In 1976 I found myself with a college diploma in fine arts, but also with a strong desire to play music and stay in Western Mass. I loved to hike the forests and trails there, and was enjoying getting to know the folks in my area. All I needed was a way to eat and pay the bills. Enter Tabby Crabb.
I had heard through the music grapevine that a fellow had showed up in the Amherst area straight from being a member of a popular country rock band in Texas called Medicine Wheel. Folks said he could play pedal steel guitar, banjo, guitar and fiddle and was looking for work. I set up a meeting to visit and we hit it off very well. I had some pick-up work as a side man in a country band in Vermont coming right up, and I managed to get Tabby hired to play pedal steel for those shows. Tabby made that steel guitar smoke and also loved and respected the music enough to really make it fit in and get the job done right. After these shows, I lost track of Tabby for a little while.
Sometime later, I moved from Northampton to a little road out in the country in Belchertown. After I had settled in, I figured I’d check out who my neighbors on the road were. Lo and behold, Tabby had recently moved to the house across the road. An amazing coincidence! We had time as neighbors to jam, we both loved country music, bluegrass, rock and roll, blues, old-timey music, and the old fiddle tunes – and we both wrote songs. Since we played a variety of instruments, the music was always fun and interesting. Also, we both were financially stressed, to put it nicely.
We heard there was a little honky-tonk in North Amherst called Mike’s Westview Cafe, that wanted music on the weekends. We added Tabby’s landlord, Joe Giandalone, on Fender bass, and landed a regular job there. Soon lots of folks started coming out to hear us each weekend. Wynn Fay, the godfather of traditional country music in that region became our fan, and dubbed Tabby,”Texas Tabby Crabb.” And so began one of the most intense and musically rewarding times of my life: the time of The Andy May and Texas Tabby Crabb Band. I think I still have the tee shirt – if I can just find it!
Tabby is gone now, but he left us some great music and wonderful memories. He also wrote a book about his life in the music business, The Music River of Life. There’s a lot of history in there, and on his website.