Thain left his native New Zealand when he was 17 and lived as a bass player from then on until he died ten years later of complications from a drug overdose in London. Gary Thain paid his dues playing R&B in German bars, and made it to London during the height of the Swinging ’60s.
He played in a jazz-rock trio called New Nadir, and Jimi Hendrix got up on stage with them one night at the Speakeasy. Thain’s next project was holding down the groove in the Keef Hartley Band, a tremendous British blues band. He stuck around for all six records and even played Woodstock.
In 1972, Thain received a phone call from prog rockers Uriah Heep, flew to the US, and ended up touring and recording with the band during its golden age. Gary Thain was fairly quiet, thin and frail from his drug use, but recognized as one of the two best musicians in the group.
Gary Thain was electrocuted while on stage in 1974, blacked out and suffered severe burns. The band cancelled the rest of the tour. Gary never fully recovered and was asked to leave the band shortly thereafter. A few months later his girlfriend found him dead in the bathtub.
Here’s a great live audio montage of Uriah Heep’s “July Morning” with Gary Thain’s groovy bass turned way up in the mix: