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RIP Andy McGhee

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
#1
You Gotta Be Able to Do It

Professor Emeritus Andy McGhee
Phil Farnsworth
Seated in his office at the 1140 Boylston Street building, Professor Emeritus Andy McGhee takes out a faded, crumbling piece of yellowed paper. It’s a telegram addressed to the saxophonist that reads, “Please call PL1-7070, Area code 212 regarding your availability for Count Basie Orchestra.”

This telegram, which the fit, 78-year-old McGhee intends to finally frame, is part of his lore. See, he had always recalled it arriving as early as 1965, before he changed course, moving off the road with the likes of Lionel Hampton and Woody Herman and taking up residence to teach at what was then Berklee School of Music. But examining it again reveals that the missive came late in 1966, and so after handling a couple of smaller local teaching gigs, McGhee was already at Berklee when the offer for the prestigious road gig with Basie came in. But McGhee elected to stay put.

Biggest decision of his life? “Oh, yeah,’’ says McGhee, clad in his trademark sweater on this cold January day. “I had a family, two daughters, and a wife. These were terrible times with the busing in Boston. My family lived in West Roxbury, and it was time for me to stay home.”

McGhee was part of a small crew of teaching musicians at Berklee, and he sometimes taught 35 hours a week. McGhee praises Berklee founder Larry Berk as “someone who cared for you as a musician and as a human being.” He recalls Berk asking him if he rented his house and advising him to buy rather than throw money out the window. “Larry was a good businessperson who had a passion for music,” says McGhee. “He was interested in ways I could make some money.” Berk also encouraged McGhee to write educational books.

At 17, McGhee came to Boston from North Carolina in 1945 to study at New England Conservatory of Music. This temporarily spared him from serving in the Armed Forces but in 1949, a year after his graduation, he was drafted. He played with the U.S. Army training band in New Jersey and later spent six months in Korea. He married his wife, Constance, in 1950 and returned to Boston in 1952 to play with a variety of outfits—sometimes seven nights a week—working primarily with a group led by Fat Man Robinson. From there, it was on to the Lionel Hampton and Woody Herman bands. “The best part about playing with Lionel,” says McGhee, “was that he taught me that once you came to the bandstand, you played your best whether there were 50,000 or five people out there.”

McGhee says that Woody Herman heard him play eight bars and decided to bring him into his band. He did not consider race an issue, which unfortunately it often was back then. Herman, in fact, told McGhee (the only African American in his band at the time) that if he encountered any racial issues when they were on the road, he should bring them to his attention. There were only two times it happened, and Herman dealt promptly with the issues on both occasions.

Asked to recall some of his students at Berklee, McGhee mentions Greg Osby, Javon Jackson, Bill Pierce, Matt Marvuglio, Jaleel Shaw, Walter Beasley, Antonio Hart, Tim Price, Ralph Moore, and others. “There are so many,” he says. “I’m proud of them all.” McGhee has kept a few letters from former students, including one from Tim Price thanking him for “kicking my backside.’’

Read more: https://www.berklee.edu/berklee-today/spring-2006/faculty-profile/andy-mcghee
 

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
#2
Asked to recall some of his students at Berklee, McGhee mentions Greg Osby, Javon Jackson, Bill Pierce, Matt Marvuglio, Jaleel Shaw, Walter Beasley, Antonio Hart, Tim Price, Ralph Moore, and others. “There are so many,” he says. “I’m proud of them all.” McGhee has kept a few letters from former students, including one from Tim Price thanking him for “kicking my backside.’’

So many names I recognize.
 
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