King’s X drummer, Sea Bright resident Jerry Gaskill, was jamming with a local band in February and knew something wasn’t right.
“I played a couple songs, and I wasn’t feeling well,” Gaskill said by phone recently. “I got sick, came home holding my chest and collapsed.”
Luckily for Gaskill, his fiancee was home at the time.
“If I had been alone I would be dead,” he said.
Gaskill had suffered a major heart attack and would spend three weeks in an intensive care unit in an induced coma.
“I had a 100 percent (artery) blockage,” Gaskill. “It was a ticking time bomb ready to go. I had no idea. I was running, exercising, doing the things I thought I should do. It turns out my body doesn’t break down cholesterol properly. It’s hereditary.”
On Saturday, Sept. 15, Gaskill plays his third show with King’s X since the heart attack. The band will perform at The Borgata in Atlantic City, opening for Kansas. The tour began on Thursday night, Sept. 13, at the Best Buy Theater in New York.
Gaskill, who has been undergoing grueling physical therapy, is excited to return to the stage with King’s X, rounded out by bassist-lead vocalist Doug Pinnick and guitarist Ty Tabor.
“I’ve been playing around town, doing full shows with people, sitting in on other shows,” he said. “I feel pretty confident I can do it. I just want to go out and play and see the guys again.
“There’s a special bond between the three of us,” Gaskill said of King’s X. "No matter how long we’ve been apart, they’re my brothers.
“They’re two of the closest people in my life. We make music that only the three of us can make.”
Gaskill said he feels better now, both physically and mentally, than he did before the heart attack.
“I feel like I’ve been given another chance to be alive again and have an understanding of what I have,” he said. “It makes everything a little more hopeful.”
He said his spirits have also been lifted by the support he’s received from fans the world over.
“It’s been unbelievable and overwhelming,” Gaskill said. “It’s helped change my view on things. The impact is unspeakable.”
In addition, Gaskill’s King’s X bandmates have made available a classic 1991 performance, titled “Burning Down Boston.” The show is available through www.kingsxrocks.com for $20, all of which goes to help cover Gaskill’s medical expenses.
Gaskill was raised in Bridgeton in Cumberland County. He performed in his first band, Jerry and the Knights, with his father and brother, at age 7. The group played everything from 1930s waltzes to Beatles tunes at weddings, area lodges and other events.
“This is what I’ve always done, playing and enjoying music, Gaskill said. “I was 4 when I got my first real drum.”
King’s X formed in 1980 in Missouri, where Gaskill was attending college. Their 1988 debut, “Out of the Silent Planet,” was hailed by fans and critics as a refreshing new take on hard rock and metal stocked with memorable melodies. The band’s latest studio album, “XV,” was released in 2008.
The group’s songs range the gamut, from heavy rock and gospel-tinged tunes to beautiful ballads. King’s X is well-known for its trademark, Beatlesque three-part vocal harmonies. Tabor and Gaskill are excellent vocalists in their own right who sing lead on several King’s X songs.
Gaskill’s immense talent on the drum kit has also drawn praise from rock luminaries Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney.
Gaskill played with the house band during a Springsteen benefit show at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park. During rehearsals Springsteen told Gaskill he was doing a good job; it’s almost unheard of for Springsteen to talk to house bands during rehearsals.
McCartney echoed similar sentiments after a jam session that included Gaskill at a party thrown by Jon Bon Jovi. “He said, ‘hey, I really enjoyed playing with you. You’re a good drummer. Keep it up,’ ” Gaskill said of McCartney. “I’ll remember that forever.”
Despite the critical acclaim and a loyal fan-following, King’s X wasn’t able to break through commercially, though Gaskill said that’s not totally a bad thing.
“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” he said. “You want to be successful yet at the same time we have made a place in rock history.
“We’re respected, and we’re not pressured to write hits. In so many ways that’s better than having all the money.”
IF YOU GO: King’s X, opening for Kansas, 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, Borgata Hotel & Casino, 1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City. Tickets are $55 and $59.50. Call 609-317-1000 or go to www.theborgata.com/entertain/event-calendar.