MCA/Universal music executive Andy McKaie has died, aged 76, following a 17-year struggle with Parkinson's disease. Andy established a significant reissue program of material by blues, rock, jazz and country artists, from the Motown, Mercury, and Island labels and, most significantly, the Chess imprint which had become part of the MCA/Universal catalogue following a series of take-overs and buy-outs. He meticulously catalogued and reissued the music of the great blues giants at Chess: Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Little Walter, Jimmy Rogers plus the soulful sides of Etta James and Bo Diddleyâ€™s magic music amongst many others. He won four Grammy Awards in the Historical Recordings category: for Chuck Berryâ€™s The Chess Box, Billie Holidayâ€™s The Complete Decca Recordings, Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: A Musical Journey and Little Walterâ€™s The Complete Chess Masters (1950 to 1967).
Following the publication of my Berry book, Long Distance Information
, Andy contacted me to help compile and produce a comprehensive release of Chuck Berryâ€™s Chess recordings issued under the collective title â€˜His Complete Chess Recordingsâ€™ (which wasnâ€™t exactly correct but near enough for rock â€˜nâ€™ roll). Three, four CD box-sets were released spanning Chuckâ€™s work from 1955 to 1974 which included a number of previously unissued recordings. Andy would call up Berryâ€™s tapes from the huge MCA/Universal vaults, copy them onto CDRs and mail them to me to review and sort out. The raw Chess tapes were a complete jumble, mixing old and new, stereo and mono together on individual tapes, some cuts only partial, some with false overdubs. From my point of view this was manna from heaven and I waited eagerly for the next batch to drop through my letter box. It is a sobering thought that the original tapes may well have been lost when fire swept across the backlot of Universal Studios Hollywood in June 2008 and perhaps significant that Richard Weize used my CDRs when producing the Bear Family â€˜Rock And Roll Musicâ€™ 16 CD box-set in 2014 rather than seek them from Universal.
Andy was undoubtedly one of the good guys and it is terribly sad that we have lost a dedicated advocate of the music we all love.