A Letter From Mary Macgregor
I was born and raised in St. Paul Minnesota in a very musical family. My mom’s claim to fame was a series of appearances she made on a live radio broadcast that came from Mandan, South Dakota. My dad also loved to sing and they both were active members of our church choir. I especially remember them singing duets while Mom washed and Dad dried the dishes.
My brothers and I all “had to” take piano lessons (mine went on for ten years) and we even sang as a family for a friend’s wedding. My brothers named us “The Trapped Family” for that event.
When I was a freshman in high school, my brother Paul played trumpet with his high school dance band and I joined them as a pianist. The piano scores had all of the lyrics on them, and eventually, we brought an amplifier and microphone along to the gigs so I could sing as well.
I asked my parents for a guitar for my high school graduation. They gave me a good watch and a cheap guitar, but it was enough to get me hooked on this music thing.
I started out in college working in a folk duo. We played all the local coffee houses and pizza parlors. After a few more years of working in folk groups, R & B, and rock bands, I got a call from a friend to join him with a band working in New Mexico. That trip started my life on the road. And what a life!!!!!
The next two years found me traveling all over the United States in an old, reconditioned Bluebird school bus, playing every kind of gig there is. We ended up in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where we decided to stop for a while.
It was during one of these separations that I auditioned and got a gig singing back up vocals for Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and, Mary). He was on a summer, solo tour and we traveled, mostly by bus, through the south and, southeastern US. Peter had written some songs that he thought a woman should sing, so we stopped in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and I recorded them for him. “Torn Between Two Lovers” was one of those songs.
At the end of the tour, I returned to Steamboat and my quiet ranch life, while Peter took the tapes we had done to dub them and try to sell them to other recording artists. An A&R representative from Ariola Records was there, heard “Torn”, and convinced Peter to “add some strings” and release it.
Six months later Peter called, I had a record that was “#10 with a bullet” and had to come out to Los Angeles to meet my new record company. From that moment on, “Mary Macgregor” was a business. “Torn” became #1 on Billboard’s Top 40, Easy Listening and Country charts and I was catapulted to instant stardom. During the next four years I moved to LA, recorded 4 albums, performed on 37 television shows, had another top ten single, signed with Ariola records, and then when it folded, got a recording contract with RSO Records, made 3 trips to Hong Kong, with two of those going on to other points in the Far East and Australia, performed with many other established and popular entertainers, was awarded “New Female Artist” by Billboard Magazine in 1978, and, mostly, traveled all over the US and South America, (this time mostly on planes). In November, of 1980 I competed in The Yamaha World Popular Song Festival in Tokyo, Japan, and won the two top prizes for “Best Song” and “Best Performance”. It was a magical, wild and frightening roller coaster ride. I called it my “crash course” in the music business.
I don’t know exactly what it was, but at some point, I realized that I had lost my own personal life to the “business” that Mary Macgregor had become. It almost felt like she was someone I knew very well, but she was someone else, not me. I was losing the joy that music had always had for me, and I wanted it back. It was then that I decided it was time for a change.
I sold my home in LA, moved to the Central Coast of California in 1981 and just stopped singing. I met John Holt not long after my move. He was an accomplished musician and when he opened his recording studio he often called me to work with him on projects he had. One of our commercials still airs on local radio.
When Joe moved to San Luis Obispo, a few years later, we got together as a duo and played some of the local bars and restaurants. It was good to be back to the basics of music again. We worked casually, two or three nights a month until my husband and I adopted our son. Kids can really change your life, and mine got too busy to do much else. Jim and I adopted a daughter two years later, and our children have been the focus of our lives ever since.
About four years ago, Joe called me out of the blue and wanted to get together and sing again because he felt like he was “losing” his music. I felt the same way, but I really didn’t want to get back into it all again. We got together a few times and realized that we needed some new life in our music. I called John, thinking he probably wouldn’t be interested, but he was! I knew that John was an incredible musician, and that Joe was a beautiful singer, and that they were both really good guys, but they had neither met nor heard the other’s work. We agreed to meet and give it a try with the understanding that there was no commitment We were all “Walking Wounded” that first night and there was a lot of trepidation on all of our parts. What a surprise we had.
I have always felt that my voice was a gift, given to me by some higher power, and my true joy has always come from sharing that gift. Working with Joe and John has made me happier in many ways than I have ever been, and the best part is that we have been able to record “Perfect Yellow House”. Now we share this gift with everyone. This little music group has gone far beyond what any one of us had envisioned. Our meetings, every Wednesday, have sparked all of our lives and hopefully, the music we make will spark other lives as well. No performer could ask for more.