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"One Man's Rock & Roll"

The mid-fifties maybe more than any other time produced a large "communications gap" in musical tastes. The lines of battle were reasonably muddled but the out cries raised against the likes of hot rods, black leather jackets, sideburns, blue suede shoes, and Rock 'n' Roll were starting a revolution in the American home. One man's Rock 'n' Roll was another man's frivolous and often times scandalous way of presenting himself to the public. Like it or not Rock was here to stay and along with it came Rock's Original Rolling Stone, Andy Anderson.

By 1945 the largest armed conflict in the history of the world had ended and all 48 states were excited about their future and "letting off post-war steam". Ten-year-old Andy Anderson and cousin Billy Anderson were excited too, but not about their future. It Was Saturday. That meant that everyone within 25 miles of the King & Anderson Plantation, near Clarksdale, Mississippi, would descend on the plantation general store, collect their wages, pay bills, shop, gossip and sing and dance. By late afternoon, Andy and his brother Brooks, along with cousins Billy and Harry Anderson, would have played around all day listening to the likes of Mississippi Slim, B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker or Elmore James. Although Andy loved this live music it wasn't until his sophomore year in high school that he began to realize and appreciate its influence on his own music.

Culver Military Academy, in 1951, was to see the start of that sophomore year for Andy and cousin Billy. The two were together again, just like the old days on the plantation, only this time they were loose on Culver, Indiana. Christmas vacation of that year proved to be one of the most important times of Andy's life and its impact on music would eventually be felt by millions. During that vacation, Andy and Elizabeth Anderson, his mother, were watching their new television, one of the first in the area. A Memphis station was showing some local country talent. Elizabeth said that she thought that Andy could do as well as the musicians on the program. Andy said that he thought so too, if only he had a guitar. Since a Memphis shopping trip was a family tradition, Elizabeth and Andy went to Memphis the next day. After checking into the Peabody Hotel, Andy was given fifty dollars and in the spirit of the family tradition, went shopping. He was looking for a reasonably priced beginner guitar, but what he really found was a large part of his future.

The $37.50 6-string guitar that was to be the first of many guitars for Andy was purchased at O.K. Houck's Music Company on Union Avenue in downtown Memphis, Tennessee. It was O.K. himself who sold and tuned the guitar, explained some chords and pickin' styles, and suggested the Mel Bray 10 Easy Lessons. Andy took it all, pocketed his change and started out as millions have, to his first solo session on guitar. Most people practice for the first time anywhere they can hide or on a back alley street corner, but not Andy. His session took place in a reserved suite at the Peabody Hotel, a good, if unusual start. When Elizabeth Anderson returned from her shopping, she found Andy and his new "Christmas present" hard at work.

Andy listened to the Grande Ole Opry every Saturday night from six until midnight without fail. Within weeks, Andy was playing and singing many of the favorites of the Opry. Andy got his musical talent from his mother. She wrote music, played piano, and sang. She was always very supportive of Andy's music, but she was never to see to what extent he kept his promise to her about learning to play. Her untimely death in October of 1953 signaled the end of any family support from his father and later his stepmother. From then on he was on his own, literally a "Rolling Stone".

Andy's junior year in high school, back in Mississippi, coincided with his first experience with a band. With classmates Jimmy Giles on drums, and the ever-present Billy Anderson on piano, the three were soon enjoying themselves making "Mississippi Music" at every opportunity. 1952 and 1953 were Andy's introduction to college life at Mississippi State University. Even though he was still in high school he was playing fraternity parties on campus and was later joined at these functions by "Cuz" Covington on bass and Joe Tubb on lead guitar. In 1953 as freshmen, Andy, Cuz and Joe lived in the same dorm at "State" in Starkville, Mississippi. Since they lived there, it seemed only logical that they should practice there also.

