Andy’s Notes ♪♪♪ – Earliest to Most Recent

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This page is a collection of all Andy’s Notes ♪♪♪, in the order in which Andy wrote them. The subject-matter skips around, chronologically speaking, depending upon when Andy was inspired to write on a particular topic. And the topics are wide-ranging – from biographical blurbs, to philosophical musings, to his report on a recent show, to music history tidbits – it’s all fair game. Check back every so often to see what Andy’s thinking about now!!

  • Early On

    vinyl disc

    I grew up loving music. The Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly…then later Mississippi John Hurt, the New Lost City Ramblers, Doc Watson, Bill Monroe, The Carter Family, Flatt and Scruggs, the Byrds with Clarence White, Albert King, The Band, Django Rhinehart, Charlie Christian…. The list goes on and on….. I still get the same great feeling today, so many years later when I hear the great music of these many masters of music.

    When I was really young, I wanted to play the guitar more than anything. I dreamed about guitars! My dad got me an little Stella acoustic for my seventh birthday. It was set up so poorly that it was hardly playable. But– it got me going. Later I was able to get a better one, an early Guild acoustic.

    New York in the 1960’s was a fabulous place to be for a young guitar nut. There were great players like Dave VanRonk appearing at venues even an under-age guy could go to. Then, there were folks like Doc Watson coming to town! I remember hearing Doc and Reverend Gary Davis jamming backstage at a hall…that was really something! I got to hear so many of the greats: Maybelle Carter, Sam McGee, Mike Bloomfield, Albert King, Clarence White…. Years later I would find myself working with some of my heroes– opening up for folks like Brownie McGee and Sonny Terry or Merle Haggard, or performing with Mike Seeger.

    New York Ramblers - from the 1966 Union Grove Fiddler'sConvention ProgramIn High School, a friend sold me an old Gibson style A mandolin, and so began my love affair with that instrument. Bill Monroe would come into town now and then, or we would all pile into a car and travel for hours to see him play with the Bluegrass Boys at Sunset Park in rural PA. David Grissman would come to my High School and perform with the New York Ramblers. The banjo player in that group was the late and great Winnie Winston, and Winnie’s mom was a wonderful teacher in our school.

    In the midst of all this, Loy Beaver became my friend. Loy had probably the greatest collection of rare old time and bluegrass 78 rpm records in the world. He knew so many of the great artists and so much of the history of the music, having grown up around it in the Georgia hills. Loy was generous with his knowledge and his collection. He was my mentor and teacher. My family loved Loy too. He and my “granny” loved to talk and laugh together! We lost Loy early in 2011. I’m so glad I was able to reconnect with him when I moved to Tennessee and to spend time with him again over those last few years.NY Folklore Center - New York, NY - c. 1970

    I hitchhiked a fair bit up and down the east coast during the year after I graduated from high school. Then I moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and studied Fine Arts (mostly painting and drawing) at The School of Visual Arts for three years. I also got serious about writing songs and instrumentals. I was listening to and playing all kinds of music during this time; honing my mandolin and guitar “chops”, working on my electric guitar style– gigging and jamming. By the time I hit twenty, I was performing old-timey music, folk, bluegrass, rock-and -roll, and what we call today, “singer songwriter music”– mostly in the city but occasionally as far north as New Hampshire or south to the Main Point in PA. I think my last show in NYC before I moved to Cambridge, MA, was a concert of my original songs at the Folklore Center. (The late and great Ray Alden recorded it– I have the tape!) For this show, I appeared with a trio -Skip Moya on electric bass and Tony “Ace” Korf on drums. I played a 1934 Gibson L4 with a DeArmand pickup through a Fender amp.

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  • The Star-Spangled String Band

    Carnegie Hall - Hootenany - Mag Ad-1967Kenny Kosek  and I became buddies in Junior High School. We both played music, so we started playing music together– first working out modern folk stuff and rock-and-roll for fun and for local “gigs.” I played guitar (and, later, mandolin), and Kenny played piano, guitar and bass. We both sang.

    We continued being friends even though we ended up going to different high schools. I went to the High School of Music and Art, where I met Allen Feldman, a fine old-time-style banjo player. Kenny, Allen, and I hit it off, and soon we were jamming and having fun. Things really popped when Kenny acquired his uncle’s fiddle! Then we became the Star Spangled String Band. We were crazy about old-time music. We played constantly throughout high school, did a lot of live shows and appeared on radio often. We also traveled to the fiddlers conventions at Galax, Virginia, and Union Grove, North Carolina, a couple of years running. At Union Grove, I won first runner-up on guitar ’66 and Grand Champion on guitar in ’67.

    Star Spangled String Band - From the 1968 Union Grove Fiddler's Convention programFolks were good-natured towards us when we were teen musicians in New York City. The older musicians were very welcoming, and there were great parties too. Kind folks and great players like John Burke, Richard Blaustine, Alan Block, Ralph Lee Smith, Harold Wilson, Artie Rose….. and folks like Izzy Young who ran the Folklore Center and the great dj’s on WBAI radio.

