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Gil Garfield dies at 77; member of the '50s trio the Cheers

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Gil Garfield, a member of the 1950s trio the Cheers, who had a top 10 hit with "Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots," has died. He was 77.

Garfield, who also was an artist and songwriter, died Saturday of cancer at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, said his partner, Mike Hiles.

Garfield was a student at USC when he started singing in nightclubs. He was encouraged to record, and he eventually formed the Cheers with fellow singers Sue Allen and Bert Convy, who became known as an actor and game-show host.

They recorded several demos of tunes written by famed songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller whose long list of hits included "Jailhouse Rock" by Elvis Presley.

The Cheers' version of Leiber and Stoller's "Black Denim Trousers" reached Billboard magazine's Top 10 when it was released as a single in 1955.

The song was the tragic tale of a girl pleading with her boyfriend to stay off his motorcycle. Robert Hilburn, writing in The Times in 1975, said the song helped create a theatrical style of pop music he called "teardrop rock."

The Cheers' release of another Leiber and Stoller song, "Bazoom (I Need Your Lovin')". reached the Billboard charts in 1954.

Gilbert Garfield was born May 20, 1933, in Los Angeles to Harriet and Harold Garfield. His father owned a chain of drugstores throughout Los Angeles and later expanded his business into real estate.

Garfield graduated from North Hollywood High School and studied business at USC.

He spent about three years with the Cheers, Hiles said. Garfield became successful in real estate, refurbishing and reselling houses, then turned to painting and collecting contemporary art.

"I find a satisfaction and fulfillment in painting that I have never had in my life," Garfield told The Times in 1990 after a solo show in Los Angeles of his acrylic paintings.

Garfield contributed to such organizations as the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and the Dumont-UCLA Liver Cancer Center. He had a liver transplant nine years ago, Hiles said.

In addition to Hiles, Garfield's survivors include a nephew.

Services will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary 6001 W. Centinela Ave., Los Angeles.

keith.thursby@latimes.com

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