Former Elf and Rainbow bassist Craig Gruber dies of prostate cancer at 63

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Rainbow 1975, L-R: Soule, Dio, Gruber, Blackmore, Driscoll

By Steve Newton

Craig Gruber, former bassist for ’70s rock acts Elf and Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, passed away yesterday after a battle with prostate cancer. News of Gruber’s passing was posted on the Facebook page of his former Elf bandmate, keyboardist Mickey Lee Soule:

Very sad to hear of the passing of Craig Gruber. I first met him when he was in high school. He was helping a friend fix a dented fender on her car. The next time I saw him he was auditioning for the band Elf and he completely blew our minds. A fantastic musician with a brilliant sense of humor, we shared some amazing adventures together. My deepest condolences to his family and all who loved him.

Gruber played with Soule, guitarist Steve Edwards, drummer Gary Driscoll, and famed hard-rock vocalist Ronnie James Dio on the Elf albums Carolina County Ball (1974) and Trying to Burn the Sun (’75)—both produced by Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover—before all but Edwards were hired away by Ritchie Blackmore to play on his post-Purple Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow album, also from 1975.

(I always loved Gruber’s playing on that album, especially on the opening track, “Man on the Silver Mountain”):

Gruber and his Elf mates (except Dio) were sacked by Blackmore after the recording of Rainbow, but the bassist continued to build a strong reputation for himself by performing with Irish guitar legend Gary Moore.

In the ’80s Gruber also played with Driscoll in the hard-rock recording act Bible Black, and in recent years was a member of the bands Raven Lord and Zvekan.

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