Chapter 6 FB: So, you were with Woody for 2 and half 3 years and then there was another crossroads in your life. Where you were gonna settle down and teach here in Boston or were you gonna go on the road with another great band? Why don't you tell us about that? AMG: Yeah. We were in San Francisco and I'll never forget it. We just left Chicago. And we were going West and San Francisco and Woody gave me a raise. Yeah he gave me a raise. When we got to San Francisco his agent said we were going to State Department tour. State Department. And I looked at the itinerary after the State Department we were going back to the West Coast. To make a long story... the way it was set up I wouldn't get to see my family for maybe about 4 or 5 months. The way the itinerary was set up. But the reason I was worrying about that was because I figured some of the places I could send for them or you know. But, I had an agreement with Woody about when I left the country the finances would change and what not. You know that was the agreement with him: when I go to Europe or something like that my money would increase a certain amount of money. When you go to the State Department they give you a residual. (FB: A what?) A residual. (FB: Oh ok.) (mumblings) I knew about it a lot of guys didn't know. Those musicians they’re nice guys, but some of ‘em business wise they don't know what's going on. But, I knew about that. I knew that the government was gonna give us more money. He'd say that's it. That's the residual that’s it. That's the more you get. I don't know I was kinda thinkin’ I had been thinkin’ anyway, I had just been down the street and heard Coltrane... and I was thinkin’ so I started to say to myself we were having this bus problem in Boston. The bus problem and all that stuff. And I just started thinking you know I said, I had been way out here for about 10 years are so. And my wife… I got 2 kids and she's still fightin’ you know. She's tellin’ me about the problems in schools and I said, I think I'll quit. I don’t want to…That's it. That's a long time. And since Abe he went to, he was clever about his answers you know with me you know. He said, “oh Nat get rid of him.” Anyway, so I just quit. I just put my notice in and left. That's it. And of course Woody was kinda withdrawn in a way. He was a nice man. But I let... I just told him... you know we were going to England and then C Santana joined the band and I told Woody not to worry about the two week notice ‘cause Sal was in Sweden and that he could get Sal to join around the band in England. And he said, “ok.” And I came home. And that's it. But the part that was difficult for me, it wasn't that difficult, but after I had been home for a week, two weeks I get a telegram from Willie Alexander from the Count Basie band asking me if I was interested in joinin’ the band in Florida. They left me a number if I was interested call this number and confirm it. FB: Willie Alexander booked all the bands so they knew who was with who. They knew you left Woody. AMG: Yeah. They know they know. FB: Ahhh. AMG: Funny thing with how those agents funny thing man, there was kind of a funny deal going. Me, Sal, and Frank Foster. Sal went with Basie and we were kinda bouncin’ around. Those guys know who does what you know. And of course I had Bobby Playder. Robert Playder was lead there and Lockjaw. They knew me. They’ve had ???. (FB:???) No Lockjaw, Eddie Davis. (FB: Oh Lockjaw Lockjaw sorry.) So Lockjaw was probably saying ??? "Andy, he can't play my stuff anyway." And so I got a telegram to join Basie's band. And I gave it a little thought. I said to my wife "I always wanted to play with this band, what do you think?" She said, "I'm not touching it." She said, "I'm not gonna sit here and you lookin’ at the television sayin’ I could have been there." She was clever. That did it. I didn't even reverse charges. I called Willie Alexander and thanked him and told him that I couldn't do it. But it was kind of a hard decision. By the way she responded, very negative, not negative very open. Sayin’, "No you do whatever." And that did it. I think if I’d thought about it longer I would have gone. Just the expression on her face when she said that, that's it. I said nah. FB: So big decisions come down to phone call or no phone call you know what I mean? AMG: Yep. FB: And you don't regret it. AMG: Oh no. I started working with the organ group. No, I didn't regret it. Once I make a decision man I try not to look back on it. Even today I don’t try to second guess myself. The older you get the better you get at it. FB: Yeah. Or you just can't bare to look back sometimes. I've been in those positions where you know I made a bad decision. I bite my lip and say, "I've got to move on." Don't even think about it, it's past. AMG: That's right. Well of course I had a good reason to look ... My kids are growin’ up in school and I had to get my daughters in ??? and Brookline High. So I had to that to think about too. And I kinda put that moment over my career right then. Because 10 years out there, you know switchin’ from one place to another. So that was it. So I worked…What I did I donated an hour of my time in South End Music School. To start a little jazz band. So, they gave me a couple of hours of teaching. Very little money. But I started this little... you know one of the guys that came in one time and sat in and brought a trumpet player ???. (FB: Really? George?) George. I had a little band over there. And Mr. Berk heard about it and he gave me some music and I had these, South End Music School on Rutland…and Gazone came over and brought a trumpet player. I couldn't keep it up because I couldn't afford the family. But out of all that I got a job all new music school in Newton. I was doing alright. I was workin’ with the organ group. Good organ group. I was teachin’ at all new music school. Everything was doin’ alright. FB: But now Larry Berk knew about you? AMG: Well, I'm tryin to figure out how did he… they found out I needed some music. They told me to go in the library and pick anything I wanted. (FB: Nice!) Well, Larry's a genius he's a smart man you know. I can't remember unless I asked him for it, I can't remember if I did or not... Anyway, they gave me some music and of course when the summer broke up that kinda faded away. FB: So you had like 3 horn charts right? AMG: No no no I