Andy McGhee and Could It Be
Visit Andy McGhee Part 1
Andy McGhee was back in Boston in fall 1966, off the road after three years of bus rides with Woody Herman’s orchestra. Count Basie heard he was available and offered him a job, but McGhee declined. McGhee, with a family to support, wanted to stay home.
Fortunately, a door opened for McGhee, and the man holding it was Lawrence Berk. It was the door at 1140 Boylston Street, the brand-new home of the Berklee School (not yet college) of Music. Just inside that door was McGhee’s old friend from the late 1940s, Charlie Mariano.
Exit Charlie Mariano, Enter Andy McGhee
Mariano was teaching at Berklee, but he was tired of it—so tired he planned to quit immediately, rather than wait until the end of the fall term. Where, in mid-semester, could Berk find a suitably qualified instructor to replace him? Charlie himself recommended Andy McGhee, an opinion seconded by Andy’s bandmate with Woody Herman, Phil Wilson. Wilson told me, “They were in different orbits musically by then, but Charlie loved Andy. Those were big shoes to fill, though. The students respected Charlie. He spoke from the heart, and he spoke the truth.” Big shoes or no, Berk hired Andy.
McGhee’s immediate challenge was to get settled. He told the Boston Globe’s Bob Blumenthal in 2002: “I wasn’t worried about my playing when I got home. I was worried about getting my kids through college, and about all the dues my wife had paid while I was on the road. The transition was easy because Charlie had all of the top players in his ensemble. My problem was proving myself to the best students.”
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