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The Gamblers

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If music history were a high-stakes poker game, a Los Angeles grouping that called itself the Gamblers would represent an interesting example of a studio band winning big — rather than an actual working band with a fan following. This is not the British group also called the Gamblers that backed singer Billy Fury and put out a series of singles that basically flopped. Both groups were active in the same decade, the '60s — but by the time the British group began recording in 1963 the American group had already painted its single masterpiece, its members moving on to other things such as thousands of recording sessions.

Music history was mentioned, so details are obviously necessary to accurately establish a place for the Gamblers. First and foremost the place is the beach, the social setting that inspired so many aspects of California rock. In 1960, a group of studio aces got together to record an instrumental entitled "Moon Dawg." The song was composed by one of the players involved, Derry Weaver, and has come to be considered the first example of surf music or surf rock ever released. This is enough in itself, yet flipping the single over is the historical equivalent of a sugar cube on the tongue: "LSD 25" is apparently also the first song recorded in tribute to that particular hallucinogen, an inspiration important enough in rock to inspire genre names — acid rock and psychedelic rock — as well as many other songs.

The actual membership of the Gamblers represents something of a significant gathering of creative musical talent in Hollywood during the period, the individuals involved representing links to such diverse artists as Frank Zappa, the Beach Boys, and Joe Cocker. The drummer on the single was Sandy Nelson, perhaps the most famous drummer associated with surf music and the creator of an entire series of solo albums, none of which anyone has ever listened to all the way through.

The bassist on the session was Larry Taylor, later a member of Canned Heat. One of the guitarists was Elliot Ingber, who went on to play with both Zappa's Mothers of Invention and Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band. Leon Russell was on the session as well, meaning there were two keyboards on the track, since Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys also claims he played piano on "Moon Dawg." The Beach Boys themselves did a cover of the song, as did Paul Revere & the Raiders. As time goes on and the record becomes more famous, an increasing number of Los Angeles session dudes claim to have been one of the Gamblers.

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