Gar Francis, born Gary T Venittelli was born and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey.
Gar’s earliest remembrance of his love of music came as a child making the rounds with his father every Sunday morning visiting his Aunt and Uncle’s (to get out of the house and give Mom a break) and listening to the Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra, on the William B. Williams WNEW radio show.
Uncle Joe and his two cousins would play instrumentals on their guitars and sing Everly Brothers songs. They would play (on a turntable) all the early Sun recordings of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and guitar boogie songs.
In the 1960’s Gar started his first band Romeo, Red, Ripper, and Rufus which played instrumentals at his Catholic school graduation parties. When the nuns caught on to this they tried to put an end to this raunchy rock & roll band driving the Christian girls wild.
The 1970’s brought on a new band and Gar’s serious decision to write original music.
He formed The Rockids who were a regular at CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City in Manhattan sharing a stage with The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, The Shirts, Roger McGuinn and many other New York upstarts.
Songwriter/ Guitarist / Producer
In the early 1980’s after playing all nighters in New York and New Jersey, Gar decided to take a break from live performances and began to focus on songwriting only. Taking a job as a soundman for a local Trenton band to make some extra money Gar could sit behind the stage and watch and see what made the audience move. After the keyboard player of this local band was involved in an auto accident Gar was recruited to fill in on guitar until the ailing keyboardist returned. Seeing an opportunity to get his songs out into the public he began writing songs for the band.
The band changed it’s name to Ricochet and became a local hit in the Trenton and Princeton area. Gar’s first song for the band “ Baby It’s You” became a local hit and the band was asked to play one of the first MTV live broadcasts from City Gardens in Trenton, New Jersey and a spin off of American Bandstand the TV show “Dancing On Air” in Philadelphia. This was also the time when Gary became Gar Francis. Being the master of the game Asteroids he would put GAR in the high score spaces and Francis was chosen for his father’s love of Francis Albert Sinatra music.
During this period Gar was asked to play a session for some New York friends of his. They were doing a remake of the Tommy James song Mony, Mony. These New York musicians were to be the new backing band for Billy Idol when he came to America but the band broke up before he arrived here. Playing guitar and singing backup on the recording it was later that Billy Idol’s vocal was overdubbed on the track and it was released as a single. Gerry Ragovoy who wrote songs for Janis Joplin was the producer.
1980 - Gar Francis
Played the Keith Richards role in Rolling Stones tribute band Sticky Fingers (The World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Tribute Band)
Formed the Gar Francis Band and was a regular at Johnny Dirt’s Dirt Club and The Bitter End in NYC and released a few singles under the Gar Francis name.
During the 1990’s Gar reunited with his old Rockids pal Wayne Oliver and formed the band Oliver Wilde that was managed for a while by Frank Sinatra’s management company. What a coincidence?
During this time Gar also began writing with another Rockids alumni Mark Baxter who now is a renown vocal coach in the Boston area. They wrote and produced the song Human Revival which placed in the John Lennon song writing contest and won 4th place in the Unisong music awards. Lisa (don’t you go down) another song by Francis and Baxter won an honorable mention in the Billboard song contest.
In the new millennium Gar wrote and produced the critically acclaimed blues album “Queen Of Your Dreams” for Blues Diva Jeanne Lozier.
Gar was recruited in 2005 to write and play guitar for the Legendary 60’s garage rock band the Doughboys whose debut album (after 40 years) “Is It Now?” produced the hit single Black Sheep that was voted #2 “Coolest Song In The World for 2008” on Little Steven’s Underground Garage.
Keith Richards | Sticky Fingers | Gar Francis
As a side project Gar wrote and produced two garage blues albums “Another Mule In The Barn” and “When The Devil Hits Home” as Plainfield Slim & The Groundhawgs.
Songs from both albums are receiving airplay around the world as well as here in the USA.
Wrote and produced the single “Rocket” as a tribute for the troops serving in the USA Armed Forces and performed it live for the troops at Fort Dix, New Jersey in 2009.
Wrote and recorded songs for The Doughboys second CD “Act Your Rage” which produced the new single “I’m Not Your Man”, that Little Steven’s Underground Garage has picked for “Coolest Song In The World” for the week of September 5, 2009. This single was voted by radio listeners #3 Coolest Song In The World for 2009.
2010 brought the release of the second Doughboys album and the first Gar Francis folk album “Love & Protest” which includes 14 original songs of daily life experiences of ordinary people, as well as acoustic versions of “Rocket” & “Raise A Hand”. The lyric and music of the song “Rocket” was shared with Pete Seeger who has taken time out of his very busy schedule to write two letters to Gar regarding the importance of a song like “Rocket” that helps to keep the veterans in our minds and hearts. The folk album also includes a song that is a tribute to Bob Dylan, “Above The Restless Crowd (July 29, 1965)” that speaks about how “we put the weight of the world on the ones that speak out loud”. "Love & Protest" is receiving great reviews internationally.
In 2012 Gar worked on the 3rd in studio album with the DOUGHBOYS after he has released his new EP on February 14, 2012 called SHINE ON. His Americana album “The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same“ was released on the newly formed Bongo Boy Records and already received music placements in movies and tv shows. The song "The Bank Of The Rivier" and "Turn Your Love On Me" by the DOUGHBOYS haven been placed in the movie FAIRHAVEN. This movie will premier at the 11th Annual Tribeca Film Festival, NYC on April 20,2012. Gar has written and produced singles on Bongo Boy Records for regional artists like: “Come On, Come On” for the rock band The Easy Outs, "Ballerina Of The Bowery" for New York Rocker Jana Peri, Won't Cry Anymore for Genya Raven, "Let's Have A Rockin Christmas" for Jackie Kringles and the Elves, "Born Dainty" for American Idol Kelly Caruso and other soon to be released other recording artists.
The past six months Gar has been out promoting the Doughboys, Plainfield Slim & The Groundhawgs, and the Gar Francis Band (electric and acoustic) on such radio programs as Q104FM, WRSU, WDIY, WFMU, and WNTI, as well as live broadcasts on such cable shows such as, Time/Warner’s “New York Rocks“, Cablevision’s Folk Show “Horses Sing None Of It”, and Toms River’s “The Kenny and Vinnie Show”, Cablevision the Dick Craig RockNRoll Show, Comcast TV Bongo Boy RocknRoll TV show. With live shows at The Dewey Beach Pop Festival, the Hoboken Street Fair, the Blues Festival at Centenary College, The Record Collector in Bordentown, Vintage Vinyl in Woodbridge, Crossroads in Garwood, The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, Maxwell’s in Hoboken, Showtime in Belvidere, shows at BB Kings in NYC with the Yardbirds, and Albert Music Hall in Waretown, Gar still finds time for his first passion, writing songs.
Gar has received awards for songwriting from The John Lennon Song Contest, the Unisong Music Awards, and an Honorable Mention in the Billboard Song Contest.