Tony Gable was a percussionist and graphic designer who also designed the logo for King County. He died on May 12, 2016, at age 64. He founded the bands Cold, Bold and Together and Tony Gable & 206.
Tony Gable, a percussionist and graphic designer whose band gave saxophonist Kenny G his start and who designed the logo for King County, died May 12. Mr. Gable had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for four years, said his wife, Gina. He was 64.
“He was a great guy,” said Kenny G. “I don’t remember one time ever feeling like he had a bad bone in his body. (He was) generous, kind and thoughtful — and talented.”
Born in 1951 in San Antonio, Texas, Mr. Gable was an Air Force “brat” whose family moved to Tacoma, where he graduated from Stadium High School, in 1970. While studying to become an art teacher at Western Washington University, he started designing T-shirts and posters for a band called Funk Experience, which he eventually joined, playing bongo drums and singing. As a musician, he was entirely self-taught.
Mr. Gable renamed the band Cold, Bold and Together in Seattle, where in the ’70s it opened for Earth, Wind & Fire, Kool & the Gang and other major stars and recorded several singles, including “(Stop) Losing Your Chances” and “Somebody’s Gonna Burn Ya,” both included on the much-heralded Seattle funk-music compilation “Wheedle’s Groove.”
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“That was a real education, playing with Tony,” recalled Kenny G, who was still in high school when Gable recruited him. “I was the only white guy in the band. We played at the Naval Base in Bremerton, at Fort Lewis and at the Golden Crown, a Chinese restaurant downtown, where there was this long staircase to the club upstairs. After we finished the gig, we’d go to the 13 Coins and have something to eat at 5 a.m.”
After Kenny G became famous in the early ’80s, he hired Mr. Gable to play in his band, which toured all over the world.
While continuing to play music, Mr. Gable got a degree in graphic design at Seattle Central College, working first for Boeing then starting Gable Design Group, in 1985. In 2005, when the county’s official namesake was changed to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Gable’s company designed a new logo based on King’s image.
“He was blessed with two distinct talents, the music side and the art side,” said Gina Gable.
In 1993, Mr. Gable formed Tony Gable & 206, whose self-titled album became a smooth jazz-radio staple, particularly the tune “Camano Island.” The band recorded a second album, “Summer Hills” and an EP, “Summer ’01,” and appeared on TV on the “The Arsenio Hall Show.”
“He was a gentle giant,” recalled Seattle guitarist and recording engineer Glenn Lorbecki, who played in Tony Gable & 206 and served with Mr. Gable on the board of the Northwest branch of the Recording Academy (which produces the Grammy Awards).
Mr. Gable passed on his music gene. His 23-year-old son, Trey, is known as Seattle rapper Mackned. His younger son, Myles, works as a model in Los Angeles.
Along with his wife and sons, Mr. Gable is survived by his mother, Marie Nelams, of Tacoma; and his brother, Andre Montague, of Seattle.
A public memorial gathering is planned but has not been scheduled.