Starcastle was originally from Champaign, Illinois. In their peak years they released 4 albums between 1976 & 1980 for Sony Music. Starcastle, Fountains of Light, Citadel and Real to Reel. On tour they graced arena stages with Styx, Boston, Rush, Jethro Tull, Heart, Journey and others. This amazing 6 piece prog rock group experienced great success during that time but tragically they would break up in 1980. Shortly after bassist/vocalist and founding member Gary Strater would relocate to California and begin to reinvent his own musical vision. Ultimately Gary decided to reform a new more modern version of the band.
In 1984 Mark met Gary while busy launching his new band 'Now'. The two bands teamed up for a few shows together in the San Francisco Bay Area and it was an amazing dbl bill of emotion driven progressive rock! He was really enjoying what he was hearing from Starcastle. Gary, drummer Scott McKenzie and Mark were instantly drawn to each other and in the short time they'd known each other the magnetism between them seemed to be pulling them closer and closer together as if by some divine intervention. Musically and personally they knew they should be working together. One night while hanging out backstage at the Cabaret in San Jose, Ca., Gary invited Mark to come join the band. Ironically during this time there was inner friction brewing between a couple of his 'Now' bandmates and it was starting to have a negative affect on creativity and productivity at the bands rehearsals and this was weighing heavily on Mark. Even though he was the primary songwriter and band leader, he was troubled and frustrated and in the end decided to break up his own band and join with Starcastle. Mark was only 19 and Gary 33, but yet it all seemed like a perfect fit!
Starcastle was now a 5 piece band with Gary, Scott McKenzie, the amazing George Harp on vocals and Bruce Botts and Mark on guitars. Rehearsals took place at a warehouse in Concord, Ca managed by sound engineer Michael Oliver. Everything appeared to be going great as they worked up a full set of music together with the new lineup. Soon they performed a special showcase and the response was stellar and everyone seemed excited to move forward. But almost immediately guitarist Botts did not show up to rehearsals and without a word returned home to the mid-west where he was originally from with no explanation for the departure. One could only assume that the new band dynamic with 2 guitars wasn't something of interest for Bruce. The band was shocked and not happy about it considering all the work and time put in to transform the 4 piece band into a 5 piece. The foursome could only continue moving forward and they immediately began to create new music together. Soon they were performing shows in the Bay Area and their new music was intense and experimental allowing an enhanced and more expansive direction.
Over the next year and a half, there were many shows and demos recorded plus the addition of keyboardist Jimmy Wagner. It was free and unbridled and the creativity just poured out of everyone! This time together is cherished and truly a special and creative time! Their chemistry together was magical but unfortunately there were no official recordings released.
Through the years Gary and Mark's friendship remained solid, but Gary and his beloved wife Sascha would eventually return to their roots in Champaigne, IL. His commitment to his music remained as he once again started a third incarnation of Starcastle. The album 'Song of Times' was finished and released that contained a combination of work from this new band as well as tracks from the time in California.
Gary Strater was a music master, spiritual being, deep thinker, kind hearted human and one of quick wit!
Sadly Gary lost a battle with cancer in 2004. He is missed every day and the world lost a true genius when he went on to fly with the angels!
Gary Dale Strater (R.I.P. 01/14/53 – 09/19/04)
Gary Strater - Bass/Vocals
George Harp - Lead Vocals
Mark McGee - Guitars/Vocals
Scott McKenzie - Drums/Vocals
JIimmy Wagner - Keyboards