In Eric Gulliksen’s eighty-one years he always kept a beat, a tap in his foot, a song in his mind, heart, and voice. And, with the gifts from God, his life was rich in memories, hard work, music, extraordinary connections, travel, and adventures.
John Eric Gulliksen was born May 4, 1942, in Jersey City, New Jersey, son of the late John Walter Gulliksen and May (Lindgren) Gulliksen. Raised in Worcester as a young man, a job transfer took his family to Cheshire, Connecticut where he graduated from Cheshire High School. A return to his native Worcester led him to earn both Bachelor and dual Masters Degrees from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He also earned his MBA from neighboring Clark University.
Eric’s first love was music. At 14 years old, he convinced his father to take him to New Jersey to see Chuck Berry in concert. Once Eric saw Chuck play and do his “duck walk” across the stage, he was hooked. From that moment, he knew he wanted to perform. A few years later, Eric experienced one of his greatest memories. He was performing with Orpheus on a television show in New York and met Chuck Berry in the dressing room. Being able to spend time with his inspiration was a thrill.
Later, Eric, went on to study electrical engineering at WPI, as music was still a big part of his life. He worked with a few folk groups, The Wanderers, The College Boys, and Blue Echoes, the most popular of the three. He found success with his first commercial recording where Eric wrote and recorded “The Man”, a tribute to JFK, which was rediscovered years later and placed in the movie The Moonwalkers.
In 1967, the folk group The Villagers were looking to move away from Folk music. Wanting to become part of the rock scene, they asked Eric, an extremely skilled bassist, to join the group. Orpheus was born. This new band signed with MGM and their debut single “Can’t find the Time” reached #80 on the Billboard Hot 100. Orpheus’s second album, Ascending, was voted #10 on Playboy’s “Best Vocal LP” list for 1968. They released their third album Joyful in 1969 featuring “Brown Arms in Houston”. This song charted as well. The band opened for several major acts including Led Zeppelin, Cream, Janis Joplin, Blood, Sweat and Tears and The Who. Eric has said on numerous occasions that John Entwistle, the bassist for The Who, was a huge influence the way he played bass. Eric was intrigued by John’s technique and learned different ways to create less traditional sounds from him.
In 1970, now married with a baby girl, Eric changed direction and shifted his career towards engineering. Eric enjoyed a very distinguished and rewarding career with Koehler Manufacturing Co., a Marlborough maker of mining equipment. He spent years traveling over 40 countries and to all continents but Antarctica. Eric would tell many stories of crawling in underground mines and of the many amazing people that he had met along the way. He was easily recognized as well accomplished and best in his field. During Eric’s 29-year tenure, he worked in numerous areas of the business holding titles as Vice President of Product Development and Engineering, Vice President of Marketing, and closed out his illustrious career as Director of Mining Sales. Eric holds 17 patents in this field including one for a luminaire apparatus for reflecting radiant energy and methods of controlling characteristics of reflected radiant energy.
In 1999, Eric changed careers once more. Moving out of the mining business, Eric’s focus changed to research. He joined VDC Research, a technology market intelligence and consulting firm, delivering in-depth insights and strategies to vendors and investors. Eric worked at VDC as a Senior Analyst until his retirement in 2014 where he then could fully enjoy life and concentrate once again on music.
Eric lived his final years doing what he loved, telling stories, singing, and playing with thousands of musicians across the globe. Whether he was driving 600 miles a week to venues across New England or sitting at his computer participating in an open mike zoom performance, he was happy, grateful, and humbled by the love and support he received across the music industry. Eric was a mentor and friend, and he will leave his mark as a great storyteller who loved to lose himself in the song.
Eric Gulliksen died in the company of his daughters on Sunday, June 4, 2023, from the effects of an unwelcomed battle with COPD. He was 81.
He leaves his daughters, Kirsten M. Fitzgerald (John) of Bellingham and Kerry D. Preston of Jamaica Plain; his grandchildren, Conor and Owen Fitzgerald, Daniel and Elyse Preston; his brother, David Gulliksen (Fran) of Little River, South Carolina; also survived by five nieces & nephews.
Family and friends will honor and remember Eric’s life by gathering on Friday, June 9th for visitation in the Parlor at First Congregational Church, 19 Church Road, Shrewsbury from 9:30 – 11 a.m. followed by his funeral service at 11 a.m. in the church. The Rev. Holly MillerShank will officiate. A collation in Gifford Hall will follow.
Those wishing to view the the livestream of the service please use this link: https://www.fccsm.org/erik-gulliksen-funeral
Expressions of sympathy may be made to Music Museum of New England, How You Can Help | The Music Museum of New England (mmone.org)
Arrangements by James & John Heald of The Joyce Funeral Home, 245 Main Street, Waltham.