Andy's Notes - An Intermittent Article Series

Cambridge, MA

by Andy May


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. So, of course I wrote a song about that: I Think I’ll Move.

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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