Robert Gary Schatzlein
1953 - 2001
Gary Schatzlein was born in Knightstown, Indiana, on Mother’s Day, May 10, 1953. His parents, Helen and George, both recent Indiana University graduates, were working for his grandfather at the family’s wholesale greenhouses and flower shop. His father and grandfather were both master rose growers, and roses from Knightstown Greenhouses were shipped throughout the Midwest daily by bus.
Gary and his older brother Mike both worked in the family business, particularly as its emphasis shifted to retail. They helped set up weddings, move flowers from funeral homes to the cemetery, and planted urns in the cemetery for Decoration Day (now Memorial Day).
Gary’s parents were musicians, and some of his earliest memories were of his mother playing the piano and his father the trumpet. His father having served in the Second World War, there was also marching in his grandparent’s living room (they had the phonograph) to the music of John Philip Sousa.
Knightstown had a population of less than 2,500, and the brothers attended the public schools there. Gary, like his brother before him, took trumpet and piano lessons and played in the school band and on the school football and golf teams.
Gary was 10 when Mike discovered rock and roll. Mike played in various rock bands around central Indiana and also during the summers at Culver Military Academy, and Gary not only watched with interest but also took up the guitar. As soon as Gary was old enough, the brothers played in bands together, with Mike on trumpet and keyboards and Gary on guitar. The Indiana band scene was just organizing in the 60s, and personnel changes were frequent. With bands constantly reforming, Gary once joked that they kept changing names “so they could play the same place twice”. His band while Mike was in college was called, significantly, the Delta Reformation.
One of the changes that really worked was bringing in Craig Drybread on bass. Craig was extraordinarily talented as a bassist and backup singer, but came to Gary’s attention because he was the younger brother of Steve Drybread, bassist with the first Indiana rock band to chart, The Boys Next Door.
Mike operated a talent booking agency out of his home during medical school, and Delta Reformation, led by Gary, performed at numerous high schools and college fraternities and sororities during that period. The brothers and other band members had attempted to recondition an old Chevy V6, front engine school bus, repainting an exterior that had already been repainted once by hand. The bus served as transportation to gigs (a space was made for equipment in the back) and was generally reliable except for the heater. The band bundled up for travel to winter gigs.
Gary began college at Indiana University in the fall of 1970, but did not finish his freshman year; he wanted to return to the band. A new, professionally-painted “pusher” bus had been obtained, and the name shortened to Reformation. Mike returned to playing with Reformation in 1971, and the band was approached by Talun Records, a regional label, with a recording contract. The first single, “Without You”, written by Gary and sung by Mike, was recorded in a garage studio, Gilfoy Sound, in Bloomington, Indiana. It charted regionally, but the airplay mostly helped the band get better gigs.
A second single, “Judgment Day”, was recorded but never released, as Talun went bankrupt. The brothers had enjoyed recording, and Gary was now without a day job. So the brothers and their drummer, Tom Hirschauer, along with George Schatzlein, scraped together a quarter of the cost of a new 16-track studio, and borrowed the rest from the Small Business Administration. The studio was constructed in rented space on Illinois Street near downtown Indianapolis, with the owners doing much of the work. TRC Studios opened in May of 1973 with cool new equipment and zero working capital.
Even while the studios were under construction, TRC signed two acts, Life and Gryphon, and recorded singles for them back in Gilfoy’s garage. Life was a country rock band with a singer who sounded like John Fogarty; its music is best forgotten. Gryphon was a talented group, with horns and good vocals, and the single “Sky Of My Mind” charted locally. It suffers some from the limitations of Gilfoy’s garage, but can be found streaming here.
Gary’s life was devoted first to his three children – Jonathan, Jameson, and George - and next to TRC. Gary was a dog lover, and his faithful Bosco often visited the studio. Much about TRC and the TRC Production Group (TRCPG) during Gary’s leadership there is presented elsewhere on this site.
Untimely deaths seemed to haunt TRC. Gary Schatzlein, its founder and operator for 27 years, sickened in 2000 and died on April 6, 2001. His funeral was attended by his family, Bob Kevoian and Tom Griswold, and dozens of musicians, many of whom performed. Mike Schatzlein delivered the eulogy. Gary's ashes are buried beside his grandparents in Glen Cove Cemetery in Knightstown. TRC’s assets were sold.