Gar Samuelson

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Gar Samuelson
Gar Samuelson.jpg
Background information
Birth nameGary Charles Samuelson
Born(1958-02-18)February 18, 1958
Dunkirk, New York, U.S.
DiedJuly 14, 1999(1999-07-14) (aged 41)
Orange City, Florida, U.S.
GenresJazz, heavy metal, speed metal, thrash metal, jazz fusion
InstrumentsDrums, percussion, timpani
Years active1975–1999
LabelsCapital, Combat
Associated actsMegadeth, Fatal Opera

Gary Charles "Gar" Samuelson (February 18, 1958 – July 14, 1999) was an American musician best remembered for being the drummer for American thrash metal band Megadeth from 1984 to 1987, contributing to their first two albums, Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good! (1985) and Peace Sells... but Who's Buying? (1986). He is considered one of the most influential drummers of thrash metal, having pioneered the incorporation of jazz fusion into the sub-genre.[1]


Samuelson was born in Dunkirk, New York, 1958; little else is known of his life before he joined Megadeth. His father was Charles (Russell) Samuelson (b. 1924), a mechanic and U.S. Army veteran of World War II, serving in the Philippines. His mother was Mary Samuelson (née Waite). The family moved to Florida in the early eighties. His grandparents were Harvey Andrew (Harry) Samuelson (b. 1888), a grocer and miller from Chautauqua County, New York, and mother Minnie J Hooker (with a Swedish mother). His great-grandparents, John Samuelson (b. 1852) and Bertha (b. 1857), were both born in Sweden. Gar's siblings were his brother Stewart R. Samuelson and two sisters, Mary Ann Samuelson-Unlu and Amelia S. Duke. He also has two half brothers from his mother's previous marriage, Bernard Haagensen and Rolf Haagensen.

It is known that he and Chris Poland played in a jazz fusion band called The New Yorkers, and that before this, both practiced and played together for many years.

After meeting with Dave Mustaine and Dave Ellefson of Megadeth in 1984, he joined the band, and Poland soon followed, this being what Mustaine refers to as 'the first real line-up'. Samuelson would go on to serve as the band's drummer until 1987, appearing on the albums Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good! and Peace Sells... but Who's Buying?, as well as serving through tours, until he was ultimately fired for his drug addiction.[2][3] Gar's style was heavily influenced by years of jazz training. This is exemplified in the tracks "These Boots", "Rattlehead", and "Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good!". Samuelson's work on Peace Sells... but Who's Buying? was slightly simpler and more economical due to the song structure, which had evolved rapidly from the debut album. He was considered a very unorthodox drummer among the other thrash metal bands of the 1980s. He and his brother Stew, along with Billy Brehme, Travis Karcher, and Andy Freeman, formed Fatal Opera, releasing a self-titled album in 1995 and the Eleventh Hour in 1997.

Samuelson is known as one of the first drummers to use DW drums. He used DW drums and Ludwig black beauty snare drum, Zildjian cymbals, Remo drum heads, and what was known to be early Vater Drumsticks.


Samuelson died in Orange City, Florida, on July 14, (Bastille Day) 1999 at the age of 41; the cause of death was reportedly liver failure.[1][2] His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered in the Atlantic Ocean; also, a memorial service was held in Lankford Chapel. Neither Mustaine nor any other Megadeth members attended these ceremonies.

On July 25, 1999, Mustaine dedicated a performance of the song "Peace Sells" in Samuelson's memory, at the Woodstock Festival. Long-time friend and bandmate Chris Poland said about Samuelson: "He was a true friend. Everything I know about—time, rhythm and feel—I learned from Gar, so I'll always hear his voice in my music."

The 2002 remixed and remastered version of Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good! is "dedicated to the memory of Gar Samuelson".[2]


  1. ^ a b Talevski, Nick (2006). Rock Obituaries: Knocking on Heaven's Door. Omnibus Press. p. 570. ISBN 1-84609-091-1.
  2. ^ a b c Kielty, Martin (September 10, 2012). "Megadeth drummer made Peace Sells". Classic Rock. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
  3. ^ "Megadeth history from 1984 to '87". Retrieved August 4, 2013.
Preceded by
Lee Rausch
Megadeth drummer
Succeeded by
Chuck Behler