Andy Fraser, who has died aged 62, was the bassist and a founder member of Free, and woke up to find himself famous at the age of only 17 when the band released the single All Right Now, which has become one of the classic rock anthems.
Fraser was 15 when he formed Free in 1967 with three other London teenagers (Paul Rodgers, Paul Kossoff and Simon Kirke). Almost at once the band won critical acclaim and a contract with Island Records, although their debut album (Tons Of Sobs) and its eponymous follow-up managed few sales.
Andrew McLan Fraser was born into a working-class family in Paddington, west London, on July 3 1952. Andy was still a toddler when his father left the family, and they had no further contact until the boy achieved stardom. Aged five, Andy begged his mother for a piano, and she bought one for £5 from a local pub, then insisted he take lessons. He applied himself rigorously, learning to read music and play classical piano, until, at the age of 12, he decided to take up the guitar. Realising that London was teeming with aspiring lead guitarists, he switched to bass, on which he showed a remarkable proficiency.
Fraser soon found himself working with West Indian ska and soul bands, playing clubs across the East End – “everyone being black, me being white, and not even old enough to be in a place that served alcohol”. Expelled from school at 15 for refusing to get his hair cut, Andy enrolled at Hammersmith College of Further Education, where another student, Sappho Korner, introduced him to her father, Alexis Korner, a father figure to many aspiring young British musicians.
Korner recommended Fraser to John Mayall, and through this connection Fraser played briefly with Mayall’s Bluesbreakers before Korner introduced him to three other young London musicians, Kossoff, Rodgers and Kirke. Having begun by jamming above the Nag’s Head pub in Battersea they decided to form a band. Korner came up with the name Free and encouraged Chris Blackwell, the head of Island Records, to sign them.
He was playing for John Mayall’s Bluebreakers by the time he was 15?
And he was 17 when he did this:
Simon Kirke later recalled: “All Right Now was created after a bad gig in Durham. We finished our show and walked off the stage to the sound of our own footsteps. The applause had died before I had even left the drum riser. It was obvious that we needed a rocker to close our shows. All of a sudden the inspiration struck Fraser and he started bopping around singing All Right Now. He sat down and wrote it right there in the dressing room. It couldn’t have taken more than ten minutes.”
Echoes of Sir Pterry’s inspirons sleeting through the universe there. And at 18:
Free were said to have “swagger”, which seems a fair description.