We were gutted today to learn that Gary Burger, lead singer/guitarist for our current Weird Band of the Week, The Monks, passed away on Friday from pancreatic cancer at the age of 72. Minnesota Public Radio’s The Current broke the story on Friday, with a local paper called the Bemidji Pioneer filling in some additional details of his post-Monks life in the tiny Minnesota town of Turtle River, where he was the mayor (and still played the occasional Monks reunion gig).
Despite The Monks gaining a sizable cult following over the last 25 years, Burger led a pretty quiet life, producing the work of other bands and musicians out of a home recording studio and occasionally working as a filmmaker. He was elected mayor in 2006.
Burger remained modest about The Monks’ legacy. “We all knew that we were doing a different sort of music,” he told Minnesota music journalist Andrea Swensson in 2009, “but as far as being a forerunner band—that was the furthest from our minds. We really weren’t thinking that. We were thinking that we were playing rock and roll with a twist, and the twist was the electric banjo, the feedback, the drums, basically not using cymbals but lots of tom toms. We had no idea that we were creating a new movement. And I’m still thinking, hey, we were just a rock and roll band that really had a lot of fun.”
With Burger’s death, only two of the original Monks are still alive: bassist Eddie Shaw and organist Larry Clark. But their spirit lives on in countless bands that owe a huge debt to their innovative sound, from The Raincoats to The White Stripes to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.
We’ll leave you with a clip of Gary and The Monks from 1999, still rocking out just as hard as they did in the ’60s. Here’s hoping their reputation continues to grow, even after Gary’s passing—they still haven’t gotten all the recognition they deserve.