Guest Blog – Musician Andrew Kastner: his early years / his friendship with Peter Green and the up-coming release of “The Act Featuring Peter Green – Live from the Boston Tea Party 1970”
Richard Orlando: As for so many musicians, The Beatles’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show put Andrew Kastner on the path to a career in music
Andrew Kastner: My mom came from a musical creative family in Germany and so I think it was in my DNA.
I played Piano for a year in Elementary school and then Violin the next year and then Trumpet for 2 years.
I liked the sound of those instrument’s but I wasn’t that passionate about it. Just taking lessons after school thing
and feeling pretty bored about it and then everything changed when I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan.
I started playing the guitar the day after I saw their first appearance.
I had been jumping from instrument to instrument so I don’t think my mom trusted me anymore and though I pleaded for her to buy me a guitar she wouldn’t have it. So, she made a deal with me.
She said, “if you learn one song on a ukulele, I will get you a guitar. So, I learned “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean”. I can remember sitting down and playing for her. She was impressed with my follow through more than my playing abilities so the next day she and I went down to the little music store in Newton center Mass, and she rented me an acoustic guitar and signed me up for lessons.
I was back in that grind. Lessons were too boring for me. I wanted to be like the Beatles. So, I quit. That didn’t go over well with her but somehow, I told her that I was going to get an electric guitar. She said I would have to pay for it myself. So I took my life savings of $99 to Sears and Roebuck and bought a Silvertone guitar that came in a case that doubled as an amplifier.
My dad took one look at how cheap it looked and he made me return it. He took me to the big music store in Boston, E.U. Wurlitzers and matched my savings. I walked away with a 1963 Gibson Melody Maker and a 1963 Fender Princeton Amp. Not a bad combination for a beginner. I was on the moon.
A week or so later I saw a band playing at my Junior High School auditorium at the battle of the bands. They were called “The Silvertones”. I met them back stage and asked them if they needed another guitarist. They promptly asked me, “Do you have a guitar”. I did, so I was in. It didn’t matter if I could play or not. That was it.
I was in a band and I couldn’t play a note. We just sat down with records and tried to figure it all out. It wasn’t easy. In fact, I had a terrible ear. My mom helped me. I went from listening to the Beatles and all the British band to listening to the British guitarists like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Peter Green, which lead me to B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Freddie King, Albert King, Muddy Waters and then the R & B guitar players, Steve Cropper, Cornell Dupree and some of the jazz guys.
The guys in my band and I started writing songs right away, (laughing) they weren’t very good, but we tried.
Mostly we played Stones, Beatles and British band songs. When I turned 18 I moved to Boston and started seeing all the great bands and Blues musicians at clubs like, Where it’s At, The Unicorn Coffee House, the Boston Tea Party and the Psychedelic Supermarket.
I not only saw all the great musicians but I got to hang out with some as well. At that point I was primarily into Blues.
R.O.: In 1969 Kastner formed a band called “The Act” and Natalie Cole became their lead singer.
Natalie was going to college in Amherst, Massachusetts; we were living in Newton at the time and my brother met Natalie and asked if she wanted a band to back her up, and she said yes. We had a pretty smokin’ little Blues and R & B band called “The Act”. She like us so she joined and we would do gigs out in Amherst where she was attending the University of Mass.
That lasted a year or so and I just stayed in Boston and played gigs with my band.
R.O.: Even with a career as long and varied as his, Andrew Kastner’s time hosting Peter Green at in a house in the woods in South Berwick, Maine in 1970, remains a special memory.
A.K.: I thought Fleetwood Mac was one of the best bands I had seen, and I had seen everybody, pretty much.
I met Peter in 1968 the first time they played at the Boston Tea Party. After a couple of sets my brother Stanley and I were walking through the club when Peter walked by us. Stanley bravely said to Peter, “Hey, my brother has a Les Paul too.”
I had a 1952 gold Les Paul at the time. Peter turned around and said, “Oh, that’s cool…you wanna come to the hotel and hang out?”
So, we followed Peter to his hotel and I remember pretty vividly sitting in his hotel room. He was so easy going, witty and funny. We became friends so every time he came to Boston to play, I would go hang out with him. One time he and I went to see BB King play. Backstage BB told me that Peter played his style better than anyone he had ever heard.
In 1970 Peter quit Fleetwood Mac. I got wind of it and called him in London on a fluke asked him if would fancy coming to Maine for a play with my band?” To my utter surprise he said sure. So, a few weeks later on Sept 16, 1970 I drove to Logan airport and picked up him, his suitcase, his Sunburst Les Paul and his Six String Fender Bass.
We drove a couple hours to South Berwick Maine where my band was living in a house in the woods and every day we just jammed. I don’t even remember how long we were there…it could have been a month. I don’t think it was more than a month.
Our drummer was Richard Ponte; he was a great drummer.
Steve Aiello played Hammond B-3, I played guitar and Frank Welch was the bass player. The house was Steve Aiello’s parents’ summer house.