Numerous jam sessions took place prompting more than one reprimand from the administration, but history was not to be denied. A musical group comprised of Andy Anderson, Joe Tubb, "Cuz" Covington, Bobby Lyon, James Aldridge and Roy Estes emerged out of all those who took part in the jam sessions and by 1955 they were playing all around campus, neighboring towns, and on telethons. They were soon convinced they could entertain people beyond just good showmanship, and they decided that since they traveled so much that they should charge for playing. Their name reflected the amount of time spent on the road and as Joe Tubb was quick to point out, they were "gathering no moss", just experience and fans. So it was, that the "Rolling Stones" started writing their own chapter in American music, one that would find its way into the 1980's and history. <

During the formative years for the "Rolling Stones", bookings just took care of themselves", but when requests for gigs became more numerous than there were nights to play them, it was obvious that some controls were needed. Joe Tubb, Cuz Covington, and Andy all three took control, shared the responsibilities, and managed the group from then on. In 1956, Jimmy Ammons of Delta Records and Mabel McQueen of Pine-Sol fame, decided to offer a management contract to this group of popular Rock and Roll performers. The "Rolling Stones" signed and worked with Ammons and McQueen for the larger part of that year. The popularity of the "Stones" grew rapidly and with it came the need for a different agency, one with more national exposure. Ammons and McQueen parted company with the Stones and once again the group was on its own. Whenever they were left alone, the "Rolling Stones" seemed to make the right decisions career wise. Their next move took them to see Sam Phillips at Sun Records in Memphis. Like so many of the other greats who were his contemporaries, Andy and the "Rolling Stones" cut several records at Sun. After numerous weekends of work, while still in school, Andy and the Stones cut an album with Jack Clements as engineer at the old Madison Avenue Studio in Memphis, but the work was never released because of Sun's financial position. At that time Sun was using all of its funds in order to pay the cost of its current stable of artists, the listing of which sounds like a veritable who's who of music:

Johnny Cash and "I Walk the Line"
Elvis with "That's Alright Mamma"
Carl Perkins - "Match Box"
Billy Riley - "Red Hot"
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Whole Lota Shakin' Goin' On"
Warren Smith - "Ubangi Stomp"
and Roy Orbison with "Oobie Doobie"

At Sun Records and on the road, Andy and the "Rolling Stones" played and learned with the likes of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison. At one time Andy and Elvis shared the same voice teacher in Memphis, one Zelma Lee Whitfield. These people all influenced each other as a group of the "founding fathers" of rock and roll and they crossed paths many times. The album that was cut but was never released by Sun was a blow to Andy and the "Stones" but not for long, other events were on their minds.

Andy and the "Rolling Stones" graduated from "State" in 1957. Most had engineering degrees and many had job offers in the far less fanciful world of business. Roy Estes and Bobby Lyon both left the band for jobs elsewhere. They were replaced by Sammy Martina and Jimmy Whitehead, both of whom had been subs on piano and drums respectively for several years. Even to the casual observer it was obvious that the "Rolling Stones" were professionals and as such, professional contact were in order. Murray Nash and Associates, publishing agents from Nashville, Tennessee, were one such contact. They signed the "Rolling Stones" in 1957 and things began to happen. But not all was as it seemed. Through Nash and Associates a deal was struck with the Felsted label, the Rock and Roll subsidiary of London Records, for the recording of "Johnny Valentine" and "I-I-I Love You." "Johnny Valentine" was written by Andy as an answer to "The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane" a popular song of that time by the Mills Brothers. The "Stones" had played "Johnny Valentine" hundreds of times on the road, but when they arrived at the Bradley Studios in Nashville they were told that studio musicians were to be used because the band members were not union members. Andy could sing, but he wasn't allowed to play rhythm guitar on the session.

