|This page is a collection of all Andy’s Notes ♪♪♪, most recently-written first. 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!!|
- Harry Warner: Music City Icon
“Let me tell you why I am the luckiest person on Earth.” That is how my friend, Harry Warner, would often start a conversation with a total stranger at the coffee shop that we visited during one of our semi-regular “get-togethers.” In his eighties, and in spite of ongoing health challenges, Harry always projected a friendly demeanor. And, as in his years as a Music Row icon, he always dressed neatly and was well-groomed. So, this pronouncement to a stranger in a coffee shop (or anywhere else, for that matter) was always met with interest, curiosity, and even eagerness.
“I was lucky to meet two people,” Harry would continue. “One’s name was Frances and the other’s name was Chet.” He would then tell the story of how Frances Preston, the late and legendary president of BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) and now a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, plucked him out of the store just off of Music Row where he was selling groceries and beer, and put him to work at BMI. There he rose to become assistant vice president of writer/publisher relations. It was in his early days at BMI that he connected with Chet Atkins, guitar great and, later, head of RCA Records in Nashville. They became lifelong friends, Chet becoming Harry’s mentor and Harry becoming Chet’s manager and biggest fan! Music history was taking place in Nashville, and Harry, situated smack-dab in the middle of it, played many roles in the music business for decades.
In my twenty-or-so years of knowing Harry, I was honored to become his friend, to learn from him, and to learn about his career . I was often amazed by his recollections and by the varied friendships he had forged with legendary folks across a broad spectrum of American popular music. Occasionally, I might hear a story about his days as Jerry Reed’s manager, or about how he met, believed in, and employed a young unknown writer named Rodney Crowell, or about visiting with Elvis Presley. But, in all the time I knew him, if our conversation drifted over to the part he had played in the history of Nashville/American music – or more specifically, the importance of HIS place in the “big picture” – he would steer completely clear of discussing that, and say instead, “Let me tell you why I am the luckiest person on earth. I was lucky to meet two people. One’s name was Frances and the other’s name was Chet.”
I was lucky to meet Harry Warner.
~Andy May, May 12, 2019
Photos from an April, 2017, tour of the historic RCA Studio A in Nashville, TN: Harry Warner, Mike Poston (Chet Atkin’s engineer for two decades), Brenda Colladay (RCA Studio A historian and archivist), and Andy May.
- Harry Warner passed away May 16, 2018 in Nashville, TN musicrow.com/2018/05/bmis-harry-warner-passes/
- Rodney Crowell remembers meeting Harry Warner: www.billboard.com/articles/news/8463761/rodney-crowell-shame-on-the-moon-acoustic-premiere-interview (Search the page for “Harry Warner.”)
- RCA Studio A: wideopencountry.com/rca-studio-a-renovation/ – musicrow.com/2017/11/rca-studio-a-celebrates-return-to-1960s-era-glory/
- Chet Atkins: Me and My Guitars (p.173)
- Eddie Reasoner: jerryreed.nl/category/tribute/
- “Room for Roots” in Ireland
October 10-17, 2016.
Lauren had always wanted to visit Ireland, and that was our original reason for heading overseas. As for me, I was certainly willing to visit the well: As a teenager, I was totally immersed in, and passionate about, old-time American fiddle music – which led to my discovery and love of Irish and Scottish tunes. I learned to back up fiddle tunes on guitar and to play the melodies on both guitar and mandolin. When I moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1970, I played regularly at a wonderful Irish session at a pub called the Plough and Stars. Then, when I moved to western MA to complete my degree at U. Mass, Amherst, I joined Sheehan’s Reel, a fine Contra Dance band led by Peter Temple, a hammered dulcimer player. Fiddler Van Kaynor was also in that band. In Sheehan’s Reel, I learned many more tunes from the Irish repertoire on mandolin and banjo mandolin, and we traveled all over the region playing for dances.
The other parts of our trip (Washington, DC, area and Stockholm, Sweden) grew out of the excitement of having a new CD to support and share and the opportunity to visit old friends in various cool places more-or-less along the way. But Ireland was our original destination. Besides traditional Irish songs and tunes, we both love bucolic scenery, hearty food, humor, history of any age, sheepdogs, and the sea, and we looked forward to the whole “Gestalt” of the place.
Since the release of Room for Roots, there had been major new demands on our time on top of our regular activities. August, September, and the first week of October were a whirlwind, so for this leg of the tour, we thought we would just enjoy the Irish landscape and relax a bit. And, maybe we’d luck into some lovely music ….and perhaps l might even join in on a tune or two. I still had my guitar and mandolin with me, of course – both in their massive airline-proof (I hoped) travel cases – so I was ready for anything! We had no plans beyond a rental car reservation and a thought to head west to County Clare.
