The Story of "Andrew J." and "Gates Bookerton" (copied from materials delivered to Metal Majesty Records in 2021)
The car door shut. One last glance at the address printed on the package. A wry smile nearly
cracked the at corners of his mouth, but failed to break through the annoyance that it had taken this long
to get to this point. It had taken decades to cultivate a group of individuals with the connections to
each other, the creativity, and most importantly the mental scars to push this project out into the world
at large. The best laid plans as they say...but those were not his concerns. His plans always came to
fruition, sooner or later, but they always came.
He contemplated how it was possible that Gates had evaded keeping his end of the bargain for
so long. The callousness such a passionate man had shown his own flesh and blood as he was
manipulated, and prodded. It didn’t matter. Concurrent plans had been layered like an onion to ensure
that the desired outcome was also the inevitable one. None of the participants in this portion of this
little game knew they had been played to this end for years. They would play their parts as designed,
making some of the story their own, but that didn’t matter if the story got out. It was truly a shame the
masses were denied this entertainment for so long.
It had taken years to find the studio recordings. He was unaware that Gates had showed his
skills to anyone before he fled. His first inkling that someone had heard Gates play was in 1978, but it wasn’t
until the riff came out in 1984 that he was positive. It took time to backtrack to that studio in the City of
Angels and then gain the confidence of the sound engineer who finally let him hear the recordings. In a
twist of irony, Gates was unaware he had even been recorded. Yet there it was a metal can labeled
“Gates Bookerton 1973”.
At some point Gates must have realized the sound of more than a decade was his creation. Sure,
much of it was bands copying each other, but certainly Gates knew he was the match to the fire. He
should have just lived up to his promise and these other people wouldn’t have to be drug into this affair.
For that matter his child would have been left out of it as well. Too late for that now. This would break
Gates...it would break him because it would be inescapable. Technology would spread his tale
everywhere. He would see he had lost and give in. Of course, they could just wait for Gates to pass, and
extend the apple to the next hopeful that wanted to burn as bright as a white star, but the more
collateral damage, the more entertainment value there was.
Gates had searched for him begging to be taught mastery of his chosen craft, his personal
dream being that of the “perpetual jam” or whatever hippy drivel he had spouted. He had trained many
before to reach their goals over the years, some of them wanting to bask in the glory of God. Others to
gain riches by sending the mayhem of their minds out into the world...with that thought this time the
smile did break through. There had been too many delays for him to quite feel that level of glee. When
Gates realized to his horror what his deal truly entailed he muttered a prayer to the angel of death,
pleading “my lord, my god I can’t go through it”. It was not unexpected, as others had this reaction
before. It made the eternal game...the long war...that much more interesting. With that, he dropped the
package in the mail slot, turned and walked away.
Justin opened up the P.O. box with anticipation. He had been waiting on a demo from a
drummer applying to fill the open spot in his band The Screaming Eagles. As he pulled the package out,
he realized that it wasn’t a CD like he had expected, but instead an old reel-to-reel tape. This was
definitely odd. How old was this drummer who he had spoken to? Inside the package was what
appeared to be a logo scrawled on some old stationary from a hotel in Monterey and a letter. Justin
began to read:
“I’ve had these recordings for almost 40 years. It’s time I pass them on to someone younger and
into rock who might do something with them.
I was working at the old studio on Sunset, as a recording engineer. I had gone out to the car to
get something from the trunk and there were some younger guys hanging around. This wasn’t
uncommon, groupies or paparazzi hoping to see somebody famous. I overheard them talking about girls
and music and this one kid said he played like a crazy mix of Jethro Tull and Deep Purple but way faster.
Well man, you have to know that got my attention. Nobody played like that in 1973. It was a slow day at
the studio, so I invited the guys in to see the place and hear if the kid could really play the way he
claimed to. The guys came in. The guitarist introduced himself as Gates Bookerton. The other boys said
they were Matt and Argo. They had been in a band and had even paid to be recorded. Their local
newspaper up north did a review and had praised the rest of the band, but had panned Gates's guitar
playing, so they fired him. Gates said that he had he was only 15 back then and was worlds better. Matt
teased Gates that going to look for the devil that taught Robert Johnson guitar hadn’t helped him to get
any better. That would only come with practice. With that remark, Gates turned to me and asked if he
could play one of the studio guitars. Of course I obliged him. Those first few chords were unreal...it was
like hearing Jimi for the first time...a primal force of nature. If Gates sold his soul to learn to play like that, I
wouldn’t be shocked. None of the boys could play drums and were anxious to go out. I asked Gates if
he’d come back tomorrow and play a little more for me. He said sure and the boys left. I stayed up all
night making basic drum loops on an old Rhythm Ace- FR-81.
Gates showed up the next morning and I was relieved. We talked about music theory and
philosophy as we listened to the drum beats I had put together. Gates said of course he could play over
those beats. He grabbed and tuned a studio guitar and began to play. I went to the booth and hit the
drum loops and record. The speed and style was unbelievable for a kid so young. He played for about an
hour nonstop...just mindblowing stuff. When the loops were finished, he set the guitar down and I came out
of the booth. I told him that was the best playing I had ever heard. Gates chided that the Black Man
taught him, so it ought to be. We talked for a while longer and he became more and more distant the
more we talked. The conversation turned dark, and Gates said he needed to go. I asked if he could come
in tomorrow and play with some of the studio guys...I’d set it up. He said maybe and walked out, waving
bye. That was the last time I saw him.
I played the tapes to the studio guys that showed up the next day. They were blown away. I put
the tape back on the shelf for a few days hoping he would come back, but he never did. I went back and
listened to the tapes and named the various drum loop sections after some of the topics and things Gates
had said. I wrote "Gates Bookerton 1973" on the reel and put it up on a shelf in the studio. I took the reel
down on occasion over the years and played the tape for bands that came to the studio when they
needed inspiration. Just something to get them past their mental blocks.
Anyway, without Gates’s permission, no label would release the tape. The music they inspired has
kind of fallen off. I think a smaller label might be able to do things with this a larger label never would.
I’ve heard your music and know you have been influenced by this recording without knowing it. It’s
yours now. Do with it what you think is right.
Justin put the tape and letters back in the envelope. There was a lot of work to be done, starting with a way
to play the tape.