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In Memoriam: John Gustafson

John Gustafson with Wall JG CustomBassist John Gustafson, who spent time in the Ian Gillan Band and Roxy Music, has passed away of undisclosed causes. He was 72.

Gustafson was born in Liverpool and started his early career in the late ’50s and early ’60s. His first group was one of the UK’s first rock trios called The Big Three, which he joined in July 1959. Although he didn’t actually have a bass, lead guitarist Adrian Barber converted an acoustic guitar for him to play his first gig at The Tower Ballroom in New Brighton in December of that year.

The bassist went on to join the Merseybeats before fronting the band Quartermass in 1970. The ’70s were a fruitful decade for Gustafson. He made an appearance on Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover’s Butterfly Ball project as a singer and spent three years in the art rock group Roxy Music from 1973 to 1976. Another Deep Purple connection led him to join singer Ian Gillan’s band, where he recorded four albums through the end of the decade. It was also during this time that Gustafson worked with Ian Waller of Wal Basses to help create the JG Custom bass. The model was similar to the company’s Pro Series basses but featured distinctive leather pickguards and custom tone switch placement. About 28 JG Custom basses were made, with owners including John Entwistle, Mark Davis, Paul Simonon, and Percy Jones.

Gustafson stayed a humble through the years, crediting his success with aspiring to play like his idols. “Any playing style I had came from listening to all my favorite kinds of music, and it’s only natural to want to play like the people you admire, even if you can’t equal it,” he stated in a interview. “A certain amount of flexibility develops. A great help was the many years of studio work, and being on sessions with many great players – far better than I.”

Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Mr. Gustafson.

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