Editorial by: Mark Wheeler - TNT UK
Published: March 2015
Andrew Andy Fraser was one of the co-founders of Free when he was just 15 years old. Coming from London he was not part of the famous West Midlands blues based heavy rock scene of the late 60s and 70s, but handy for the local
blues explosion luminaries. Intruced to John Mayall by another British blues legend Alexis Korner, aged 15, Fraser began playing in the British blues-rock nursery that was John Mayall's the Bluesbreakers.
Playing in this group taught the groove to many luminaries including Eric Clapton and Mick Taylor. Andy had been playing classical piano from the age of 5 until he was 12 when he added guitar and began playing in London's Afro-Caribbean clubs. The piano remained in the family home and was where he composed numbers like Heavy Load.
"I have since come to appreciate all the theory that was drilled into me, and the understanding of how all music, all chords, all keys are related, and once I reached the stage where I found music a means for expression, having all that experience behind me, made things a lot easier", Fraser opined last year.
"I got some first hand experience with R&B, blues, ska and soul, from guys who were at least 10 years older than me. I remember playing all night clubs in the east end of London", he added.
After a short sojourn with the Bluesbreakers Alexis Korner helped Fraser unite with vocalist Paul Rodgers, guitarist Paul Kossoff and drummer Simon Kirke to form Free. Andy Fraser produced and co-wrote many of their songs including their biggest hit, All Right Now. It made number 1 hit in over 20 national charts and has had over a million airplays. Free' other hits, My Brother Jake and The Stealer. He also wrote Little Bit of love.
Alexis Korner championed Free from the early days, they opened for his band and he told everyone on the London blues scene about them. After leaving Free, Fraser formed Sharks with vocalist Snips (later Baker Gurvitz Army), guitarist Chris Spedding with drummer, Marty Simon. Critically successful, but a commercial flop, Fraser left after their 1973 debut album, First Water.
Free split in 1972 when Paul Rogers formed Bad Company with Mott the Hoople's Mick Ralphs and
Paul 'Koss' Kossoff forming Back Street Crawler (who your old scribe saw at Wolverhampton Civic Hall of all places). In 1984, Fraser released another album Fine, Fine Line which featured ex-Back Street Crawler drummer Tony Braunagel.
When Koss died, Andy received a note from his father, actor, David Kossoff, blaming him for his son's death.
Fraser never found out why and David Kossoff never mentioned it in any of the interviews he undertook to campaign against drug abuse. Paul Kossoff's death had a profound effect on Andy who had watched his friend embark on a path of self-destruction like his hero Jimi Hendrix, and even dragged him away from drug fuelled episodes and kept him away from supplies for days.
Fraser moved to California for the sunshine where he worked with Robert Palmer among others. His songs have been covered by artists as diverse as Joe Cocker, Frankie Miller, Robert Palmer, Chaka Khan, Ted Nugent, Wilson Pickett, Lulu, Paul Young, Rod Stewart, Randy Crawford, Bob Seger, Joan Jett, Michael J. Fox and Etta James.
In California, Andy Fraser's life became blighted by a daily Heavy Load of back pain, which trasnpired to be Kaposi's Sarcoma (cancer). He had 29 treatment cycles before its return each time.
He contracted AIDS too and it gave him new impetus that aware there was no more time to waste. He continued working on music projects which can be found at his website.
The best rock music is always built on a swinging bass groove, rather than staccato crotchets, creating impetus, and in that Andy Fraser was The Mover.
To audiophiles he is still relevent as one of those who defined the sound and production of blues-rock recordings, attempting to create a live feel with the individual character of particular instruments shining through. His melodic bass playing combined a musicality with an infectious groove that always left space for the band. Now Andy Fraser has time dangle his feet in the Wishing Well.
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