|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!!|
- An Evening to Remember Allan Block- Jalopy Theatre – NYC
November 30, 2014
What a great event to celebrate the life of Allan Block – a great old time fiddler, poet, craftsman and friend at the Jalopy Theatre. Thank you, Rory Block, for putting it together and including me on the concert lineup. The audience was wonderful and it was an honor to appear with the great guests on the bill and to visit with New Lost City Ramblers, John Cohen. Another high point of the event was that I got to perform and hang out with my buddy Kenny Kosek. Allan was an inspiration and friend to us both when we were bright eyed kids, eager to play music with our heroes. I know Allan would have loved the show!
– AndyContinue reading →
- Allan Block: Fiddler, Poet, Sandal-maker
My friend, Allan Block, was a colorful person – very much an individual. He was a great fiddler, a fine musician, and a wonderful poet and leather craftsman. Part of what made Allan so unique was that he was able to be all of these things and run a business at the same time. His sandal-making shop was an established part of New York City’s West Village for many years. And on Saturday afternoons, it became the meeting place for one of the best Old-Time Music jam sessions in the Northeast USA.
Allan was a very intelligent man, and he had high standards when it came to his music. But he was also kindhearted, which meant that younger players like me and my friend Kenny Kosek could find a place in the mix of players at his shop on Saturday afternoons and, as Bill Monroe might have said, “be part of something.”
Playing music with Allan and the many great players I met through his music, became one of the highlights of my teenage years. There were friendships made that have lasted a lifetime, and they started right there in the sandal shop.
Allan left New York City for rural Southern New Hampshire towards the end of the ’60’s. When I headed out to live in New England in 1970, he and I continued our friendship. We worked together many times over the years playing dances, clubs and the occasional concert set, or just got together to visit and play music. During this time, I played guitar for him on his Alive and Well and Fiddling LP on the Living Folk label.
When I moved to Colorado – and later to Tennessee, the visits became less frequent, but a phone call to Allan was all it took to strike up the old friendship.
Allan left this world in October 2013. He was 90 years old. I miss him. Rest in peace ol’ buddy.
A Handful of Videos:
Allan’s obituary in the NY Times
Allan’s obituary in the Boston Globe
Remembering Uncle Alan by his niece, Melissa Block, on NPR. With audio.
Allan’s Sandal Shop
Allan Block Memorial, Jalopy Theater, NYC. November, 2014.
Allan Block discographyContinue reading →
- The Andy May – Texas Tabby Crabb Band
By the time we started The Andy May – Texas Tabby Crabb Band in 1977, Tabby and I both had years of experience in different commercial music scenes. We knew enough to realize the hard work and luck that it would take to make a living wage from a band. And it did.
We worked together on getting bookings- clubs for starters, then colleges, schools, special events, and finally concerts. We worked close by at first and then stretched out into neighboring states. Very soon the workload of gigs got to be more than Joe Giandalone, our bass player could handle, since he had a piano tuning business during the daytime hours. We added “Wild Bill” Holloway on bass (also a strong singer), and sometime later, Andrew “Chopper” Chodorow on drums.
Tabby and I started out as friends who liked a lot of the same music and that was the attitude and blend of music that we presented to our audience. We sang well together, and folks really liked it. Tabby could wail on the steel guitar and five string banjo, flat top guitar, telecaster and fiddle. We also featured a lot of my electric mandolin playing, telecaster stylings, and flat top acoustic guitar work. We mixed songs that were popular at the time with timeless country classics, blues, Old-Timey Southern fiddle tunes, bluegrass standards and New England traditional dance tunes. We both were songwriters too, and that added something special to our performances. We were a band that you could listen to, party to, or dance to, and the local and regional press enjoyed writing about us, so we stayed in the public eye. A highlight of those years was playing at a private event held for Kitty Wells, “The Queen of Country Music” and her husband, Johnnie Wright.
After a wild and rewarding ride, AMTTCB disbanded in 1978. I wanted to do more writing and solo work and to do some recording. The last performance of Andy May and Texas Tabby Crabb was on September 3, 1978, when we opened a large outdoor concert for Merle Haggard and the Strangers in Escoheag, Rhode Island. It was a great way to end things!
Tabby and I remained friends and played music together occasionally over the years. In 1996, we ended up being neighbors again, living less than 10 miles apart in rural Wilson County, Tennessee. Several years ago, I wrote a song about the AMTTCB times called Haggard and the Queen. The video below is from an early performance of the song at MerleFest. This one’s for you, Tabby!
Newspaper Articles:AMTTCB Photo Gallery:
- The “Andy May and Atlantic Express” Years
After the Andy May – Texas Tabby Crabb Band dissolved, I worked all kinds of music gigs. I developed a circuit of clubs, dance halls, schools, coffee houses, and colleges in about six states throughout the Northeast, performing solo, in small combinations or as a band leader. I also completed my first recording project as an artist, Ride with Me, and released the LP on my own newly formed record label, Swift River Music.
