Interview by Mike Stephenson took place in Jackson, Mississippi in June 2013. Many thanks go to Peggy Brown for all of her tremendous help, without which this article would not have been possible.
I was born in Chicago in Cook County Hospital but I didn’t get a chance to grow up there. My grandparents came to Chicago and brought me and my older sister to Mississippi, so we were raised in the country in a town called Carthage on a farm. I was six months old when I came to Mississippi and I don’t know why it happened like it did. I grew up with my grandparents and I guess I had a love for music ever since I was a kid.
My father was a singer and guitarist and he played and sung in a gospel quartet. My mother she said I would take up with music, so they decided to purchase me a guitar when I was about six years old. I’m growing up in the country and most kids have got a bicycle, but I got a guitar so I got fascinated with it from an early age. I started singing when I was about seven and I grew up with music being all around me all of the time. Living on a farm you had to work, so being a kid I had chores, but it was real nice growing up in the country with my grandparents. I used to go to church and that is where I first started singing; both me and my older sister who is a year older than me, we used to sing together when we were kids and I guess we used to be pretty good at it, as the piano player at the church at that time would take us with her to different churches to sing and everybody was fascinated because we were two little kids. I’ve been involved in music since then all my life.
I sung in the school choir, I didn’t take no musical lessons I just developed an ear for music and I learnt how to play guitar by ear. Around when I was fifteen years old, me and some high school friends decided we would start a band which we called Devastation and I was playing guitar and singing although we had a lead singer. We decided to come to Jackson and search for a booking agent, and at that time the biggest booking agency In Jackson was Carl Frasco Entertainment, so we came down and auditioned for Frasco and he liked us and he started booking us on the college circuit and a few club shows. We played for a few years and it seemed we weren’t going anywhere. We were doing covers of The Commodores and Earth Wind And Fire at the time, we didn’t have our own songs. We did have a couple of songs of our own but we were concentrating on the music that allowed us to play in the venues such as college parties with top 40 stuff. But my main goal and dream was to be a star and a recording artist, so every chance I would get I would try to get out and pursue this dream of mine.
I got married at an early age and I had to work and I went out on the coast and worked a while. Back then jobs were hard to find, so I thought I should get me a trade, so I went to welding school and came out of welding school and ended up going to Pascagoula, working in a ship yard, and when I was there I was finding out where the bands and musicians are, so I got with some guys and we put a real nice band together, this was around 1975. We came up with the name of the band as being Gulf Coast Connection and it was a big band with horns and I was playing guitar and we ended up being the hot band on the coast. That lasted a few years and it is now around 1981 and I moved back to Jackson. I was good at welding so I needed a job, that was the first avenue that I took. I then tried to get into a bigger and better band out of Jackson named Freedom whom I auditioned for in the early eighties. At that time Freedom were signed to Malaco, which as we know is a big label. I auditioned with the guys and they told me that they were going to try me out so I ended up playing with Freedom and they were managed by Jesse Thompson, he is well known in this area and I think he is the president of the Jackson Music Awards. I worked with Freedom for about two years doing colleges and Frat parties every weekend. I was playing guitar and singing, but I was still thinking of that other level of being a star.
Then some folks were visiting from Milwaukee and they heard me sing in the church and they said I should come to Milwaukee and cut a record. I took off on my own on the train to Milwaukee and they took me to some people and I did a demo and it didn’t go anywhere. They took my money and they cut the demo and I came home. So I kept on trying to make this music thing happen and a few years had passed by and I thought, I need to do something. I was in and out of studios and meeting people, trying to make things happen and it didn’t really take off for me until I was about twenty seven and I was thinking that it was time to forget about it, but I never did. I ended up meeting a guy that took me to Ace Records in Pearl, Mississippi that was owned by Johnnie Vincent. So I then had a project in the making and I recorded my first CD, produced by Harrison Calloway, and it was titled ‘So Good’ this was around 1992. We really didn’t get the CD off the ground as Johnnie got sick and passed away. He sold Ace Records and then opened up Avanti Records. So that was the end of that CD.