    Al Feldman has become a renowned educator and writer, and a professor at NYU. Ken Kosek today is one of the greatest fiddlers in America. He was a member of Jerry Garcia’s Acoustic Band and recorded with Garcia, James Taylor, John Denver, Chaka Kahn and a list of of other greats too long to fit on this note!
    Andy MayKenny KosekAllen Feldman

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  • Cambridge, MA


    By the summer 1970, I had finished three years of study at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Although I was getting more and more performances, radio work, and music opportunities—and was also beginning to do recording session work— I needed a change. I was ready to leave NYC:

    A friend and I loaded up a truck and moved our stuff to Cambridge, MA. Cambridge had a reputation as a more laid back music town than New York, and a place where great music was also happening. My buddy, Rick Lee, had wanted me to move there for some time.

    So I played music gigs at night and on weekends and worked many different jobs during the days— like moving man, house painter, furniture builder, dish washer, and finally warehouse worker…. I did some busking, too, when I first got there. I played all kinds of venues in the Cambridge and Boston area—coffee houses, bars, restaurants, concerts, weddings—both solo and with wonderful players like Neil Rossi, Dick Fegy, Jeff Tripp, Rusty Strange, and John Westerfield. John was a blind banjo player who had traveled all over the world playing his banjo. I also started teaching guitar and mandolin.

    Later, I formed a bluegrass band called the Liberty String Band with Gene Ketelhohn, Richard Hand, and Al Firth, and also a more contemporary country version of the same band, with John Borchard on pedal steel. We played Fridays and Saturdays for many, many months running at the Backroom of The Idler, off Harvard Square, and did other shows around the region. One of my fondest memories of living in that area back then was getting a phone call from the great Bluegrass mandolinist and singer, Joe Val, after we had played a live radio show called Hillbilly at Harvard. I didn’t know Joe at the time, but he took the trouble to call and tell me how much he had enjoyed my mandolin playing! I felt really honored. Later, my Liberty String Band was invited to play a regular Sunday gig at the historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston. That ran for a long time, and I kept that engagement going even after I moved to Western Massachusetts in early ’74, to finish my degree at U Mass., Amherst.


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  • Love, Turn a Heart Around

    ©(p)Andy May (Swift River Music/BMI)

    Behind the Song

    I wrote this song in the mid-80’s, when I lived in western Massachusetts, to perform at a hunger relief fundraiser with my band, Atlantic Express. Later on, we recorded it and I released it on my 3rd album, Gentle Breeze, a cassette release.

    A few years later, when I was living in northern Colorado, “Love, Turn a Heart Around” was used as the theme song for a United Way fundraising drive that brought in a million dollars for the needs of the folks in that community! I was delighted to have been able to contribute to that effort.

    I included the song on my 2011 Retroflections CD, a project that brought together a number of my songs that I had released previously on tape or vinyl, but never on CD. —AM




    Andy May: Lead Vocal, Backup Vocal, and Guitar


    Love, Turn a Heart Around
    © Andy May, Swift River Music/BMI

    Love, Turn A Heart Around
     Andy May

    Let it warm like a fire
    Let it glow like a star
    Let it shine on forever
    Let it be where we are

    Love, turn a heart around
    Love, turn a heart around
    Love, turn a heart around today
    Love, turn a heart around
    Love, turn a heart around
    Love, turn a heart around today

    Let it reach every country
    Let it cross every sea
    Let it touch all the people
    Let it start with you and me


    And, oh, we need a helping hand
    To change this broken world to a together one
    I know there is a guiding plan
    Love is the best hope that we have
    There is no better one


    Let it warm like a fire
    let it glow like a star
    Let it shine on forever
    let it be where we are




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  • The Stuff of Art and Songs

    I often hear folks using Paris in the 1920’s as an example of a time and place of great artistic atmosphere and importance. I wasn’t there, but I believe that it was so. I lived in New York City in the 1960’s, however, and I also believe that New York back then had a similarly powerful atmosphere and importance. Like Paris before it, New York was a world art center.

    NY Folklore Center - New York, NY - c. 1970

    NY Folklore Center – New York, NY – c. 1970

    I was a teenager then, and that’s when and where I caught the songwriting bug. There was music on the airwaves and live in concert halls, clubs, coffee houses, parties and jam sessions. Rock and Roll, Broadway show tunes, all kinds of Jazz, commercial Folk, and ethnic music- plus Classical music of all varieties: That was the musical backdrop for me in NYC in the early 60’s. Then came the music of Bob Dylan and the Beatles, and the subtle, but very real influence of “American Roots Music”: Old-Timey, Bluegrass and Blues- wonderful ingredients for a new and tasty musical stew!

    A place, a time, a market, a community of artists, and an audience- these are some of the things it takes for a strong art and music scene to occur and develop. Add to that a country whose government was founded on the principals of personal liberty, and folks who value and exercise their rights, and you have the environment for lively rapport and self-expression. I came of age and cut my teeth in that world, as a musician, songwriter, and visual artist. It’s where I started out. I got to hear and be around some of the greatest musicians and artists of the times- and then got to work with, learn from, and become friends with many of them. I had successes and disappointments, amazing experiences and hard ones as well. Light and dark. Contrasts. The stuff of art and songs!!


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