The band Gunner has been around since 2012, and guitarist-vocalist Phil Allen says the band’s combined history led to the name. “We were all a bunch of military vets, and that’s how the name came about, so we decided our name would pay homage to all the military guys around here, like us. Hurlburt Field, the Gunners, that’s where that all came from.”
Allen found his way to the region after being stationed at Hurlburt Field, and, of course, he fell in love with the area.
“I’ve played music since I can remember. I mean, there was always instruments around my house, and I never could keep my hands off music. Once I got my first guitar, it was all over with.”
Allen had been playing with Phil Calhoun’s Trashy White Band, and as he was leaving the group, Graham Thompson (“my partner in crime”) was coming into the band. “Things ran their course, and we were both looking for something to do, and we got together one day and said, ‘We should put together a band that plays old time classic rock ‘n roll like we grew up doing.’”
And with a shared love of loud classic rock ‘n roll, Gunner was formed.
Although the lineup has changed a few times over the years, Allen and Thompson (guitar and vocals) remain at the core of Gunner. Drummer Chad Dickey and Danny Clausman (bass and vocals) complete the current lineup.
“Old Aerosmith, old Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, stuff from the ‘70s,” is how Allen describes the band’s repertoire. “Anything that was on FM rock radio during the ‘70s. And we do some ‘80s and some ‘90s, but generally it’s older rock.
“I think a lot of people are just…they’re surprised by our song list in general because you just don’t hear a whole lot of the groups around here doing what we do. Thin Lizzy? When’s the last time you heard a band play Thin Lizzy?”
Gunner has a member of southern rock royalty in its ranks. Bassist-vocalist Danny Clausman was in an early incarnation of the Johnny Van Zant Band and can be heard on their first records.
“That was unexpected that I would have somebody like him want to be in my band,” says Allen. “Of course, here it is four years later, and he’s still with me.”
When sharing advice for aspiring musicians, Allen cautions against not having a career Plan B. “Go to a trade school. I’m serious. You know, I’ve worked with some really serious musicians over the years. I did two years with Ricky Lee Phelps from the Kentucky Headhunters, he walked away from it. I mean, the Kentucky Headhunters, they were the biggest thing in country (music) in the ‘90s.
“Danny, he walked away from Johnny Van Zant. It’s a really tough life. I learned years ago, don’t hedge my bets on music—get a career, and just let the music do what it’s going to do. And I think with all the guys in the band, we all have really good jobs locally and we do this because we love it, not because we have to.
“For me, I was a traveling musician for years and when music became my job, I hated it. And that’s the worst thing is to hate music…the thing that you love the most. So yeah, I would tell somebody thinking about becoming a full-time musician for life, go to a trade school. Get something to fall back on first before you go out there and realize what you got yourself into with the music industry.”
Allen’s choices included deciding not to tour with Foghat. “I did a show with them up in Toledo, Ohio, back when I was on the road. Roger Earl from Foghat, he called me aside after the show and he said, ‘Hey, how would you like to come on the road with us?’ And I’m like, ‘You know? I’m going back to Florida. I appreciate the offer, but no thank you. I want to go back to the beach and sleep in my bed at night.’”
To this day, Allen doesn’t regret the choice he made. “I live in paradise.”
Learn more about Gunner and their upcoming gigs at www.GunnerRocks.com.
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