That version of "Johnny Valentine" featured Andy on lead vocals, Hank "Sugarfoot" Garland on lead guitar, Buddy Harmon on drums, Bobby Moore on bass, and the Jordanaires on background vocals. It holds a unique place in musical history in that it was the first Rock and Roll record to be distributed on a world wide basis. London Records, through its Felsted Label, intended on making sure that their first Rock record would be a hit. With that in mind, London turned its international distribution of "Johnny Valentine" over to Top Rank International, and it did indeed become a hit. Although London had succeeded in making a hit record, they had neglected the musicians who made that song and thereby lost the confidence of Andy and the "Rolling Stones". Later on in 1957, the "Rolling Stones" went into a little upstairs recording studio in Nashville, and union or not, they cut "You Shake a Me Up" and "The Way She Smiled" on a 45 record. "You Shake a Me Up" was Andy's insightful look at the effects of his music on Rock and Roll fans in the 50s and "The Way She Smiled" was written in about 45 minutes by Andy and Joe Tubb in the car outside of the studio because they needed a slow song for the "B" side of the record. When Felsted/London finally realized that they had a hit on their first Rock and Roll world wide release, they wanted more of the "Rolling Stones" but by then it was too late. The independent recording of "You Shake a Me Up" had been shopped by Nash and Associates, picked up by Apollo, a New York label, and was on its way to becoming one of only a few songs in history that was the "Pick Hit of the Week" in Cashbox, Billboard, and Music Reporter all in the same week. It was that release on Apollo that is responsible for the popularity of Andy and his music in and around new York City today. By concentrating on the record instead of on the musicians who made it, London lost a chance to continue to make musical history with "Andy and the Rolling Stones".

In December of 1959, at the height of the Rolling Stones popularity, Andy received a phone call from his dad. His dad told him it was time to reconcile their differences, time to forget Rock & Roll, and come home to run the family plantation. Since Andy had been groomed to do this all his life, he gave notice to the Rolling Stones and left the lead vocal responsibilities to Howard "B.B." Boone. Andy packed his personal possessions and returned to Clarksdale, a place in the Mississippi Delta, that was supposed to be home. Andy's father had remarried and like the change going on all around him, Andy's father had changed too. Upon Andy's arrival, his dad told him that he had second thoughts about his previous decision, and that he didn't think that it would work out. Andy was totally devastated and lost remaining respect for his father and the family plantation tradition. Andy had betrayed his fellow Rolling Stones and his love for music for nothing.

Andy, bitter and disgusted, returned to Jackson and with the unrelenting determination of a true Taurus, started two new ventures. The first was a new Rock & Roll show band he called "The Dawnbreakers". The second venture was a wholesale electrical supply company. About the time Andy's supply company was getting established, "The Dawnbreakers had their first hit record": "Tough Tough Tough" G/W "Gimme a Curly Lock of Your Hair". That record created a snowball effect and led to four other hit records and a life on the road touring. The Dawnbreakers were on their way to becoming even bigger than the Rolling Stones.

By 1965, the constant touring and business pressures had taken its toll on Andy. He dissolved the Dawnbreakers, turned the management of his supply company over to his partners and moved to California to pursue an acting career. From 1966 to 1968, under the tutelage of Aaron Spelling and the William Morris Agency, Andy pursued a new career. He loved the new challenge, and was successful playing small parts and recording new songs with "The Association". The songs got good air play across the country ands things in California were going good for Andy. Andy and his manager Karl Brent had formed their own personal management company and began managing "The Seeds", "Canned Heat", "Jefferson Airplane", and Sherry Jackson.

In 1968 Andy received another shocking phone call from Mississippi. His younger brother, Brooks, was terminally ill with cancer, and Andy went home to help take care of him, but Brooks died in December of 1969 leaving another heavy void in Andy's life. During his long and drawn out illness, Brooks, like Andy before him, went through devastating experiences regarding plantation stock, money, his marriage and their reluctance to accept him as a member of the family. Andy always felt that Brook's rejection by the family destroyed his will to fight, and the cancer finally won. Having lost a similar battle himself, Andy was now alone in the world.

