‘Mad Thad’ MacGregor Turns Superstar


Photo: Facebook

Sarah dos Santos, Staff Writer

Thad MacGregor

Thad MacGregor has been involved in working at Tenafly schools for countless years. What students may not know about the beloved substitute teacher is his drive and passion for the art of music. His musical accomplishments began as early as he can remember and haven’t stopped since. With his latest release of “The Breeze Mumbles Gwendolyn” as Mad Thad on YouTube and Spotify, the artist shares his ideas and visions in the creation of the music video.


How did you start getting in music?

My mom was an opera singer, so, I always say I had prenatal ear training, which is very true. And then my earliest memories are of my mom—she was a really good opera singer and she played piano—practicing her opera exercises at the piano *mimics opera singing* Then she started me on piano when I was four; I started taking piano lessons. In grade school, I picked up saxophone. I started snare drum in like fourth grade. I started playing guitar in like fifth grade. Sixth grade I took lessons on a full drum set, so I played the drums as well. I started playing flute when I was about 12-13 years old. My older sister gave me her flute, and so I just kind of still play all these instruments. 

What inspired you to write “The Breeze Mumbles Gwendolyn”?

Well, odd little story. I’ll try to make this brief. I have a lot of after-school music students, and like fifteen years ago one of my students who was in middle school at the time wanted to learn the famous Jimmy Hendrix song, “The Wind Cries Mary.” Great, great song. So just joking around, I called it “The Breeze Mumbles Gwendolyn” and we just like chuckled and then we called it that like every week when we’d run through it. A couple of years after that, twelve years ago, ’cause it’s on Facebook, I just posted like a rock’n’roll picture of myself and he commented the breeze mumbles Gwendolyn. I click “haha”; we had another chuckle. Every now and then I would think about it and then like a couple of months before the pandemic, I just happened to be noodling around on ukelele and came up with the intro to the song and started singing the breeze mumb- so I was like oh yeah. So you know after all that time it just kind of popped back into my head. Then over the lockdown, I finished writing it and recorded it in my home studio. I play all the instruments and all the vocals, and it just started coming out really nice. I was sort of sketching it out, but as I was finishing it I was like, dang, I can release this. Then, if that whole story wasn’t strange enough my old best buddy all through middle school, Chris Lord-Alge, has since gone on to be one of the top mixing engineers on the planet. He has five Grammy Awards. He’s mixed records for like anybody you could think of: James Brown, Greenday, Avril Levine, Tina Turner. But anyways, we became friends again and I was just sort of hinting to him ‘yo, I know I can’t afford you but I would love a Chris Lord-Alge mix,’ and he actually emailed me right back and said, ‘you know what Thad, we’re old friends, send me the files and I’ll mix your song,’ so I was like what! So I got a real Lord-Alge, totally professional mix. It’s like perfect. I still can’t believe that even happened. It was so nice of him. And then that’s what we used for the video, and the video came out real well and that ended up a little different than we were sort of planning but in a good way. A little simpler but I think it looks better that way. But every step of the way this song just kind of happened, and I just had to put a little song-craft in there. 

Do you have favorite parts of the music video?

Yeah, I think I like the way the whole thing just came out and of course, my friend Violet, who did the dancing. She wanted to remain simply Violet. It’s just so perfect. I mean, I knew she was really good. I’d seen some videos of her dancing, and she’s classically trained as well. We had been talking about collaborating on something about a year before the pandemic but of course in the pandemic, we didn’t talk for a couple of years. Then, we did the video last August, and luckily she was interested and available, and she was just perfect as our ghostly Gwendolyn. 

Was there any certain feeling you wanted the video to portray to the audience?

Well, it did kind of take shape by itself, but with the theremin and as I was writing it, I realized that little theremin line was sort of operatic and I realized, oh wait, that’s Gwendolyn’s voice and she’s a ghost, and the theremin lends itself to that spooky, sci-fi kind of thing. So it kind of gave it that eerie quality, and, you know, she’s a ghost and he’s not really sure if he sees her or if he’s dreaming. And I think my favorite shot in it, I forget what lines it’s on, but it’s like all of a sudden everything is very green and she’s sort of reaching out to me in slow-motion and it’s very dream-like. That’s kinda my favorite shot of the video. 

Do you use music as an outlet that is more relaxing or more thought-provoking to you?

I would say both, but absolutely relaxing, meditative. Not always, but at home and in a real good way it really does all of that. Even though it’s a little cliche, I was even thinking just the other day how people say ‘music saved me’ or you know ‘I don’t know what I’d do without music.’ And I was thinking I definitely feel that way as well. It can be very relaxing. It could be a good sort of meditation, and it’s just good for the soul. Even just plunking around on guitar. 

Do you have any inspirations when it comes to music?

There are a lot of artists I like. It’s kind of hard to narrow it down. I like Tom Waits a lot. He has some real innovative work, especially his later stuff after 1983. He also just has a lot of interesting thoughts about songwriting. One of his many great quotes is, ‘it’s like trying to photograph ghosts.’ You know, you’re taking something that’s not really there and kind of making it come to life. And, you know, I grew up on the rock, absolutely. Black Sabbath, The Beatles, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck. But I also do like classical and jazz and kind of mix it all together. And you know the Gwendolyn song, it’s kind of rock, it’s kind of a minor blues, but it does have elements of jazz and classical even kind of all into one song. 

What does music mean to you?

Oh geez, that’s a hard one. I don’t know, it’s really just my whole life. I’ve been doing it since before I was born and I don’t know, I just love it. Like I said, it’s almost like a meditation to me and it’s just a good outlet, you know, if you’re just ‘jammin’ on the guitar or playing the drums is just a great way to get your angst out or whatever. It’s almost like a religious thing sometimes too, you know. It sort of just exists in the universe and there’s definitely sort of that being quiet enough to tap into it. Again, another Tom Waits quote talking about songwriting, ‘you have to be really quiet to let the big ones come to you’ When he worked with Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones, they collaborated on an album in 1985, he would say that Keith Richards would sort of stalk the songs. 


What was once a vision was soon brought to life with vivid visuals and the ghostly nature of the theremin. MacGregor not only produced a song but portrayed to us the necessity of creativeness and desire that goes into making it happen.