It was an amazing experience not only to play with Peter but to get to know him outside of the touring world of a musician.
We gave Peter a Dual Showman amp and he played his Sunburst Les Paul and a six string Fender Bass.
We mostly played these long, one-chord jams where Peter would lead the way. I was pretty young guitar player at the time so I was mostly trying to stay out of Peter’s way and just absorb his amazing playing. Peter took us on a musical journey and we just followed him.
I remember one time we ventured down to Boston and did a couple gigs. One at the Cambridge YMCA and another on Oct 12, 1970 at the Boston Tea Party. I have a tape of that concert and I am about to release it as an album called “The Act Featuring Peter Green Live from the Boston Tea Party 1970”. Hard to believe that it was 50 years ago.
I also have one tape of us jamming at the house. The Boston Tea Party recording, in my opinion has some of the best free form Peter Green playing on record.
R.O.: When asked about what he can remember of Green’s disposition and mood at that time, Kastner recalls,
A.K.: In terms of his mental condition he seemed pretty normal to me. I would say his mood was reflective, sometimes melancholy. Sometimes joyful.
He would sit around deep in thought, kind of daydreaming a lot. He had a great sense of humor.
I remember one time, he was sitting on a stoop, with his Les Paul, it wasn’t plugged in, he was just playing and I asked him what he was doing and he said he was jamming with the birds in the trees. They’d sing something and he tried and he would play them back a lick on guitar.”
R.O.: Imagine Saint Francis of Assisi with an unplugged Les Paul
A.K.: I do remember Peter and I went into the town of South Berwick one day, and we picked up a newspaper and we read that Jimi Hendrix had died. Peter was really saddened by that; he told me he was hanging out with Jimi just a couple of weeks before in London and it hit him pretty hard. This really saddened him.
After a while Peter headed up to Goddard College in Vermont to hang out with a girl he met on the road. And then I didn’t see Peter again until 1997 when he came to LA on tour with Nigel Watson.
R.O.: Peter would continue traveling across the United States, playing with friends, some of whom he worked with before, and others, like Andrew Kastner, that he had only recently met.
Perhaps because of how well Green’s stay had worked out, when Nigel Watson phoned Kastner a year later, he was open to hosting him as well,
A.K.: Nigel Watson called me in 1972, said he was a friend of Peter’s and he wanted to come to Boston and could he stay with me and I said sure, and Nigel flew to Boston and he stayed with me for a year!” we played music and lived in Boston and Maine and got into a lot of trouble. But that’s another story.
One thing I do remember is that Nigel came over with two of Peter Greens guitars. His 1957 Stratocaster and his old Dobro. Peter was that kind of person.
In 1973 I moved to Santa Fe to play music, then back to Maine and then I moved to L.A. in 1974. I got my first big gig with Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra in 1975 and traveled the world with him for one year.
I will never forget my first gig with Barry because on the plane from Los Angeles to London I sat next to this cute girl and she and I hit it off. I asked her to accompany me at the gig which was at the Royal Albert Hall in London. This cute girl was Carrie Fisher.
Barry White was a really tough guy to work for but that’s another story.
In 1975 Natalie Cole had a big hit record called “This Will Be”. I hadn’t seen her since 1971 but I was curious so I went to one of her gigs in L.A. Somehow, I got a note to her and she got me backstage. She gave me a big hug and I immediately said, “Natalie, I hate Barry White, you should hire me. Strangely she didn’t have a guitar player in her band.
A few weeks later I got the call and I went on the road and toured the globe with Natalie for two years.”
“All during my career I never stopped writing songs and after leaving Natalie, in ’78, I got a publishing deal with Warner Chappell. I was starting to get my songs cut by the likes of Chaka Khan and Nicolette Larson and different people.”
R.O.: Kastner teamed with Larry John McNally and the first song that they wrote was cut by Aaron Neville.
A.K.: Larry came out to L.A. and we started a duo called Kastner / McNally and we just hit the streets, we did all the auditions, in record company offices and we did everything we could to get a record deal.
R.O.: In 1980 Andrew started Jack Mack and the Heart Attack.
A renowned LA based Soul Band that stayed together for 40 years. And that was when things really began to take off for Kastner; signing to Irving Azoff’s Full Moon Records / Warner Bros. Records their first LP was produced by Glenn Frey.
Kastner remains a creative force, working in music, television and film as a musician, composer, performer, musical director, record producer, music supervisor, graphic designer, writer, video producer and editor.
In addition to working on the release of “The Act Featuring Peter Green” Live from the Boston Tea Party 1970”, Andrew Kastner is currently at work on a book about his life and the above provides a small taste of what you can expect from that –
For even more amazing stories, subscribe to Andrew Kastner’s YouTube channel Rock Talk TV https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBfw6SsWU1vliFGbnRvHJDw where he posts interviews of musicians telling their stories of playing with some of the most iconic artists of all time.
R.O.: I would like to thank Andrew Kastner for taking the time to answer my questions about his career and his time with Peter Green