At that particular time I wasn’t playing with any one particular band. As a guitar player I got the opportunity to work with a lot of artists, kinda like an ‘on call’ situation. I took a lot of gigs like that, playing for Billy Soul Bonds, Larry Milton, Wilson Meadows. I then got a chance to audition for Sir Charles Jones, and the reason I got in was the guitar player and other musicians at that time were taking whatever gig that paid the most money. So the guy that played for Sir Charles had a booking with somebody else, so this weekend he wasn’t going to go with Sir Charles, and I knew a couple of the musicians in Sir Charles’ band and they told me they needed a guitar player, so I went and rehearsed with them and Sir Charles liked the way I played and he was getting big at that time. I played a gig with them and they liked the way I played and they asked me if I wanted to join the band, which I did, and that went on for about three years for me. We travelled all over the world, it was four nights a week. We travelled from one city to the next and it was a full time job for me then, as things had changed for me personally. Sir Charles was really cool with Mardi Gras Records out of Louisiana run by Warren Hildebrand, so Charles told me he was going to get me a record deal for that label.
So I wrote some songs and by that time I was becoming a song writer, as a matter of fact I wrote about eight of the songs on the ‘So Good’ album, a couple of them were re makes, and me and Harrison produced the album together. So at Mardi Gras I wrote the songs and I got a couple of songs from a lady named B.J. Miller, she is a great piano player. So we got the CD cut and Sir Charles said he was going to Warren about it. Now Charles, he was the man at Mardi Gras Records at the time, so he took me to Mardi Gras and Uncle Bo Bo, Senator Jones, was also involved in it and when I got there the deal was done. So now I’ve got this contract and record coming out and I was thrilled and it looked as though something was happening for me. To make a long story short, the record didn’t get a lot of promotion; it was a good CD but at that time the label were putting their efforts into the most hottest artists. That album was called ‘Simply Dre’ and that didn’t happen for me like I thought it would. So now I’m thinking to myself, I need to learn how to produce my own music.
After I left Sir Charles Jones’ band I started producing music to do my own album. I was living in Jackson around this time which was around 1999 and in the year 2000 I produced my first CD, wrote the songs, went out and got me some software and set up my own studio because technology had advanced and you didn’t need a whole room of gadgets so now I’m doing it myself. I started coming up with some pretty good songs and got ten songs finished and put them together on a CD and called the CD ‘Straight From The Heart’ which had some real nice ballads on it. I got a list of djs and sent the record out to them and it kinda caught on. I then had songs playing on the radio, and it was that CD that got things starting for me. We named the label Cape Town Records. I got affiliated with BMI and got my stuff copyrighted, the whole nine yards. Got CD Baby set up and the record started moving for me, and for about two years now people are calling me for performances. At that time my wife was selling life insurance and the company she was working for wanted her to go to Charlotte, North Carolina to run an office, so we moved to Charlotte, I think in about 2004. While I was in Charlotte, I hooked up with Jonathan Burton and me and him were writing songs together and producing songs together and my ‘Straight From The Heart’ CD was doing good for me so I’m transporting back and forth between Charlotte and the South doing shows, and it was at that time that I started playing guitar for Wilson Meadows. He is out of Chattanooga, Tennessee and I was working with him two or three weeks a month as well as writing and producing songs, and after a year was up we came back to Mississippi and it was time for me to cut another CD.
I recorded my latest CD, which is titled ‘Stories Of Life’. It’s on a record label out of Memphis called Coday Records run by Anna Coday who is the executive in charge. So for about a year I was hot on her trail getting her to check me out and finally she saw me perform and she agreed to take a chance on me and I signed with the label. I had talked with CDS Records before I got with Coday Records, as I had just about got as far as I could with my own label. I have produced a song for one of CDS Records’ artists, a guy named Mister Zay and Dylann DeAnna the label owner was really impressed with it. CDS Records did want to do a deal with me to do a CD but I’m not sure what happened to this day on that, he never did get back to me. Anyway Coday Records decided to pick me up and on the new CD I produced it, mixed it, the music tracks and mastered it. There are a couple of singles off of it and a label out of Durham, North Carolina have put the songs on a compilation. Those records are now hot on the beach scene. They took a couple of songs off the ‘Straight From My Heart’ CD and two songs off my new CD and got them on their compilations and all that is helping me get out there further and I’m finally getting a chance to do some things in music. I still work a day job. I’m not welding anymore, I gave that up ten years ago.