After Brooks death, Andy stayed in Misissippi to help settle family affairs and to resume the management of his business interests. Things were going well for Andy again in Mississippi, but Hollywood and show business are fickle, after his two year departure, Andy felt he had lost his momentum there and decided to concentrate on his business interests. In 1972, the IRS started auditing Andy's company and turned his already disturbed world upside down. Their actions caused the breakup of his marriage and forced him to liquidate his supply company. This on top of his previous family problems, the death of his brother, and the loss of his California life style, forced Andy to seek therapy in seclusion. Andy's attorney, and life long friend Al Binder, had Andy admitted to Riverside hospital for three months to give him time to sort through the pieces and get his sanity back. A wise move, the IRS, his father, his wife, nor anyone could get to him.

In 1974, Andy was still living in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. There he met J.J. Hettinger from Louisville, Kentucky. J.J. was teaching in the Catholic High School in Biloxi. Andy was still recovering from the many fiascos and trying to start a new life. He once again turned to music. J.J. was a talented and creative songwriter and he and Andy started writing songs together. With Andy's background in Rock & Roll and Blues, and J.J.'s ability to write modern, expressive lyrics, they made a dynamic and unique team. They classified their style as progressive, folk-rock, blues. After writing several commercial songs, we started cutting tracks at Malaco Studios in Jackson, Mississippi under the name of "The Eagle and the Hawk".

By the fall of 1975, Andy had negotiated final settlements with the IRS and his former wife. Andy, financially and mentally devastated, decided to move to New Mexico and use Santa Fe as a home base for the Eagle and the Hawk and Aerie Records, his new record label. Eagle and the Hawk was a new and challenging outlet for Andy at this time in life. He was almost out of money but not energy. Andy obtained his Real Estate License and started developing and selling real estate to make a living. Meanwhile, he promoted Eagle and the Hawk throughout the south and southwest with every penney he could muster.

Eagle and Hawk were getting extensive air play in Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and New Mexico, but the product was not there. Fans wanted the records but there were none for them to buy. International Record Distributors, of Nashville had not gotten the records into stores in those markets, therefore, their efforts had been futile. Their records were new and refreshing and well accepted by disc jockeys and the public. Even though they were not in a position to capitalize on the record sales, requests to perform were beginning to come in and finally the Eagle & the Hawk were going on tour throughout south Texas.

On December 23rd, 1975, Andy returned from Santa Fe to spend Christmas with his cousin Billy Anderson in Clarksdale, his old home town. His luck was with him! He was in the right place at the right time for once in his life! He stopped in a neighborhood drug store in Jackson to buy Christmas cards and met his future wife Kay Norcom. Kay was teaching school and working part time in the drug store during the holidays for the next three months, they became inseparable. Kay was teaching and Andy and J.J. were finishing up Texas Woman, Rhonda, and Long Long Way to Go at Malaco Studio.

In April 1976, Andy, Kay, and J.J. moved to Taos, New Mexico, and set up operations there. They were getting settled in, promoting their records and getting ready for a concert tour through Texas when tragedy struck again. On May 13th, 1976, two days before his forty-first birthday, Andy got the middle finger on his left hand caught in the hydraulic lift on their equipment truck and severed it to the first joint. The vision of his entire musical career flashed before his eyes and Andy knew it was over. Andy went into a deep depression, put his guitar under the bed, and gave up on music. Eagle and Hawk were forced to cancel their first concert tour, and J.J. moved back to Louisville, Kentucky.