When we landed in Dublin, we dropped in at the Ireland Information Center in the airport to see what they suggested. We asked the woman at the desk where in Clare we should go to hear some good traditional music. “Doolin,” she said without hesitation, so to Doolin we went. Good call.
We traveled the highway west nearly to Galway then took the Wild Atlantic Way, a lovely, winding coastal road, south and arrived in Doolin as night was falling. We found a vacancy at a B&B, ditched our bags, and headed to the pubs for dinner and maybe some music. Not wanting to presume, I left the instruments as well. We wound up in O’Connor’s Pub, where there was a wonderful traditional session going as we entered. Little did we know at the time that this pub is one of the top venues in all Ireland for exactly what we were hoping to find.
There was something in the “feel” and quality of the music in Gus O’Connor’s Pub that night that drew me in. In the course of a friendly chat with one of the musicians during a break, he discovered that I’m a musician and immediately asked if I wanted to join in. I did. I zipped back to our room, grabbed the instruments in their mega-cases, and hauled them back to the pub. I plunked down on a chair at the edge of the circle of players with my guitar. The flutes, concertina and fiddle began to play and I followed with rhythm and chords as I had learned to do so many years before. What a delight! Tunes, talking, laughter, and song…. The next thing I know, we’re closing the place down. Lauren and I looked at each other and grinned.
One of the players that night was Christy Barry on flute, whistle, and spoons. It turns out, Christy is an All-Ireland champion on both tin whistle and flute and a Lifetime Achievement award-winner. Also playing was his friend, James Devitt, on fiddle and Terry Bingham on concertina, as well as others whose names have escaped my memory. Christy is at the center of much of the great music in that locale, including opening his home for visitors as the Doolin Music House. He is a kind host who has a deep understanding of, and love and respect for, the music of the region. And he is a remarkable player. We played music together three more evenings before we left the area. The last session, at the Roadside Tavern in Lisdoonvarna, included Colin Nea, who is an All-Ireland button accordion champion. I felt greatly honored and happy to be invited to be part of these sessions.
Besides the music, the scenery in western Ireland is breathtaking. Based out of the lovely Riverside Cottage B&B and fortified each morning with a fine breakfast, and suggestions and directions, provided by our hostess, Breda Meehan, we spent the next four days hiking and driving and riding on ferries. There was so much more to see and do than our time would allow! The people we met were friendly, kind, and down-to-earth, and the land and history are fascinating. And, being Americans, driving on the left side of the narrow country roads in the area – roads that are bound on both sides by venerable rock walls and frequented by barreling tour buses – was a thrill in itself!
One highlight of our visit was a long walk along the Cliffs of Moher with Pat Sweeney. Pat, a farmer whose land backs up to the cliffs, was responsible for bringing together dozens of his neighboring landowners to establish the easement and actually build the trail from Doolin to Liscannor. So far, they have completed the trail from Doolin to near the Cliffs of Moher Visitors Center, which is not quite half-way. A footpath goes the rest of the way to the center, and the farmers will pick up building the trail again this winter and again each winter until it goes all the way to Liscannor.
We took another delightful hike in – or on, as the case may be – the Burren, a remarkable limestone mountain which supports such an interesting and important ecosystem that is now a national park. Nearby, we visited Caherconnell Stone Fort, an ancient ring fort. Besides hosting a wide variety of archaeological and geological studies and activities on their property, the owners also raise sheep and cattle and present sheepdog demonstrations. We stayed for a demonstration, which was a great treat.
Our other big adventure was to Ennis Oirr (Innisheer), the smallest of the three Aran Islands and the closest to Doolin. The island is covered with an amazing network of ancient dry stone walls, dividing it into postage stamp-sized pastures – which Lauren found awesome. Some of the walls are a good seven feet high! We didn’t manage to make it to the ruins on the island, but we had a good long walk along the roads around the pastures. We’d have loved to stay longer, but I was going to a music session that evening and in the morning we were headed back to Dublin. Plus, weather was moving in and the ferry back was leaving early.
