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” After that, they began their own long journey of tours.
Goose Creek later signed with Columbia Records, but that deal sort of soured their enthusiasm for the big time record business. Then there were periods of time where Charlie basically hung up the music and the band and just went fishing. Although they received some national airplay, commercial success never really came to Goose Creek Symphony, and he seems to be just fine with that.
Goose Creek Symphony is more of a family than a band. The late 1960s/early 1970s hippie movement strongly affected these musicians and they often toured with their entire families. Many musicians came and went over the years, numbering around 50 people. Their style of music was never something that could be easily defined. The main ingredient was Southern country music, but the rock and roll, jazz, big band and psychedelic music all melted together in a unique blend of jamming music that was later made popular by other “jam bands” such as the Grateful Dead. Goose Creek Symphony was one of first (if not the first) “country rock” bands that combined good old country music with the rock music of the 1960s. Their extended jams have influenced many bands that followed.
Goose Creek Symphony has been going pretty steady for many years now. The band still performs with some of the original members plus some younger players, and the legend of Goose Creek Symphony just keeps on growing.