Sweet Sweet Music spoke with Andy Cahan, The Most Famous Musician You’ve Never Heard Of.
Was there a specific reason to write the book or was the time right now?
I had noticed that I had collected every single calendar, photograph, contract, letter, postcard, sticker, button, and flyer from my music career since 1960. And I said to myself, I can build a coffee table book. With thousands of photographs. And, of course, Every Picture Tells a Story.
Did you know which stories you wanted to tell before you even started? I can imagine if you start digging you will find stories that you may have forgotten? Which story came first? Maybe you share a bit on how the book came about?
Well, I knew I wanted to write about working with Little Richard and Chuck Berry as the music director for the Grammys in 1973. But then I also wanted to write about sitting at Ringo’s house with Harry Nilsson playing the guitar and all three of us were singing Don’t Pass Me By. I just went chronological and started from 1963 making monster movies and then the Beatles came out in 64 and of course, I wanted to be a Beatle.
The music industry is constantly changing. What was the most impactful change in your career?
For a dozen years, I was the demo doctor, making demos for people, singers, and songwriters. They would come to my living room and I would sequins and program and record them on Pro Tools. I was able to edit the tracks and adjust the pitch of their out-of-tune vocals so they sounded really Pro. Then everybody went to the Guitar Center and bought their own setup and made their own demos. So it basically put me out of business. I consider that to be a big impact on my career.
You introduced yourself to me as Andy from The Turtles. Probably because SweetSweetMusic blogs about Power Pop? You have a couple of other options as well
Well, besides The Turtles, I recorded and toured with Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Frank Zappa, dr. John, Jimmy Webb, Seals and Croft, John Bonham, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Cropper, Ray Bolger, Billy Bob Thornton, and many many more.
Which story or anecdote from your book best summarizes your experience of being a musician?
There are so many to choose from but I have one really good one. I was on the road with The Turtles opening up for the Jefferson Starship. It was 1975 and the Red Octopus album was just released. Flo & Eddie would do satire and comedy in the show. At this time, George Harrison was on the road with the Dark Horse tour. That’s when he lost his voice. So Mark Volman did a funny skit playing My Sweet Lord pretending he was George losing his voice. Then Howard Kaylan pointed at me and said: ‘Take it, Billy!’. Marty Balin was on the stage with us watching the show and he became my assistant during the skit. I had to put on a gigantic afro wig on top of my long hair and then I had to put on these humongous movie star sunglasses. Then I would play Nothing from Nothing by Billy Preston. The 75,000 people in the stadium cheered and applauded. So I ran to the front of the stage and held up the peace sign with both hands. That is definitely a highlight of being a musician.
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