Producer Crosstalk: Andy Cahan

Musician and producer Andy Cahan has dedicated more than 60 years of his life to music. He dove into the business in the early '60s—he was only 15 at the time—and in the early '70s was a member of the Turtles. He produced a number of records early in his career and went on to work with Ringo Starr, Jimi Hendrix and Little Richard, among many others. With more than half a century of industry experience, the inveterate rocker has amassed a vast knowledge and countless treasured memories. His stories were so varied and illuminating that he felt compelled to share them in his book The Most Famous Musician You’ve Never Heard Of, which was published in early 2020.

In the late '60s, Cahan moved to California and took a gofer gig with Pulsar Records. Just two weeks after, Graham Bond—of the Graham Bond Organisation—invited him to a recording session that included Jimi Hendrix, Lowell George and Jack Casady of Jefferson Airplane. Dr. John went on the road and invited him along. Such were the auspicious beginnings of his lifelong calling.

With six decades of experience in the music industry, Cahan continues to apply the many lessons he’s learned to production. “I’m 75 years old and I’ve been there and done that,” he observes. “A lot of television, albums, touring and hanging out with the best of the best. I’ve got a good schooling in studio work. I love production because you’re painting a picture; you’re designing a song. I’m a strong believer in analog recording using two-inch tape. Digital is really good for post-production. When you record a band in analog, though, it saturates to tape and you get this rich, warm, thick sound. It’s hard to get that with digital.”

One relatively recent development that Cahan has never warmed to is the virtual disappearance of physical mediums. Certainly he’s not alone in his mourning of the loss of records. “In the good old days, I had a record company called Panda Records and I sold vinyl,” he recollects. “Back then, when you sold a record, it was a physical item you could hold. But now with everything being a digital download, I just can’t see how anyone makes any money. I have my original music on YouTube Music and use a service called DistroKid [to push it to other sites]. I remember once I got a royalty for $1.25 for something like 31,000 views of my song ‘Late Bloomer.’ It’s not fair.”

In 2017 Cahan was sifting through his voluminous archives, which contained old pictures, T-shirts, articles and the like. He assembled a rock & roll scrapbook from it all, decided to share his musical odyssey with the world and published his collection in the book The Most Famous Musician You've Never Heard Of. “I’m very excited about it,” he says. “Last November I did a signing at the Grammy Museum. One of my favorite stories from it is of the time that Harry Nilsson and I went to Ringo Starr’s house. We’d just finished recording some children’s stories that Ringo narrated in my living room. I started to play one of his guitars and the three of us broke into [the Starr-penned Beatles song] ‘Don’t Pass Me By.’ That was an amazing event just to be singing with those two.” 

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