Tiger Gagan started traveling early. When he was two months old, he took an airplane trip from St. Louis, MO to live in Albuquerque, NM. As a teenager, he found himself in Abiquiu, a small town in Northern NM where Georgia O’Keefe lived. Being far too young to hang out with Georgia, Tiger and his brothers Joe and Jon had little to do besides amusing themselves and the local community by forming Abiquiu’s first teenage blues-rock band. After eventually moving to the Big City (by New Mexico standards, anyway) of Santa Fe, each of the three brothers took different exits off the 70’s blues-rock-fusion-jazz road.
From the ashes of his first band that played original music rather than cover tunes, Tiger formed a musical partnership with Scott Cadenasso. This is a partnership that re-emerges in some form or another just about anytime Tiger returns to Santa Fe. In an early foray away from that partnership, a harrowing experience with a Top 40 circuit band brought Gagan an ever greater belief in the beauty of playing his own music. With that on his mind, he moved to Seattle in 1982.
Working in a restaurant with future members of Seattle punk band Gas Huffer, Gagan developed an appreciation for slam dancing. Also while in Seattle, he finally got to see a longtime idol, Buddy Guy. The lasting effect Mr. Guy’s head-ripping performance had on Gagan’s guitar playing is what led to the latter being dubbed “Tiger” years later.
In the meantime, Tiger returned to New Mexico, at first resuming his partnership with Cadenasso. When the seminal Santa Fe punk band, 27 Devils Joking lost their original guitar player, Gagan stepped in to soak up the rush of energy generated by the slam dancers. That rush was nonetheless insufficient to keep the wanderlust at bay–after a couple years, Gagan left the Devils and took a turn south toward Latin America. Then north to Vermont he went to complete an international studies program, into which he was able to sneak some Latin American folk guitar playing. Graduating in 1992, Tiger returned to Santa Fe and spent three years working running an office and organizing fundraising events by day, while moonlighting as a country guitar player and a Bicho by night.
After another trip to South America, circumstances once again took him back to New Mexico, this time to form the world’s only double doubleneck lefthand band with his brother Joe. For nearly a decade, Tiger divided his time between hard-rocking Gagan Bros Band gigs and road trips, building guitar amplifiers, teaching guitar, and hosting blues jams.
As the doubleneck adventures were slowly winding to a close, Tiger was recruited into Bing, a motley experimental/world-music crew consisting of accordion, tuba, electric bass, saxophone, electric guitar, drums, and vocals. Musically invigorating though that was, Tiger was ready to move on again. In 2006 he came to Nashville, where he now heads up Wild Animal, a double-duty combo that leads one life as an instrumental blues-rock-surf trio and a a second backing the great Blues singer Mississippi Millie. Tiger and Millie also perform as duo, known as–what else?–Mississippi Millie and Tiger Gagan.
What is the sum of all this music and travelling around? A musician in possession of a distinctive slide guitar style that world renowned picker Jerry Donahue calls “truly unique and gratifying.”