Andre Evans with Evelyn "Champagne" King
To understand the full story behind the music of Evans Pyramid you need to go back to when Andre Evans first starting playing drums at age 7. Growing up on Johnson Street in Brooklyn, Andre was a musical wunderkint learning one instrument at school one week and trading it in to learn another. He couldn't wait for the Sunday jam sessions where ended up playing with Jazz legends Grant Green and John Patton. Andre also used to sit in for Joe Dukes and play shows for Jack McDuff. It was around this time that Andre was nicknamed "Youngblood" just because he was so young!
Eventually life on the road beckoned when Dyke of Dyke and the Blazers asked him to join the backing band on drums as the group had two drummers. They went to Phoenix to record an album and it was then re-cut in Los Angeles at Original Sound Recording Studio. This would become the legendary album, Funky Broadway. Andre was only 14 and a half at this time. After the group started having internal problems Andre left the group and joined the Delfonics in Philadelphia for a little while.
Then Andre met H.B Barnum and offered him a job working in the studio. Andre worked with a studio band called, the Psych Company which would later become the Tribe who recorded the Ethnic Stew album. Psych Company also went on to do the backing music for tracks by Lou Rawls and O.C. Smith. Then Andre returned to New York and ran into Kenny Seymour from Little Anthony and the Imperials. Kenny offered him a gig to play with Little Anthony after seeing him play drums with the Delfonics and Issac Hayes. Andre did a string of shows with them in Las Vegas.
While driving to Boston during a break in performing Andre met up with Gunther Weil of Intermedia Sound and started writing music in the studio with a group called Green Machine. The leader of the group, Charles Green didn’t like Andre having too many songs on the album. The group was on the verge of signing with Atlantic when the deal fell through.
After this Andre decided to go on this own and do everything in the studio myself. He would produce, write, and play most of the instruments himself. He would bring in vocalists but almost everything else was written and recorded by him. It was this idea of doing everything himself that gave him the name of "Evans Pyramid." The name was also influenced by his fascination with Egyptian history, ancient history, and UFOs.
The first of his material to come out as Evans Pyramid were the tracks, “Rubber Band” and “Dance A thon.” The tracks were released on the local Belmont, MA based label Belmont Records owned by John Penny. The label at the time specialized in country music. Both tracks were heavily influenced by some of the grooves from Kool and the Gang's music at that time. Both tracks featured vocals by singers named Kathy and Lynn who would later work with Andre in the group Sashay and Phil Jelatis on Fender Rhodes. Phil would play a crucial role in many of Andre’s recordings by helping express in music the complex and unique chord figures in Andre’s head. Phil also would help with writing out horn parts for Andre. The tracks also features tenor saxophone and electronic horn sounds played on a keyboard and layered which is a technique Andre would utilize on future recordings. Andre was heavily influenced by the simple yet big horn arrangements of the group, Chicago.
In 1978 Andre recorded the monumental track "Never Gonna Leave You" which was written after Andre and his serious girlfriend of many years broke up after a big blow out. Soon after he realized how much the break up effected him and he spent many days alone trying to mend his wounds and move on. It was during this time while listening to Marvin Gaye and drinking some wine that he wrote the lyrics to the track. He then went into the studio to lay down the tracks. The complex and multiple guitar parts came from Andre first laying down the melodic guitar lines and then overdubbing more rhythmic guitar parts. He would listen to the melodic guitar line and jam along with it creating new rhythmic tracks using techniques such as muting guitar strings. He sings all of the vocals and background harmonies himself by layering the vocal tracks.
For the song "Dip Drop" , Andre used a duck whistle to add some color to the track. The track is about and was named after the dip you do when "you are dancing with a lady" and it makes her smile. Andre achieved the unique guitar sound by using a phaser effect and playing different guitar tracks against one another. Phil lays some sustain Hammond organ sounds to add to the song. The track was influenced by Booty’s Collins with it’s “Do It Mama” shout outs! These two tacks record were released as a 12” to be played in disco clubs on the label, Funk Records.
The next single released on Andre's own label Smokeh Records was “No I Won't” with "Soul Petrol" on the flip side. “No I Won't” was recorded at Century III Recording Studios where it occupied space on Boylston Street in Boston. The violins on the recording were Berklee College of Music students. The dynamic vocals on the track are by a young singer named Latrice. The track also features a pretty unique bass sound which Andre developed after picking up bass playing tips from legendary bassist, Stanley Clarke. “Soul Petrol” was called by famous producer Maurice Starr as the first song with characteristics of a rap song. It features a hand clapper that Andre made himself with two metal handles attached to two 2 x 4s. It also features electronic tom tom drums which Andre would use to bend the sound. The song was popular for a brief minute in Roxbury and some of the boroughs in New York.
Many of Evan’s tracks were written for the dancefloor with very few fills which can complicate the groove. Andre complained that using too many fills in a song was “like taking a commercial break.”
It was during this time that the infamous lp was pressed up. It contained these 4 tracks plus two others. Only 5 test copies were pressed up and Evans created his own cover for each one. The copies were given to the singers on the recordings in lieu of payment. Andre also wrote and recorded many other tracks at this time including a track called Ghetto Star and Love Undercover. These were all stolen from him when he left a drum case full of master tapes with a friend of his at the time in North Carolina. Andre did put together a group to play shows featuring two singers named Maria and Latrice, Phil Jelatis on keyboards, Binney Stone on guitar, and a bassist nicknamed “Superfly.” The group played gigs around the Route 128 and 495 beltway and venues in Roxbury with day-glow lighting and signs of the zodiac. The group played originals as well as covers of Evelyn Champagne King’s “Shame” and Stevie Wonder songs. The songs were played with a looser feel than the originals or the covers.
Around the same time Andre was also writing music and producing under another name, Royale. During this time Evans was being managed by Evelyn Champagne King's husband Erick King. Royale put out one single with the tracks "I Want Your Body" and "Simply Say I Love You." The tracks were recorded in the NYC branch of the famous Sigma Sounds Studio. “I Want Your Body” is stripped down disco track with lyrics about sexual desires. Unfortunately many of the gatekeepers and tastemakers of the time found the song sounded too much like Prince and decided there wasn’t a market for two Princes.
Fast forward to the mid 80s and Andre put together another group which was called Sashay. It featured a trio of singers including Kathy and Lynn along with a singer named Susan. Some unreleased tracks culled from the sessions include “Sugar Stop” and the Prince-esque “I Got A Rush For You.” The group was on the verge of signing with Arista Records but the deal fell through at the last minute due to unfair terms.
The tracks “Where Love Lives” and “Party Like It’s 2001” were both written in the late 80s but the versions on this album were recorded in 1994. The track “Party Like It’s 2001” is about partying for the future. Both tracks feature lead vocals by Deleasha O’Neal.
It wasn’t until years later in 2003 that rare disco record collectors discovered the Evans Pyramid 12”. Since then the records and the man himself have been highly sought after. Andre is still living in Boston and making music in the studio on a regular basis.
Taken from the liner notes for the Evans Pyramid album written in 2012 by Deano Sounds.