Rocker has family ties to Pelican Rapids area

Gary Puckett

By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

Gary Puckett, who gained rock ‘n’ roll fame in the late 1960s, with family ties to Pelican Rapids, can now say he once performed for King Charles III.

Puckett and his band, the Union Gap, were at the White House in 1970. President Richard Nixon and his wife Pat were preparing to host Great Britain’s Prince Charles and his sister, Princess Anne. 

The Nixons, prior to the royal visit, asked Princess Anne who she would like to hear and she said “Gary Puckett and the Union Gap.” Prince Charles expressed interest in seeing “The Guess Who.”

“It was a fabulous event in 1970,” said Puckett, “and to think that now, 52 years later, Charles is King of Great Britain.”

Charles became king following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth, on Sept. 8.

Puckett, recalling the performance at the White House in 1970 in front of Prince Charles and Princess Anne, said “it was quite an experience from start to finish.”

He and his band members sang hit tunes such as “Lady Willpower,” wandered the hallways of the White House earlier in the day, met the president, performed with the Marine band horn section and witnessed fireworks that Puckett described as, “amazing.”

Puckett first learned to play guitar, at the age of 15, in the home of his grandparents, a block east of Pelican Rapids High School. His grandfather had worked for the Pelican city police department,

Three of his favorite memories of Pelican Rapids include hikes with his grandfather along the river, visits to the pelican statue, and eating banana splits at the cafe adjacent to the former Swan Drug.

Puckett was born in Hibbing in 1942. He and his mother resided at the home of his grandparents in Pelican Rapids when his father, Arlon, served overseas in the military during World War II.

After the war, Gary moved with his parents to the state of Washington, where his father worked in the merchandising business.

Puckett, now 79, is a resident of Clearwater, Florida.