Gary James' Interview With Singer/Songwriter
He's a singer/songwriter who has recorded over twenty albums. You may remember his song "Avenging Annie", which Roger Daltry recorded for his solo album "One Of The Boys". He's also a graduate of Harvard University. We are talking about Mr. Andy Pratt.
Q - Andy, you're probably one of the few guys I've ever interviewed who has a Harvard education.
A - Yeah.
Q - Whenever I hear your name I associate it with guitarist...
A - Mark Doyle. He lives there in Syracuse.
Q - Did he tour with you or record with you?
A - He did both. He toured with me in the '70s and I recorded with him up there. (Syracuse, New York)
Q - I see in 1975 you enrolled in Boston's Life Institute in a search for the meaning of life. Did you ever find an answer to that question for yourself?
A - Well, I guess so. It's hard to dive into that question.
Q - Just think if everybody could take that course. Wouldn't the world be a better place?
A - Yeah. Well, it was a course about love.
Q - What kind of a 'live' music scene did Boston have when you were growing up?
A - I was born into a wealthy family and grew up in Cambridge (Massachusetts) and my father was a headmaster at Browne and Nichols School. My mother was a classical pianist. She took me to the symphony as a kid. I used to go to the Jazz workshop in Boston a lot and listen to people like Coltrane, Art Blakey and all these people. I liked Jazz. Then there was a club in Boston called The Boston Tea Party where I saw like Led Zeppelin and Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart. I was a big fan of Brian Wilson, The Byrds, and all those people. So, I'd go into that club. I actually played in a three piece band called Butter. We played The Tea Party doing like Who songs. Steve Winwood gave me a pick once onstage.
Q - Before I ask you about Butter, you actually saw Led Zeppelin in a club setting? That's amazing, isn't it?
A - Yeah. And Butter backed up Chuck Berry one time too.
Q - That's impressive. Was this Tea Party a big club?
A - Yeah. It was like an acid ballroom in those days, back in '67.
Q - Probably a 1,000 seat ballroom?
A - Yeah.
Q - Was Butter the group you toured Europe with?
A - No. I don't know how long we stayed together. Rick Schlosser ended up playing drums on "Avenging Annie". Then we recorded that record "Records Are Like Life", which was recorded in Winchester or something. That '72 record we recorded in Massachusetts with John Nagee and I was signed by Clive Davis. I actually met Arif Martin at Berkeley early in my life and ended up working with him on two albums in the '70s which was the "Resolution" album and "Shiver In The Night". Doyle was playing on both of those. Mark toured with me for two years around the nation with Gary Link. Frank De Fonda played and Rick Schlesser played. People like that played. We toured for two years in the '70s.
Q - How did Mark Doyle enter the picture? Did you see him in Syracuse?
A - No. Actually this guy Rick Mendelsohn, who came from Syrause, he's an engineer and then Mark Came down and played two Bowie covers and then I got together with him and we did all the demos from the "Resolution" (album) in a place called Northern Studios outside Boston.
Q - Did Columbia Records do a good job promoting your records?
A - They did get behind me for awhile, but then Clive Davis got into political difficulty at Columbia. I think they didn't back me as much because of that. I was his baby and it was all kind of competitive within the company. There's a book called Hit Me that talks about all that.
Q - I read that book too.
A - I did a three week tour after the Columbia record. I had John Scofield in my band. This guy, Russell Walden was my keyboard player. He went on to become Judy Collins' musical director for many years. So, I was hooked up with those people when I was young and they went on to do this stuff. That was a three week tour and then the band broke up. In '75 and '76 Doyle came into the picture. We toured and he was a great guitar player, his solos and he plays Jazz piano. he's great. It's my whole life in this stuff.
Q - Roger Daltrey recorded "Avenging Annie".
A - Yeah, but my version is better than Roger's.
Q - Were you in the studio when he recorded it?
A - I wasn't there. He was over in England. Daltrey was real critical of my singing. He was an arrogant Englishman. (laughs) Actually, Pete Townshend sent me a Facebook message years later saying he really liked "Avenging Annie" and he was the main guy in The Who. Daltrey was just the singer.
Q - In 1987 you moved to Europe and you returned to Boston in 2004. What were you doing in Europe all those years?
A - I was a missionary in Europe.
Q - So, you removed yourself from the music business then?
A - Actually I did a lot of Gospel music for them.
Q - I assume you came back with a new perspective on the music business?
A - Yeah. I came back to Boston. I played in a band with Sal Baglio and drummer Tommy Hambridge.
Q - What are you doing these days?
A - Sometimes I play tennis. I'm now married. We have a grandson.
Q - Weren't you living in Nashville for awhile?
A - My wife and I got married down there. I was living in Nashville for awhile.
Q - That's supposed to be the place to be for songwriters.
A - Nashville is a music industry town and it's really hard to get anywhere. I had recorded stuff and they said I had to re-record it with a really strong singer and you have to pay more money to get a chance to get in the door with these people. So, I kind of gave up on that. We lived there for maybe two months or three months.
Q - If a guy like you, with a name, who's established, can't break through in Nashville, how can someone who's 18 or 19 years old hope to break into the music business down there?
A - What I did in Nashville was record this album called "New Resolution" with this Rock guy, John Billings. In Nashville they have open mic nights. One night I go to this place and this famous singer comes in, 'cause songwriting is the big thing in Nashville. This guy who has written hits comes in and they closed down the open mic and the guy gets totally drunk and sings a couple of songs. He's hot shit 'cause he's a Nashville songwriter. This guy told me there's four hundred song pluggers in Nashville. (laughs) Anyway, it was a nice place to be for awhile.
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