So the next day, we drove from Doolin to Dublin, turned in the car and checked into an airport hotel. That evening we hopped on a bus and set out to find the historic Cobblestone Pub in the very old Smithfield area of Dublin. Our good friend, musician Rick Lee – who was a great singer, piano player, and banjo player and was famous for his love of jamming – always said that one of his favorite jams was the session at the Cobblestone. I had known Rick since I was in my teens, and, sadly, we lost him a couple of years ago. This seemed like a lovely connection and a good way to honor him. We got there late on Saturday evening and the pub was packed with folks drinking and talking. In the front corner sat the musicians – fiddle, flute and Irish bouzouki. It wasn’t long before I was invited to join in, and I played a few tunes on guitar with the band in honor of the memory of my old friend.
That was the official end of the music on the “Diggin’ Deep for Roots Tour.” The next day we went sight-seeing around Dublin, which was fabulous, and the following morning we headed back to the states.
- “Room for Roots” in Sweden
October 3-10, 2016: Three very different gigs and some historic visiting!
See full photo album on Flickr
Izzy Young and the Folklore Centrum
We arrived in Stockholm on Monday, October 3. On Tuesday, Lauren and I took the subway across town to find Izzy Young at Folklore Centrum. Folks were friendly and pointed us in the right direction to find Wallmar Yx Kullsgatan 2bv. When we arrived, I looked through the big, glass, street-level store window, and there was Izzy – now in his late 80s, but very much the same as ever. I had not seen him in 46 years!
I had called to let Izzy know that we would be dropping by that afternoon, and he was eagerly expecting us. So began four days of hanging out, reminiscing, and catching up with Izzy and meeting many folks who regularly visited his shop. We also got to visit with Izzy’s daughter Philomene Grandin, who was so kind and helpful in so many ways, and her husband, Lars Demian: a great fellow and a fine Swedish roots/rock musician.
The Folklore Centrum is a bright store full of many, many books, posters/art and cds. The large open space in the center of the store is perfect for small gatherings and events. On Thursday, October 6, I presented a guitar workshop at the store, and on Friday the 7th I performed a concert there. The last time I had performed for Izzy was a concert I did for him in 1970 in NYC! Izzy was in attendance for both of my events at his Stockholm store and he made sure that I knew that he thoroughly enjoyed them. The audience, too, was appreciative and very responsive. Remarkably, most of the folks we met in Sweden are fluent in English – as their 2nd or 3rd language! The audience all laughed at my jokes and seemed to enjoy and understand the lyrics of our songs. It was a very informal event, and I really enjoyed it.
Lauren and I spent a fair amount of time hanging out at the store that week. I had brought prints of a number of photos of the New York Folklore Center, and we talked a lot about those and the old days. We also heard many tales of Izzy’s times and experiences during the years of the folk scene in NYC in the 1950s and 60s and what moving to Sweden had meant for him. He also shared his opinions on the folk music scene in Sweden. Izzy always seemed surprised when I mentioned what a huge affect he had on me and so many others back in the 60s. But because of his efforts as a presenter, I got to see and hear so many of the great and iconic traditional musicians of that era. And, because of his willingness to present young performers, I was able to begin my career and musical journey in the 60s as a singer/songwriter in concert at the Folklore Center in NYC.
When we first arrived in Stockholm, Izzy was exited to share with me that the New York Times was sending a reporter over to interview him the following week. The fact that in the early 1960’s he had helped a young Bob Dylan, who was just starting out, and had presented Dylan’s very first concert, had not been forgotten by the press, but it seemed to surprise Izzy a little that folks still remembered that. Then, not more than three days after we left Stockholm, it was announced that Bob Dylan had won a Nobel prize! Philomene informed me that things got very exiting around there that week!
Brian Kramer’s International Blues Jam
We said our goodbyes and thank yous to Izzy on Saturday morning, October 8, and then trekked across town to Gamla Stan, the oldest part of the very old city of Stockholm, to the Engelen Pub for my appearance at Brian Kramer’s International Blues Jam. (We, of course, stopped by the renowned Hellstone Music store on the way so I could check out a few guitars!) Brian, a friend and fan of Izzy’s, had invited me to be his special guest for this show and jam with the band. And jam we did to a lively crowd! Brian is a cordial host and he and his band are fine players and play sweet American rootsy blues. I led several tunes, including, “M&O Blues,” “Trouble in Mind,” my own “Same Ol’ Blues” from Room for Roots, and some low-down mando blues backed up by the band. I jammed a bit on some of their numbers, too. I had a blast and was made to feel very welcome by Brian, the band, and the audience. After the jam, Lauren and I wandered around Gamla Stan a bit. It was fascinating and lovely!
