Green River. Mother Love Bone. Temple of the Dog. BRAD, Pearl Jam. If you’re a fan of the Seattle music scene, you know one of the threads running through these notable bands is Stone Gossard.
Gossard is in fact Ground Zero of the Seattle sound that began in the mid-’80s, when he was guitarist for March of Crimes along with future Soundgarden bassist Ben Shepherd. Although his stint with the band was brief, it served as a sort of launch pad not only for Gossard’s career, but too, for a brand new genre of music.
From that first band, Gossard joined Ducky Boys, playing alongside friend and fellow guitarist (and future Mudhoney member) Steve Turner, before joining Turner’s new band, Green River, with their bassist, Montana native Jeff Ament. Green River, along with a handful of other local bands from that period, are often credited for having spawned grunge, that darling of the commercial world, both with its own music and with the music its members would go on to create in future bands including Pearl Jam, one of the most enduring and influential groups to come out of the ’90s, co-founded, of course, by that pioneer of the genre, Stone Gossard.
Stone Carpenter Gossard was born July 20, 1966, in Seattle. His father was a prominent attorney, and his mother worked in the city government. By all accounts, Stone had a stable upbringing, unlike so many of his musical contemporaries.
As the George Harrison of Pearl Jam, often overshadowed by his bandmates, Stone is a formidable musical force. He was educated at Seattle’s progressive Northwest School of the Arts, which fostered his creativity. Having learned to play the trumpet in the third grade, Stone took up the mandolin as a ploy to get into a band called the Probes, who used to play in his high school. His scheme failed, but it did teach him to play another instrument. Today, Gossard is a multi-instrumentalist. In addition to trumpet and mandolin, he also plays bass, piano, drums, percussion and the cello.
The articulate and wry-witted Gossard is an accomplished songwriter too. It was a demo tape of his songs that made its way to Eddie Vedder in California back in 1990 and lured Vedder to Seattle. Stone is responsible for having written the band’s debut blockbuster ‘Ten’ almost in its entirety, including Pearl Jam’s massive hits “Once,” “Even Flow,” “Alive,” and “Black.” The prolific Gossard has had his hand in many of the band’s most beloved music. His song output is such that it has spilled over from Pearl Jam into a couple solo albums – ‘Bayleaf’ (2001) and ‘Moonlander’ (2013) respectively – and side projects, like the band BRAD, with five albums under their belt.
Stone says his musical imprint was established when he was between the ages of 8 and 20. He cites bands like Led Zeppelin, Iggy and the Stooges, Simon and Garfunkel, KISS, Hendrix and ’70s pop music, ands some funk and rap as his main influences.
Gossard has been Pearl Jam’s rhythm guitarist/songwriter/vocalist for the past 26 years. With the group soldiering on into their third decade, selling out stadiums in minutes and playing 3-hour sets like a band half their age, Gossard says he and his bandmates have only one goal when it comes to their music: to better themselves. Here’s to the many years of brilliant music yet to come from Mr. Gossard.
Happy 50th Birthday, Stone, from your legion of fans all over the globe!