Singer, songwriter, pop star, Andy Fairweather Low has done it all musically, including performing with some of the all-time greats. Andy Howells caught up with him in late 2012 as he was completing his album Zone-O-Tone and found out why the former Amen Corner front man still thinks of himself just as a guitar player.
Music didn't always play so prominently in Andy Fairweather Low’s life. “You either got the bug or you didn't” says Andy. “It’s like a virus and up until ‘64 it didn't touch me at all.”
Born in Ystrad Mynach in 1948, Andy recalls his first great passion as a boy was football. “I’d go down to Ninian Park and played school football, evenings, weekends and holidays.”
It was a trip to Sofia Gardens in 1964 where The Rolling Stones were performing that inspired Andy to pick up the guitar and play. “It got me straight away” he says.
Two years later, Andy had formed The Amen Corner whose debut single Gin House Blues was released in 1967. “That was a great record to have as your first single as far as I’m concerned” says Andy. “We were a soul band, trying to emulate the American soul music of that time. Georgie Fame and Zoot Money would come around and play the circuit, they’d come to Cardiff, we’d see them, we tried to pretend we were them.”
The success of the brassy pop hit Bend Me, Shape Me propelled The Amen Corner to No.2 in the singles charts in 1968. A succession of hits followed including Hello Suzie and High in the Sky, while (If Paradise) Is Half as Nice got to number one in early 1969.
The 70s saw Andy form the band Fairweather before going solo, however by the end of that decade he’d tired of the demands of record companies and returned to playing guitar. “I’ve always thought of myself as a guitar player,” he confirms, “and when I stopped making solo records I made a living playing guitar for 28 years.”
Andy played guitar for a host of music legends including Eric Clapton and George Harrison. He accompanied George on his Japanese tour in 1991. “It was Beatlemania all over again, the airport was mobbed” recalls Andy comparing the scenes he experienced to The Beatles triumphant return from the states in 1964 “That’s what it was like with George, but it was in colour this time.”
In recent years, Andy has returned to recording and touring in his own right. His composition Hymn for My Soul was a huge airplay hit in 2007 for Joe Cocker. “It was a real honour and I loved his version” says Andy who doesn’t seem phased that his own version didn't get as much attention saying “I’ve had my 15 minutes, so I'll take what I can get!”
Andy continues to tour with sell-out performances across the UK, three of which take place in Abergavenny, Cardiff and Newport in the coming weeks. At each venue, he will delight fans with material from the breadth of his career as well as tracks from his new album recorded with his band The Low Riders “I’m really proud of this next lot,” he confirms “It’s with the band, It’s a Low Riders album, they are a part of it too, so its great!”
The tour which includes a debut performance at Cardiff New Theatre holds special memories for Andy who visited the venue years ago to see Buddy Rich. “I’ll never forget it because he didn't come on till 12 o’clock at night. The theatre show had been on so he came in after the show – fabulous!”
- For the latest news on Andy Fairweather Low visit his official website.
- A version of this interview by Andy Howells was originally published in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide in October 2012.