With my Stockholm commitments out of the way, I was free to do a bit of sightseeing the next day. Lauren and I took a ferry to the island of Vaxholm in the Stockholm Archipelago. We passed dozens of islands, some as tiny as a rock jutting out of the water, on the way. The tourist season was past, and the island was very quiet and peaceful – and quite beautiful. We explored a bit, then caught a bus back to the city – though we had come by ferry, we discovered that a road also runs from island to island for a ways out into the archipelago. We laughed at ourselves a little, then hopped aboard: We wanted to get back in plenty of time get ready to head out the next day for the last stop on the tour- Ireland. We had made no plans for this last leg of our Room for Roots journey and wondered just what would unfold.
Lauren took advantage of the time I was prepping for shows to wander around Stockholm and take a bunch of pictures. She’s shared them – and some of my shows, etc. – on Flickr. You can scroll through them right on this page or go to Flickr to see them in all their glory.Continue reading →
- “Room for Roots” Tour – Washington, DC, Area
September 29 – October 2, 2016
September was a busy month! With the big Station Inn Room for Roots CD release concert and my performance with Kenny Malone at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum behind us, we headed out to Winfield, Kansas, and the Walnut Valley Festival. In addition to my usual whirlwind of my own sets and Acoustic Kids Showcases, I was honored to participate in a late night concert celebrating the life and memory of guitarist, Pete Huttlinger. Then it was back to Nashville for the Americana Music Association Festival and Conference. I attended several excellent presentations during the conference, and I performed in the Bill Wence Promotions showcase on Music Row at Bobby’s Idle Hour. That was a blast! The venue brought back some honky tonk memories for me, for sure – it has the vibe! A few days later we set out for a two-and-a-half week tour which would take us to the D.C. area, Sweden, and Ireland. I’ve nick-named it the “Diggin’ Deep for Roots” Tour – there were so many new and renewed connections that we made on the trip that the name seems to fit on many levels.
On September 29, Lauren and I flew out to Washington D.C. for a house concert in Rockville, MD. We spent a couple of days visiting Dan and Amy Sheesley, friends of Lauren’s from her undergraduate days at Colorado State University some 40 years ago. Dan and Amy put us up in their lovely home, which, by the way, they have opened up for guests as Air B&B hosts. (If you’re headed to DC and want a great place to stay, I highly recommend you look them up on AirBnB.com!) Our hosts for the concert itself – as well as for our last night in the area – were Chuck and Laura Woolery, who are, coincidentally, also Lauren’s friends from her CSU days in the 1970s. Chuck and Laura have created a wonderful, welcoming space (with great acoustics!!) in their home for events like this, and it was a delightful visit as well. I really enjoyed meeting this interesting and eclectic group of folks, and I know it was wonderful for Lauren to reconnect with them after so many years had gone by.
The show was great fun! We met many lovely folks who had come out for the concert, and there were some familiar faces in the crowd, too: Mike Licht, my cousin, who I hadn’t seen in way too long, and Bill Mulroney, whose album, Second Wind, I produced in Nashville some years ago. In fact, Bill loaned me his fine Martin guitar to put in open tuning for the show so that I could perform “Stone Soup from Hard Times,” a song on the new CD. After visiting into the wee hours that night, we got up the next morning and drove out to Reston, Virginia, to visit with Ralph Lee Smith and his lovely wife Susie.
Ralph is a dear old friend. He is also a renowned expert on the history of the American Appalachian dulcimer and many other aspects of American folk music. His book, The Story of the Dulcimer (second edition), was just published by the University of Tennessee Press after many years of the first edition being out-of-print. Ralph, now in his late 80s, plays wonderful dulcimer and harmonica and sings fabulous old songs. He was part of a great crowd of pickers and players that I fell in with when I was a teenager living in Greenwich Village in the 1960s. In fact, Ralph played harmonica with me, Kenny Kosek, Al Feldman, and John Burke when the Star Spangled String Band played Carnegie Hall in 1967. In those days, too, Ralph’s West Village apartment was home to many fabulous picking sessions. It was also just down the street from the wonderful old-timey fiddler Alan Block’s sandal shop, where a great old-timey jam took place every Saturday afternoon, and a few streets away from Izzy Young’s Folklore Center on 6th Avenue, which was the hub of the folk music world at the time. In Greenwich Village – The Happy Folk Singing Days – ’50s & ’60s, a book he co-authored with Madeline MacNeil, Ralph writes about all these things and many more. <pic of Andy & Ralph in the old days We were so busy yacking, none of us thought to take a picture, so here’s one from 196?.>
Though the Folklore Center was a hot spot in the world of roots music in the ’60s, Izzy moved to Stockholm, Sweden, in 1973 and opened the Folklore Centrum there. Later on the very day we visited Ralph, Lauren and I would be flying out to Stockholm to visit Izzy, and later that week I was booked to lead a workshop and give a concert at his Folklore Centrum. There was lots of talk that morning about the old days. It was a great visit, but way too short: We had a plane to catch!Continue reading →
- Izzy Young, the New York Folklore Center, and Folklore Centrum
When I was a teenage musician in NYC in the 1960s, Izzy Young was one of the people who occupied a place pretty much in the center of the folk music world. He owned the Folklore Center, which he had opened in the late ’50s on Macdougal Street. There, he sold a variety of books and LP records embracing a wide range of folk and ethnic music, as well as musical instruments. Izzy was passionate – about folk music, about poetry, about politics, about social justice… about many things. He was also a prolific writer, and his newsletters and columns – in which he voiced his views on musical trends and events, among other things – were published in a variety of magazines. His passion attracted musicians to the Folklore Center, and it became known as a place where you could learn what was happening in the folk music world of NYC and well beyond.
