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OBITUARIES

Kim Gardner, 53; British Pub Owner, Former Musician

October 31, 2001|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Kim Gardner, a former member of the British rock group Ashton, Gardner & Dyke and owner of the Cat & Fiddle Restaurant & Pub in Hollywood, died of cancer Oct. 24 at his home in Hollywood. He was 53.

A bassist, Gardner was a member of the British groups the Birds and Creation before forming Ashton, Gardner & Dyke with Tony Ashton and Roy Dyke in 1968. The trio, whose albums featured a light, jazz-rock style, scored a top-three hit in Britain with "Resurrection Shuffle" in 1971.

Gardner also toured with Pacific Gas and Electric and other bands in the 1970s, played bass with everyone from Eric Clapton to Bo Diddley, and worked on 27 albums.

But it was as the proprietor of Cat & Fiddle on Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood's best known and longest-established British pub, that he's best remembered locally.

Over the years, Cat & Fiddle has been a favorite destination for British rockers such as Keith Moon, Robert Plant and Rod Stewart (who would bring in his entire soccer team), as well as Hollywood celebrities.

"The pub is--and always has been--ground zero for the Brits in Hollywood, and not just for British musicians and actors, but for regular folk--people who wanted good food, drink and conversation," said Neil Fletcher, editor of the Santa Monica-based British Weekly.

"The pub alone was worth going to," Fletcher said, "but if Kim was there, then you could be assured that the atmosphere would be turned up 10 notches. He was very gregarious, very likable, always had a funny story to tell and you could always rely on him for a great sense of bonhomie."

Gardner toured the United States regularly before settling in Los Angeles in 1973. In 1982, he had just left a band led by Billy Burnette, son of '50s rock pioneer Dorsey Burnette, when he started the original, 50-seat Cat & Fiddle Restaurant & Pub in Laurel Canyon.

"There was nothing of its kind, no British establishment on this side of town then, so I wanted to try it," he recalled in 1989. ". . . I originally wanted to open up for a couple of years and then sell it."

Instead, Gardner embraced the role of pub master and restaurateur.

The pub, which specializes in traditional British fare, moved to its current 275-seat location in a '20s-vintage, Spanish-style building in 1984.

The pub's patio--an open flagstone courtyard bordered by trees and offering a garden-like refuge off the busy boulevard--has been a primary attraction.

"People have met here, gotten married, had kids, gotten divorced," said Gardner's wife of 27 years, Paula. "It's a place where people come for whatever they might need--sympathy, or they're lonely, or they want to celebrate. It really became a pub in the true sense of the word."

Born in London in 1948, Gardner learned to play the bass as a teenager, jamming with neighbor Ron Wood.

In 1964, at age 16, Gardner and Wood joined Ali McKenzie, Tony Munroe and Pete McDaniels in forming the Thunderbirds. They shortened their name to the Birds and turned out four singles, including "Leaving Here" and "No Good Without You Baby," both in 1965.

Considered one of the era's most powerful R&B groups, the Birds are not to be confused with the American Byrds. The English Birds broke up in 1966 when Gardner joined Creation, a group that lasted two years and had two minor hits in the United Kingdom.

His next group, Ashton, Gardner & Dyke, broke up in 1972.

Gardner is survived by his wife; and three daughters, Ashlee, Camille and Eva.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Cat & Fiddle, 6530 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood.

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