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.
Gary and Mark met in 1984 while he was busy steering the wheel for his band 'Now'. The two bands played a show together in the San Francisco Bay Area at the Cabaret in San Jose, Ca. It was an amazing dbl bill of emotional progressive rock! Gary, drummer Scott McKenzie and Mark were instantly drawn to each other! Musically and personally and they immediately knew that they should be working together. After a couple more shows together as they were hanging out backstage, Gary invited Mark to join the new version of the band. The magnetism between them just kept pulling them closer as if by some divine intervention. Ironically at the same time, there was some inner friction going on between a couple of his 'Now' bandmates and it was having a negative affect on the creativity and productivity at the bands rehearsals. Even though Mark was the primary songwriter, he was feeling troubled and frustrated and in the end Mark decided to break up his own band and join up with Starcastle. He was really enjoying what he was hearing and even though Mark was only 19 and Gary 33, it all seemed like a perfect fit!
It was now a 5 piece band with the amazing vocalist George Harp on vocals, Bruce Botts and Mark on guitars. Rehearsals began at a warehouse in Concord, Ca managed by musician and sound engineer Michael Oliver. Everything appeared to be going great. They worked up a full set of music together and performed a showcase gig at the rehearsal space. The response was stellar and all seemed excited to move forward. But the next thing they knew guitarist Botts bolted on the band without a word and returned to the mid-west where he was originally from. In retrospect he was obviously not interested in sharing the guitar spotlight. The band wasn't happy about it but the work and time put in still brought its rewards as the foursome looked forward and immediately began creating new music together. Soon they began performing shows in the Bay Area. The new music was intense and experimental allowing enhanced freedom to explore a 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 true music master! He was a very spiritual being, a deep thinker, a kind hearted human and one of the wittiest people ever! Sadly Gary lost a battle with cancer in 2004. He is missed every single day and the world lost a true genius when he left us 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
JIMMY WAGNER - Keyboards