Chapter 1 FB: We're continuing a series for the Berklee College library a sort of video history of a lot of the people in the Boston jazz and Berklee communities. We’re happy to have Mr. Andy McGee who was a staunch member of the Berklee faculty from 1966-1997. And had a long very career, playing his saxophone with several very prominent big bands including Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman, and uh well very recently with Jimmy Heath AMG: Yeah I just did some of Jimmy Heath's music. FB: And we were talking a little earlier and Andy was filling us in on some of his world travels and talking about his students and colleagues over the years. I don't know if we want to try to get a little bit of a chronological history here. Maybe you could just launch off by telling us a little bit about growing up in Wilmington, North Carolina with Jimmy Heath and Percy Heath as classmates. AMG: Actually I'm from Wilmington,North Carolina. And uh Jimmy Heath and I... Jimmy's older than I, of course Percy is the oldest of the Heath brothers. Jimmy and I started saxophone in high school band together, but Jimmy was 2 years older. So I knew Jimmy better than Percy. Percy was drafted was volunteered in the service. I don't know if you know it or not, but he was one of the first black pilots from Tuscegee. (FB:Wow.) Percy (mumbling) was a pilot so when he came to my hometown he was a big hero. Percy was born in Wilmington and Jimmy was born in Philidelphia with the rest of the family. But Jimmy and I are very tight. The interesting thing about it as long as we’ve been playing. Last year we got a chance to play together in Switzerland and we did his music. FB: He had a... The Heath Brothers band was one of my favorite bands in the 70s when he and Percy and kid brother Tootie (AMG: Tootie yeah.) on drums, they had a group with sometimes Tony Purrone on guitar. They made some wonderful albums of Jimmy's music, mostly Jimmy's music on Columbia. (AMG: Yeah. Right.) It was a high profile label and some really really good recordings. AMG: He's a Hell of a writer and we did this conservatory ???Free bird in Switzerland. They bought all of his arrangements. They rehearsed them a couple of months. They flew Jimmy over and they flew me over. And he conducted a band and I did some of the solos. Then the last day we did a dual two tenors. It was really very interesting and I enjoyed it. FB: Perhaps you could fill the people in on your first recollections in Boston. Did you first come to Boston as a student? At the Conservatory? AMG: Yeah I came to the conservatory as a student in 1945. FB: Had you done any wartime activity? You didn't do any service. AMG: Yes. I did. FB: Ok. AMG: What happened was I was at the conservatory and I was deferred until I graduated. In ‘49 I graduated. ‘50 in the army. FB: Off to Korea? AMG: Well yeah I ended up in Korea, but I first went to ??? woods, and they transferred me to ??? in New Jersey. ??? background and I became instructor at the band training union in New Jersey until it became complicated and they found out that some guys were there longer than they should and so they sent everybody out that had been there over a year and I had been there so they sent me to Korea. FB: You want to tell us a little bit about your student years studying with Sam Marcus in the big band at the conservatory at the time? AMG: Yeah well Sam Marcus was my first saxophone teacher. And they had… most of the academics were classical oriented only we did have an arranging program. But the rest was solfege, composition, and I mean conducting that was it. And then at the end of the year they would give a concert doing popular music a lot of Glen Miller stuff and what not. That was it, but Sam was my first teacher. FB: Did you make any connections on the side around town? Did you do any gigging with the local people? AMG: Well no, not really, here and there. Basically I was working hard to just get out of there you know. But we played the same old thing that's happening now. We had sessions at Wally’s ???. (FB: Oh man.) Jam sessions. FB: Oh wow. That's started back up in the 40s. AMG: Oh yeah yeah yeah yeah jam sessions on Sundays. FB: Whoa was Wally himself was down there in those days. AMG: Oh yeah sure, he was definitely down there. When he got tired of hearing us he'd throw us out and then we'd come back. FB: Who were some of the guys around town do you remember any of the guys you played with there? AMG: Well we didn't play, there was a lot of heavy guys around town. Gigi Gryce, Sam Rivers, Jackie Byard Allen Dawson, Charlie Mariano FB: Jimmy Tyler? AMG: No not Jimmy, what was his name? I'm trying to think of some of the drummers. Of course, Nat Pierce was around. Piano player, the trumpet player ... I'm trying to think I can't remember. FB: You mentioned some people with some pretty long Berklee connections there. AMG: Yeah well, basically Berklee had just started in '45. FB: That's right. They were here on Newbury Street with Schillinger House that was just starting. (AMG: Right right.) Herb Pomeroy and John Laporta were there pretty near the beginning right? AMG: I think so, I didn't really know ‘em. FB: That wasn't your scene yet. AMG: No, I hadn't... but I heard about Joe Viola as a saxophonist a teacher, from my buddy Pearson? that was a fine alto clarinet player who studied with Joe. And of course his brother I heard about him, Tony. Tony Viola, because he's a tenor player. But actually I didn't really have any connections then. FB: Ok. After Fort Dicks and Korea were you back in town? Did you come back to Boston? AMG: Yeah after I was discharged and came back. Well I was married and I had a… I was married. I came back to Boston yeah. FB: Is that...you see fat man Robinson here, was that in Boston? AMG: Yeah yeah. What happened was I came back I got out of the army and then my first gig was ... well I was just freelancing more or less freelancing. And I was teaching a little bit. I had a few students.