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March 17, 2018

Mark Andes — The Philadelphia-Born, Versatile Bass Player

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The list of people that Mark Andes has played bass guitar for gives you an idea of just how talented he is. While known for his work with Rock musicians, Besides Rock groups, Mark has worked with Jazz, American native music artists and even played on a French artist’s album.

Mark was born in Philadelphia, but since his father Keith was a professional actor, the family moved to Los Angeles to be closer to his chances of working. Music was more of a calling for Mark and before long he was part of the original group from LA called Canned Head. He left the band before they recorded and along with his high school friend, Jay Ferguson started a band called Spirit.

On the surface it certainly appeared that Spirit had all the elements that fit perfectly into the time period. They combined Rock, Jazz and folk to back up the many songs that were filled with topical lyrics of that time period. The group debuted with a self -titled LP in 1968. It was one of two released that year. The first single “Mechanical World” was co-written by Mark and Jay. It was not a big hit.

In fact, despite having many great songs on their albums, Spirit had very little success in the top forty singles market. Their only hit was “I Got a Line on You” in 1968. In listening to songs like: ”!984”, “Nature’s Way”, “Mr. Skin”, “Dark Eyed Woman”, and “Fresh Garbage” one can only wonder why they didn’t have more.

Spirit broke up for a variety of reasons. Most of them money related. That paved the way for another group that was put together by Mark and Jay. Jo Jo Gunne hit the scene with lots of fanfare. Most of us in radio at the time were absolutely convinced that this band was going to be BIG. “Run, Run, Run” taken from their first album in 1972 was a hit record. It peaked at number 27. It should have gone higher.

From there it was all downhill for Jo Jo Gunne. Despite their success elsewhere (they had six hits on the UK singles charts), they never came close to matching their first effort. They too broke up shortly thereafter.

Mark decided he needed a change of scenery so when they broke up, he ended up in Colorado. It was there that he teamed up with Rick Roberts. Rick was a former member of the country rock band called The Flying Burrito Brothers and wanted to put together another band with a similar leaning. They teamed up with Michael Clarke (ex Byrd’s drummer). The end result was a huge success. Firefall hit big right away with their single released in 1976 “You are the Woman”. It went to number 9 on the charts. That was followed up with “Just Remember I Love You” at number 11 in 1977 and “Strange Ways” in 1978.
Firefall ran out of gas and Mark retreated to Los Angeles to recharge. He started doing session work and played with the likes of Stevie Nicks, Joe Walsh, Dan Fogelberg. Whitesnake and Jim Lauderdale. He gave up the studio gigs when was asked to join Heart.

His work with them began on the PASSIONWORKS in 1983. He remained with Heart until 1993. Burned out from life on the road, Mark once again returned to LA and more studio work.

Every now and then he is convinced to venture out again. That led to playing in reunion tours and one very interesting project.

In 2006 John Cale (Of The Velvet Underground) produced an album for Mexican American singer songwriter Alejandro Escovedo called THE BOXING MIRROR. Andes was not only recruited to play on the album, he toured with Alejandro’s group.

The tour touched down here in Philadelphia at The World Café. Mark Andes was once again back in the city of his birth. Their show was one of the very best I have witnessed in the past decade. The live show was even better than the record.

While it is hard to believe with all the music he has played over the years, Mark had never done a solo record. That changed in 2009. One of the reasons that Mark had never done a solo record before is that he is not a singer. As a result the album REAL WORLD MAGIC is an instrumental record. The recording features a little bit of all the different kinds of music that he has played over the years. Andes shows his chops playing acoustic and electric guitar as well as his main instrument, the bass. As always, there is some real world magic in his playing.