By the time I was active in the music scene in the mid-to-late ’60s, Izzy had moved the store a few blocks west to 6th Avenue, and it had become a gathering place, a performance venue, and a musical instrument shop as well. (I bought my first Martin guitar, a 1949 D-28, at Izzy’s shop in 1964!) Izzy had also taken on the role of promoter for musicians whose work he valued. In the early ’60s, he rented a hall and gave a struggling and relatively unknown singer/songwriter named Bob Dylan his first concert opportunity. He did the same for me some nine years later.
My association with Izzy led to me and my band, The Star Spangled String Band, being included in a Carnegie Hall “Hootenanny” concert hosted by Pete Seeger. I also played in the house band for Izzy on his live weekly radio show on WBAI. Izzy had lots of guests on that show: I remember one day when Jerry Jeff Walker came in and sang his new song: Mr. Bojangles. I also played square dance music for Izzy when he called a big dance – and I probably played a political rally or two for him as well!
Izzy called me one day in the late ’60s and told me to come down to the store and bring my guitar. He said there was a girl there from the Washington, DC, area, and he thought I might enjoy making music with her. Her name was Emmy Lou Harris – at that point, pretty much unknown outside the DC area. We played a bunch of music that afternoon! Izzy also put me on a concert bill with Rory Block, my friend Allan Block’s daughter, who was just starting her career.
I could go on and on with Izzy stories. The most recent one, though – and one of my favorites – is how things have come full circle:
After I moved to Cambridge, MA, in 1970, I didn’t see much of Izzy. A few years later, I heard that he had moved to Stockholm, Sweden, where he opened the Folklore Centrum and more or less continued doing all the things he had done in New York. He’s been there ever since. I would occasionally hear about him from musician buddies who were gigging in Europe, but I lost touch with him myself.
In early 2016, I read that the Smithsonian Institution’s American Folklife Center had acquired Izzy’s writings, notes, and recordings from the old days for their collection. On a whim, I called him up out of the blue, and as we talked it seemed like the years rolled away. He promptly invited me to do a show and a Master Class at the Folklore Centrum, and he put me in touch with Brian Kramer, an associate of his, who invited me to appear as a guest at the International Blues Jam the same week. And so, in October of 2016 – some 46 years after I had last seen Izzy – I headed to Sweden for three unexpected gigs and to visit my old friend and mentor, Izzy Young, now in his late 80’s. (Read about this visit in my post: Room for Roots in Sweden.)
More on Izzy:
February 4, 2016 It is with great sadness we share the news of Izzy Young’s passing. Izzy was a vocal, dynamic, and unflagging supporter of folk music who left an indelible impression on lives and culture. He was a friend – to me and to the music. His NY Times obituary, below, is a wonderful tribute.
Settled in Sweden, the Man Who First Booked Dylan. New York Times. DEC. 7, 2016.
The first stop for aspiring 1960s folkies, Izzy Young’s Folklore Center. March 8, 2016. A guest post by archivist Todd Harvey, the acquisitions coordinator at the American Folklife Center.
Izzy Young at the Dylan Thomas Birthplace – with interesting background info.
The Conscience of the Folk Revival: The Writings of Israel “Izzy” Young Ed. by Scott Barretta (review by Philip Nusbaum)
In the UNC – Chapel Hill Library – Articles and Books by and about Izzy
Collection Number: 20239: Ronald D. Cohen Collection, 1914-2005 (bulk 1940-2005) in the UNC Southern Folklife Collection. Multiple photographs, correspondence, etc. (Search page for “Izzy“)Continue reading →