Don McLean's Website Interview of

John Francis Peters

Q: How did you meet Don?

A:   A long, long time ago (June 1971, 21 yr’s old) I lived in the art colony of New Hope, Pennsylvania nestled along the Delaware River in beautiful Bucks County. During my high school years I played sax and sang in local rock groups and was intensely into photography. Now at that point in my life working with and promoting other artists was my goal.

About a mile up a meandering country road sits the hamlet of Solebury. I discovered from locals that a fellow by the name of Herb Gart lived there and he had quite an entertainment background. He left college with Bill Cosby and was his first manager, discovered Buffy St.Marie playing on a hoot nite at The Bitter End and worked with the Youngbloods during their hit "Get Together". He also represented many other pure cutting edge artists during the folk heyday in Greenwich Village in NYC.

As any intense young man would do, I knocked on the back door of his modest 200 yr. old house. He opened the door with a smile and a phone to his ear attached to a very long cord. I introduced myself and asked if he wouldn’t mind answering a few questions about the music business. He invited me in offered me a coffee and a seat on his couch.

About a month later he called and requested me to come over that night and give a listen to some final mixes (on reel to reel tape) fresh from the studio of an artist he was recording. By the end of the tape I was still working hard holding back my tears after hearing "Vincent", this of course was the American Pie album. He offered me to work with him on pre-release promotion for the album.(commuting 100 miles to NYC and back everyday) He was heavy in debt and could only cover my expenses, in other words I would be working for free but he promised he would teach me the business.(clever manager that Mr. Gart) Soon after this I met Don, I felt comfortable with him however he would enjoy teasing me and making fun of my briefcase.

One of the greatest lessons Herb taught me was that all that mattered was first creating great art. American Pie would have gone to the top no matter who was the record company or personal manager, however I truly believe that to have Herb Gart on the team enabled it to go further. An example of this would be that Herb fought intensely with the record company and the industry to have American Pie released as an 8 1/2 minute single with no editing, almost never heard of in the music business.

Q: What led to you being involved with the SOLO Album?

A:   After the launch of American Pie, Don and his manager Herb were now in orbit. I decided to stay on earth and continue to climb my ladder. I found myself working in a small office behind a giant billboard in Times Square for the Wartoke Concern (public relations firm for The Woodstock Festival). My first assignment Stevie Wonder on tour opening for The Rolling Stones, just prior to the release of “Superstition”. While in the city I would hang out with Ed Freeman ("American Pie" producer), a lot of credit must be given to him for developing my sense of listening to music. Rod Stewart’s manager picked me up next and had me representing him in the America. I was responsible for all his other English acts (Long John Baldry, Status Quo) touring the US and Canada. At this time I started to get my hands on the soundboard at the concerts.

After 2 years of touring I gave Herb Gart a call. He sent me to London to manage a rock group of his recording at Abby Road Studios with Alan Parsons producing (engineer, "Dark Side of The Moon"). Around April 1976 Don heard some mixes I did with Ken Caillet (producer, Fleetwood Mac, "Rumors").

Don was not happy with "Solo" mixes he was receiving from a studio in New York City. He offered me the opportunity to give it a try mixing the concerts. I took the tapes to Longview Farm Recording Studios in Massachusetts. This facility was a modern day transcendalist creation of Gil Markle. The studios were in a farmhouse surrounded by acres and acres of beautiful Nature. My first mixes Don approved.

Many of Don’s performances were magical. Herb Gart coordinated the recordings and did a brilliant job miking the audience of the concerts at Bristol, Oxford and Manchester, England. The presence and spirit of the concerts were on the tapes but needed to be enhanced. This was accomplished organically with the help of Longview engineer Jesse Henderson.

My objective was to create one concert with Don in your living room. I am very grateful for having Greg Calbi, one of the best mastering engineers in the business put the finishing touches on "Solo".

I swear if you close your eyes and listen to Don work the audience on "Babylon", you can hear Angels singing.

Q: What led you being involved in PRIME TIME album?

A:   Upon the release of Solo, Don and I saddled up two primal energized horses and rode off into the land of timeless horizons, leading to the creation of Prime Time.

He asked me if I would assist him on the Solo promo tour. I tried to make the road experience as painless as possible. We would transcend difficult traveling into hard core comedy. Many "Saturday Night Live" skits and classic movie moments were our forte while waiting for delayed plane flights.

Don was a passionate, avid reader, books on Watergate and the political scene were at the top of his list. The beginning of the environmental awareness was in high gear. The polluting of our bodies with the foods we eat and how we treated our organism was taking precedent. The story is in the album Prime Time.

After interviewing producers, he decided to do it himself and at this time asked me to produce. He knew he was jumping out of the conventional box and bravely taking a wholehearted chance into the wild. Many of the songs were written in hotel rooms while on tour. This gave me the opportunity to be there, right at the beginning and let my mind begin the assistance in the creation of the album.

We rounded up excellent musicians, Rob Stoner (bassist Am. Pie) and Howie Wyeth (drums, Andrew Wyeth’s nephew) they just finished working together in Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue. Various top New York session folks (Dave Sanborn sax, Pat Rebillot, Kenny Asher, piano and string arrangements, and Rubin Basini percussion) added to the flavor. The Hit Factory (Ed Sprigg, eng.) was our home for laying down basic tracks and orchestral sessions with Gene Orloff Strings. Our highly creative experience at Longview Farm Studios with Solo became our camp for mixing (Jesse Henderson,eng.).

Q: Prime Time appears to have come at a turning point in Don's career. His deal with United Artists was over and Arista seemed to be very interested in him. What was Don's mood/muse like at this point in his career?

A:   Don seemed to be enjoying himself, touring, appearing on major TV shows, and his hands maybe for the first time on the recording studio knobs. He mixed the song "Building My Body" and as I recall he had a true endorphin high from the experience. He gave me full rein to experiment. For example, my recording of the early morning birds at Longview Farm was added to the mix on the cut “Redwing”. This was my attempt to create a colorful,...3-dimensional listening experience featuring Don McLean. All really came together for me in the final mixes of Prime Time, The Statue (I truly loved mixing the strings), Jump, Redwing, Color TV Blues, and Building My Body.

We toured extensively promoting Prime Time, radio airplay was strong at the third tier level, reviews were good however supplies and support from the record company were running low, storms clouds were brewing on the horizon and a flash flood was coming, therefore at this time we decided to ride down separate paths to strengthen each other’s survival.

Q: What other recording/artists have you been involved in?

A:   After Prime Time I have been totally focused and devoted to my own Art.

Q: Are you the same John Peters who has worked with Alicia Keys and in the Gospel music field?

A:   No, I'm John Francis Peters

Q: Are you still in contact with Don?

A:   Only a few times, I've kept in touch with his career, if he has checked out my Art we're communicating.

Q: How long have you been painting?

A:   I've been an artist (painter) all my life.

Q: What inspired you to get into painting?

A:   The way I see it, the painter was quietly developing within me since birth until it totally possessed my being around the age of 30. (truthfully I don't believe one can explain,.to admit not to know is to know all) I study all the Masters of Art and stay close to Nature.

Q: You appear to be very involved in environmental causes. Can you elaborate on that?

A:   The Beauty of Nature and what it means to my mind, body and spirit is constantly being challenged. Don McLean says it best in the lyrics of Tapestry;

Every crisp leaf that falls, all the flowers that grow, On this colorful tapestry, somehow they know That if man is allowed to destroy all we need He will soon have to pay with his life for his greed.

I believe I work for Nature. The power of Art can raise the conscious and spiritual awareness for those who need it and give support, strength,and guidance for all others.

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