When music fans talk about how wild Vancouver punk legends DOA were in their prime, they are talking about guitarist Dave Gregg.
Tall and thin and always wearing jeans with no knees, Gregg would leap about like a man possessed, whipping the audience into a frenzy with his antics and fiery guitar playing. In tandem with cohorts Joe Keithley, Randy Rampage and Chuck Biscuits, Gregg pretty much defined hardcore punk rock in the early 1980s.
“He was an attention-getter,” said Keithley. “You’ve got to say that was the golden era of DOA, 1980-82. (He played on) the Hardcore ’81 tour, which now everyone remembers as the template for this stuff. I constantly hear about how (people call us) the godfathers of hardcore.”
Gregg died Sunday night at Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock following a heart attack. He was 55.
As wild as he was on stage, Gregg was easygoing and personable off it.
“He was a wonderful guy, and really creative,” said Keithley, who choked up discussing Gregg. “He was always in good humour.”
A good example of that came one night in 1981, when Gregg fronted a one-off band called 1984 at the Smilin’ Buddha, the legendary punk club on Skid Row.
“Somebody yelled out: ‘Why do you call yourselves 1984?’” recounts Gregg’s friend Dale Wiese.
“And Dave said, ‘Well, we all thought by then we’d be good enough to play these songs’.”
Gregg’s contribution to Vancouver’s musical underground can’t be overestimated. Gregg was the lead guitarist in DOA from 1980 to 1988, playing on seminal punk albums like Somethin’ Better Change, Hardcore ’81, and War on 45.
He also played in Private School, the Grooveaholics, and the Real MacKenzies. He even rented Fort Gore, a legendary punk dive at the eastern foot of the Georgia Viaduct.
Fort Gore was the middle of three decrepit cottages at Prior and Gore. Gregg lived in one, and turned the abandoned cottage next door into a venue that had some wild shows.
“There was one show with the three D’s — DOA, the Dils, and the Dishrags,” recalls Keithley. “There was so many people (there that) people couldn’t see, so they smashed a hole through the hallway to look into the main room so they could see the bands.
“Dave took the middle house closer to Prior and fixed it up, made it reasonable, and we practised there for eight years. It was like a boys club — (bassist) Wimpy and Dave and I would practice our slapshots in the kitchen off the linoleum floor and see if we could get the puck to stick in the door at the other end.”
Gregg was born in La Ronge, Sask., where his father made maps of remote rivers and lakes for the province. In his childhood, the family moved to Quadra Island.
He moved to Vancouver at the beginning of the local punk movement, playing with Private School at the landmark “Anti-Canada Day” celebration staged by anarchists on July 1, 1978, in Stanley Park.
Keithley said Gregg was recruited for DOA after the band’s original drummer Biscuits noted Gregg had three key attributes: “His guitar playing’s fine, he’s got a house to practice in, and a P.A.”
After he left DOA, he moved to New York with his longtime companion Cathy Cleghorn, where their companies Anthill and Easy Partners sold merchandise for A-list rock acts like the Rolling Stones, AC/DC and Pink Floyd.
Gregg often went on the road: The Easy Partners website said “Dave has toured from Moscow to Osaka, Anchorage to Capetown with The Bee Gees, Pearl Jam and Patti Smith, to name a few.”
Gregg and Cleghorn were in town to visit family when he suffered a massive heart attack late Saturday afternoon. He was taken to Peace Arch Hospital, where he passed away Sunday night.