David Lee Gilbert December 4, 1951 – August 1, 2001
This is the 10 th Anniversary of the passing of Dave Gilbert... In his honor we are re running the story written by his widow and Pam Green.... It is a very lovely piece...
Story by D. Petra Gilbert and Pam Green
Despite his physical deterioration from liver cancer, in mid-winter of 2001, David traveled by train to a retreat in the Adirondack Mountains to cleanse his soul, continue his faith in sobriety and write about his life. On his last full day on earth, 7.31.01, David Lee Gilbert entered St. Joseph Mercy Hospital where he passed on to the other side in room 731 with his wife by his side.
The son of deaf mute parents, 10-year-old David discovered his singing voice and knew that he had found his passion and path.
In ‘67, Gilbert and high school friends formed a band named the Midwest Tree Company. When the band broke up in 1970, Gilbert moved to Ann Arbor and joined Shaky Jake, managed by Skitch Hill.
David’s first wife, Terry Valdez vividly remembers those times. “He started working with Shaky Jake band and we had a room in the Hill St house in Ann Arbor”.
It was at that house in January ‘71 that Ted Nugent asked Gilbert to join him and the Amboy Dukes. Before they got their own apartment, Terry and Dave lived with Nugent and his fiancé, which worked well as “David wasn’t getting high at that time,” recalls Valdez.
“He loved David,” Terry says. “Ted was proud of David’s talent.” And when David wanted to form his own band Shadow with his brother Marc, Valdez adamantly states that the parting with Nugent was amicable.
In 1974, David was numbing the profound pain of losing his mother with alcohol and drugs. He took his dad to LA for a break and considered not singing anymore. Instead of quitting music, he joined New Order with Ron Asheton, and Dennis “Machine Gun” Thompson. They lived in the Coronet Apartment house on Sunset. It was the mid-70s, blow was abundant and Dave’s addiction was at a peak. The New Order cut an album, but sensing that it musically wasn’t a good fit for him, Gilbert returned to Detroit.
At the end of ‘75, Dave formed Wolf Ticket. Backed by Russ Gibb, the group jelled and just before they were leaving for LA, Gilbert jammed with a band called the Rockets at the Roadhouse. Ironically, Rocket founders Johnny "Bee" Badanjek and Jim McCarty were musicians Dave idolized since his pre-teen days of sneaking in through a bathroom window at the Casino to see them play in Billy Lee and the Rivieras. They then became Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels.
Instead of joining the band immediately, Gilbert, without a word, went to LA to promote Wolf Ticket. When Dave returned to Detroit, the Rockets were recording Love Transfusion with Don Davis who insisted on finding a lead singer and front man. According to legend, Gilbert walked in, was given lyrics, sang five takes of a song and the first take made it to the album.
Recording six albums together, the Rockets were prolific. Although they never achieved top tier national status, they were sought after as a hard rocking opening act and toured with Bob Seger, Kiss, the Who, and ZZ Top, to name but a few.
Gilbert was an engaging performer whose astounding rock and roll voice captivated audiences and cultivated a legion of fans. Grateful, Gilbert always had a smile, a kind word, and time to sign an autograph. When the Rockets disbanded, Dave worked with well-known Detroit musicians in Roadhouse, followed by the Homewreckers and Sunz Uf Phun.
From a comment on a Facebook link, Bogdon Vasquaf writes, “I did a gig with Dave and the Homewreckers… Dave couldn’t hear the PA and he refused to have the band play quieter… Dave demanded the monitors be removed from the stage because he didn’t want to see them (he kicked off his floor monitor)… I thought he was being unreasonable until he sang with all his heart and we could hear him on stage over the guitars and drums blaring.
Dave Gilbert is one of the all time great rock and roll singers ever to live.” Dave on the job happy Ultimately, he left his full-time musical career behind, learned the trade of applying Dryvit, a synthetic stucco finish used on exteriors, married his longtime friend and love, and to the delight of Detroit audiences, continued jamming with local bands.
Gilbert was proud of transitioning to a “normal” drug free life, when he was diagnosed with liver cancer. Dave with friends at the Dave Gilbert Benefit Show In October 1999, friends, fans, local musicians, and DJs coordinated a benefit concert in Gilbert’s hometown of Union Lake to raise money for his medical expenses.
Despite his illness, he was filled with love and gratitude for those who attended and he joyfully performed with the Rockets and other musicians. Jimmy McCarty and Dave Gilbert Michael McIntyre, former DJ at WCSX (now at Nashville’s RQQ), sent a message saying, “…I still have all of my Rockets vinyl.
Every time I hear Dave doing his thing, it just brings back so many memories of seeing the guys live. I just worshipped Dave when I was a kid and anytime he sings it brings a big ‘ole Detroit grin to my face. Just wanted to let you know I’ve never forgotten about Dave. He was a rock n roll star.”