Band influenced several generations’ worth of rockers, including R.E.M., Beastie Boys, White Stripes and Henry Rollins.
By Fred Mills
Arguably one of the wildest ‘n’ woolliest ‘60s garage band was The Monks, whose primitive rawk and outlandish visual appearance—they literally dressed as monks, right down to the collective hairstyle—would’ve ensured them permanent status in the rock ‘n’ roll history books even if they had not enjoyed several revivals over the years.
Sad news from the Monks camp, then: bassist Gary Burger passed away Friday (March 14) from pancreatic cancer at the age of 72. Media reports indicate that he was the mayor of tiny (pop. 77) Turtle River, MN.
The story by now is well known: the band was formed by five U.S. servicemen stationed in Germany in the early ‘60s, and calling themselves The 5 Torquays they became a hit on the local hospital and medic ward circuit before graduating to actual bars. They soon changed their name to the Monks at the urging of a German record producer, who also convinced them to adopt the monk-ish attire and coiffures. They went on to record the now-legendary Black Monk Time LP in 1966 before splitting up the following year, and while the album wasn’t really a hit during its time, many years later it would be rediscovered by a new generation of garage fans (hello, Norton Records!), leading to a reunion at the 1999 Cavestomp garage fest. A live album followed, as did a documentary film and a number of other reunion shows.
In the meantime, Burger had opened a recording studio where he cut music as well as advertising segments.