Early in the 80’s, I began working with the folks at the The Arts Extension Service (AES) at U Mass. Amherst. This agency had been formed to promote and support the arts in that region of the country. I was ready to get out of depending on bar gigs as the source of a large part of my income. AES helped me get focused as a performing artist, through workshops that they sponsored and through advice that they shared. They also had compiled directories of music event presenters, which I was able to tap into. Those regional booking directories offered me the opportunity to book indoor and outdoor concert events. That appealed to me a great deal. I once read a book my mom had given me about the great opera singer, Marian Anderson, who had learned to book her own concert appearances. I figured I needed to do the same, so I went to work and did!
Ride with Me, which contained mostly original material, was getting good reviews, and I was determined that my future performances would feature a lot more of the material I was writing. I’d had a band sound in mind for that record and had produced it primarily as a band record. So now, with the prospect of booking actual concert dates, I put a band together of some of my favorite players in my area: Musicians who were respected professionals and whose playing would be enjoyed anywhere on the planet! With Tim Griffin on percussion, Rudi Weeks on bass, Rick King on electric guitar, and Jimmy Heffernan on pedal steel guitar, dobro and banjo (Tim, Jimmy, and Rick had also played on Ride With Me), “Atlantic Express” was born. Later, Joe Belmont replaced Rick King on guitar, and Jeff Potter came in on keyboard and mouth harp.
With Andy May and Atlantic Express, I was able to do a lot of what I had set out to do. We had a yearly circuit of outdoor concerts, events and festivals. I was performing lots of my original material. We worked well together, made good music, and had fun on stage – and people loved our sound. By 1987, I was becoming a sort of poster child for new Indie musician movement in the northeast.
The photos in this video are from a 1984 festival Atlantic Express played in Hartford, CT. The sound track is from Andy’s “MaySongs” CD, adding Jim Weeks (keyboards), Eric Levine (fiddle), and Sterling Silver- (Background Vocals) to the band. Video by Kevin Helm.
That said, being a do-it-yourself working performer is a challenge in many different ways. I was spending many hours each week researching the venues, making the inquiry calls, creating the promotional materials, sending out said promotional materials (this was pre-internet), doing the follow up work, booking the shows and arranging the dates, maintaining the band vehicle, writing and arranging the music, and setting up and producing band recording sessions and rehearsals. Then, there is hauling and setting up sound system gear, and, if you are a regional act like we were, there can be many hours of driving before and after each show. And, bills need to get paid in a timely manner each month even if a show gets cancelled or the weather shuts things down. Sound stressful? It can be hard on relationships. I had a wife and young child at that time, and I tried not to be away from home if I could possibly get back after a performance. It can also be hard one one’s health. Predictably, in the middle of it all, I got run down and wound up with double pneumonia. I couldn’t work or perform for over a month. I know that many folks who are self-employed can relate to what I am saying here: It is challenge in many different ways, and it can take a toll.
Then, an employment opportunity arose in northern Colorado that seemed like an good enough prospect for my little family for us to leave the beautiful New England countryside and head West. Our Plan was that I would continue performing for and booking the market I had back East while I developed a new Western market for my music. So, as a family, we moved. 1988 found me living in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Then things changed, including The Plan.
- “At the Fork in the Road”
Behind the Song
Andy: This started out as a sketch I wrote about a move I had made out to Colorado many years ago. The sketch became a song about losing and starting over again, and a tribute to a time, a place, and the people who helped me learn to turn things around for the better. About keeping the faith – and your sense of humor – even when plans change.
Interview: In this video, Andy talks a little about the inspiration for the song.
- Andy May – Acoustic & electric lead & back-up guitar, Lead and backup vocals
- Dan Dugmore – Pedal Steel Guitar
- Kirk “Jelly Roll” Johnson – Harmonica
- Rodger Morris – Piano
- Jeremy Shearer – Bass
- Nathan Smith – Drums
.At the Fork in the Road
Snow could fall in mid-September, I look back and I remember
All the things that old town meant to me
At first I struggled to survive, but I was never more alive
Those were times I’d never felt so free
So I guess it was a pretty good place for me to fall …flat on my face
At the fork in the road, the fork in the road, the fork in the road, the fork in the road
I moved out there with good intentions, best-laid plans, but let me mention
The road abruptly stopped when bridges burned
Those folks taught me about living, that town taught me about giving
Not worrying much about getting in return
They say what goes around comes around
I found it out in that old town
You think you’ve lost, then you find you’re winning
Come out ahead with a new beginning
At the fork in the road, the fork in the road, the fork in the road, the fork in the road
- Track 2 on Room for Roots, SRM CD-118