had 3 saxophone players. Then, Gazon came in just for a while. Then I had the one little trumpet player. No, I was just playin regular band stuff. Yeah you know. I was gonna try to write something, but it was just somethin’ to get it started. And I had a good rhythm section. Anyway, The guy name was Novak. He was head of the place. He introduced me to the lady at the….the Swiss lady Gamature I never could pronounce it correctly. She was head of Newton Music School and she hired me to teach out there. So I was teaching out there on Fridays and doing organ group and things… FB: So you were there for what a couple years? AMG: Up until… no no no…Until Charlie recommended me to Berklee. Charlie got ready to leave. Mr. Berk... John was well they were debating whether...John didn’t want Charlie to….because Charlie was leaving in the middle of a semester. FB: Yeah you said he was getting antsy. Couldn't wait to get out on the road again. AMG: Yeah Charlie couldn’t…That teaching was getting’ to Charlie. And Charlie... but he couldn't wait ‘til the end of the semester. Mr. Berk loved Charlie. Like he…Mr. Berk loved all the players. There's nothing I can say more greater than what a pleasure of meeting Larry Berk. He say, "Well Charlie you got to get somebody with some kind of experience, background that you have..." He said, "I got the man. Andy McGee." FB: He had known you for 20 years. AMG: Yeah. We'd known each other for 20 years. FB: From the conservatory days. AMG: Yeah. When I first came here. Of course, he was at the jam session at Wally's with us. Charlie said, “Andy.” So Mr. Berk said, “Ok.” After… then I talked to Bob Share. FB: Bob Share? AMG: Yeah I talked to Bob Share and then I talked to Mr. Berk later. FB: Bob Share wow, he was a beautiful guy. AMG: Yeah. I talked with him and then I talked with Charlie. That was nice. Charlie man…That was great for me to get a little settled because I was getting’ sick of the organ group too. FB: So here you were you were settled in Boston, you had your family growing up. And you had a teaching gig at Berklee. You were set. AMG: Yeah I was set. I was workin’ hourly. And then I got…What happened at Berklee. After I got there at Berklee, I met John Laporta. I took Charlie's place, and Charlie had all ensembles. So, I had hours of bands. I had at least 6 bands. (FB: Whoa.) (mumblings) (FB: Like ABCDE) No, I had the weird band, I had a small band, which was a 9 piece with music by Tony Teixeira ... FB: Oh sure. I remember seeing that band. AMG: I had that band. Tony wrote the music for that band. And then I had a jazz ensemble with Richard Cole, Tony Germaine, Grossman (FB: Steve Grossman?) not Steve his brother, Hal Grossman, a good drummer I can't think of his name right now. I had that group. And then another band. FB: What was the weird band? AMG: Who were they? FB: Well yeah ok. AMG: They were… it was a band. It was a weird band. And they were weird too. It was kind of avant-garde type of music and stuff. I can't remember all the guys’ names. But It wasn't the (snaps fingers) thing, it was different. FB: And you jump right into this? You had this all set up Charlie left and you jumped in? AMG: Well yeah I had to. FB: Andy leaped in. AMG: You can put it that way, 'cause the guys in the weird band they looked at me strange you know. Well Charlie's you know Charlie’s big name and Charlie's strange too. Charlie’s just the opposite of me. Charlie will say, “Man that sucked” and he ... I'd say "Well that's not so good. " FB: You were a little more diplomatic. AMG: Diplomatic yeah. Charlie was different. But they were kinda strange. I was ambitious, you know how I ‘ll tell you how I got over with those guys. You know what I did? FB: No what? AMG: They were the best players in Berklee. They were all over, they were in different bands, Herb’s band and they were mixed, they were good players. I went and got ... they had some difficult music. I went in the library and got a Count Basie chart "Cute." (FB: Yeah Neal Hefti.) But man they…they started gigglin’. That arrangement was like a high school arrangement, I mean it’s a Basie arrangement, but it’s very easy. (FB: It's got those little pauses in it. It is easy, but it’s nice.) I know them cats, they were like... they were like man you gotta be kiddin’. I guess they assumed some heavy chops and things. FB: But you had a reason for that. AMG: Yeah. FB: Get their time right. AMG: They had trouble playin’ it. I knew that. FB: Yep, all those little pauses got to be right on the button. AMG: The tempo... The tempo. And I put it slower than what it was. So they were having trouble… They were laughin and gigglin until I said, “No”…and that way I kinda bail out of...but that was kind of a tough band. You know that was kind of scary I didn't know what to do with that. FB: I remember that. That was on the e=mc^2 album. Ernie Royal was playing lead I think on that. AMG: I don't know really. FB: Yeah, but that's a great great album. AMG: It's like a type of arrangement that all high school bands play. Anyway,.. FB: But that was a reality lesson for those guys. AMG: Yeah. And later… and they kinda started to give a little more respect. Later they wouldn't go to sleep as often. But after that there were so many... John Laporta called me and said, "Andy, man, I'd like for you to be in my department." (FB: Nice.) So that when I went into John Laporta's department I did all these courses… I did a bunch of his stuff and I cut down on the ensembles. Yeah yeah that was good. And I was able to get into another department, which was wonderful. You know Ted P's arranging department. I liked that. So I had a little more variety. Then Lennie Johnson… Then John Laporta brought Lennie Johnson in. FB: He was playing with Herb's band at the time. AMG: Yeah well he's been playing with Herb's band all the time. But, John’s the one that brought him in. (FB: Good.) He had been playing with Herb. Lennie’s been playin with Herb… Herb was… Lennie was doing some kind of a day job. But John Laporta's the one that brought him in. Then Jimmy Mosher came in. FB: Oh Jimmy yeah. AMG: But I was doing a lot of John's stuff. So that's the way that went. FB: Wow. AMG: After I did the John Laporta thing for a while I started gettin private students and I enjoyed that. And Joe Viola asked if I wanted to some in the woodwind department. And that's what I did.