I consider myself as a balladeer and my voice is best suited to that and now I am in control of my production and things I can get the results that I want. I cater to the mellow music, of course you have to cater for the dance music but my personal preference is the more ballad type of song. I still play guitar but not playing with anyone in particular at present. Sometimes my friends will call me and say they need a guitar player and if I ain’t doing anything I will, as naturally you want to make a few bucks and also get a chance to play again. The last guy I worked with on guitar was Billy Soul Bonds. My producing is getting attention and I have been having opportunities to produce for different artists. I have a song on Karen Wolfe’s CD. Ecko Records have told a new female artist here in Jackson, whose name is Equanya to make contact with me to get a few songs together so the label can hear her, which I thought was good of them to consider me. Her record is starting to get some airplay here in Mississippi. One is called ‘Want Ad’ and the other is called ‘Good Man Of Mine’ I produced the music and her vocals and she wrote her own lyrics. She is not on a label at present.
I did at one time take the ‘Straight From The Heart’ CD to try and get a deal with ECKO but at that particular time the songs were not what they were looking for. I’m starting to spend more time in the studio now than playing guitar. In the studio I do all the guitar work, the piano work, programme the drums. My personal performances are also starting to pick up for me as an artist. It’s been a long struggle and a lot of people I know have given up and quit. I’ve never been a one to quit and I have always had a love for music and I am always keeping my hand in something pertaining to music. My name is Andrew Lee Caples. In the music world you have to have a jazzy name so I dropped the w in my name and used Lee so Andre Lee. I’ve been to Boston for the New England Music Awards and I received the Best R&B Male National award last month.
The dance called Stepping is real big in the North, so my record is playing big in Chicago, Milwaukee, Boston and it’s in the top ten in a big radio station from Boston. I’m scheduled to go to Saginaw, Michigan soon for a big Stepping party so my Stepping music is playing real big. The number ‘Man In The Drawer’ off my new CD ‘ is getting a lot of play and is what the djs jumped on. That song was written by a female, Miz Goldie. I was working on a track for Charles Wilson and he asked me to cut him a bad track and I got the idea about that song, and I put the words to the track and I thought it was out of my comfort zone, but at the same time I was thinking I need a hit so I was thinking if I need to step out of the box, so I recorded the song and it took off.
Artists who have recorded my songs are Lil’ Fallay out of Louisiana. He didn’t re record one of my songs, he wanted to do a duet with me with one of my songs, which we did, it’s called ‘Love Will Never Change’ on one of his CDs. No other artists have covered my songs, but I am now getting associated with some big artists. This business is tough and there isn’t a lot of money in it but you gotta have a love for it and that’s what’s keeping me involved.
I’m currently writing and producing for a new CD for Coday Records and, having a studio at home, when the urge hits me I can go in and lay my ideas home. It is one of a songwriter’s worst nightmares, when you get a notion and you can’t lay it down, as it’s then gone. You can then keep that same groove, if you lose it you can’t go back and get that groove. As a songwriter you can say to yourself that I am going to write a song and I can sit there for three hours and nothing happens, you get blocked and can’t come up with nothing. I can be on a job at work and out of the blue a hook line will come to me and the next thing I start humming it, and then I get my phone and sing the hook line into it or hum the beat into it, so I can remember what I was doing and when I get home I get into the studio and put it together.
I work for a company that builds electrical transformers, I am the shipping and receiving supervisor. I do all the shipping. We ship all over the US and I have a couple of guys working for me. I try to schedule my music stuff for the weekends so I don’t miss any work.