To survive, Andy put together a new company "Big Valley Land & Construction", and started designing, building, and developing real estate projects. His music momentum died along with the Eagle & the Hawk. All of his energy and time were devoted to building their home and their company. They were at home one evening when the phone rang. It was Don Filletti, with Relics Inc. in New York. Don's company programmed music from the 50's & 60's for area radio stations. He remembered Andy from the Rolling Stones and Dawnbreakers, and had been receiving requests for Andy's music for some time. Don had thought Andy was dead and was very excited to find him alive and well. They did a forty-five minute telephone interview live and during their visit, Don told Andy about Peter Zedrenka of Bison Bop records in Frankfurt, Germany. It seems Peter was also interested in finding Andy. Peter's Company was a major distributor of old Rock and Roll in Germany and Europe. Peter flew to the states to release Andy's entire catalog on Bison Bop Records in Germany. In Europe Andy is considered one of the original founders of rock 'n' Roll, but he had never been made aware of the fact. All of his life he had pursued his own thing, and now all of a sudden, so many miles down the road, he was amused that someone was pursuing him for a change. He was still very skeptical of everything, and the guitar was still under his bed.

Shortly after the Bison Bop deal, Andy and Kay were returning home one night from the Sagebrush Inn in Taos where they had been partying with friends. Andy got a strong vision for a song and began writing it on the way home. When they arrived home, Andy pulled the Ovation guitar from under the bed, and with Kay writing the lyrics, the song, "Rachelene" was born. That was the spark that Andy needed. With his usual persistence, he taught himself to play the guitar again improvising new finger positions to accommodate for the missing finger. He reverted back to his old Rockabilly style of guitar playing since he was lacking a finger to perform the more complex cords. He started writing songs with the old feel and everything started falling in place again. In 1983, Andy started rehearsing with local musicians in Taos. They put together a band and started playing local gigs, but that was not enough to fuel Andy's deep seated needs. He needed hard core Southern Rock 'n' Roll.

After amassing many new songs, he contacted his friend James Stroud from the old Malaco Studio sessions. James had moved to Nashville from Boulder, Colorado, and was producing sessions there. He invited Andy to come to Nashville, and he cut four sides for James at United Artist Studios. James position changed shortly thereafter, and Andy was never able to finish the project. He was now back in Taos, distraught and disillusioned once again, but as usual, that would not last long. The success of Andy's album on Bison Bop Records in Germany, along with the release of his old Sun recordings on Charley Records in London prompted Dave Travis of Ridgetop Music in London to contact Andy. Dave contracted with Andy as his European agent and proceeded to secure album releases on Red Lighting Records in England, Sun Jay Records in Sweden, and Go Cat Go Records in Japan. His European connections were beginning to finally gain form and function.

The roller coaster ride was still not over however. In 1986, Andy's company Big Valley Land & Construction subcontracted a large project the New Mexico State fish hatchery which was to be built in Questa, New Mexico, north of Taos. This was to be Andy's last project in New Mexico. He and Kay had decided to move permanently back to Mississippi to be closer to family and friends and last but not least, Southern Rock and Roll musicians. The profits from this large construction project would give him the capital he needed, but his biggest contract yet was not meant to be. The general contractor on the project went bankrupt. This cost Andy his profit from the job and forced him to liquidate his company to pay off all of his debts.

Again, depressed over his business fiasco, and the unfinished Nashville sessions, Andy was about to make some dramatic life changing decisions. He started analyzing his music to start with. He was unhappy with the sound he got in Nashville, it was too slick and too country. It lacked the raw energy and drive of Southern Rock 'n' Roll. He thought about the recording he had done at John Wagner's studio in Albuquerque and the session in Ceaillos with the local musicians, and came up with the same thought. It just wasn't "Kick Ass" Rock 'n' Roll. He realized to get the sound and feel he wanted there was only one thing to do. He had to get back home to Mississippi. To do this, Andy had to get on his feet financially to be able to move.

Andy and Kay sold their home in Taos and moved to Albuquerque. They lived there for nine months and designed and built custom homes. Andy and Kay finally moved home in August of 1987. Kay got a job teaching at St. Mary's Catholic School and Andy started selling medical supplies for a company in Jackson. They had gone full circle and were starting over again. Andy, anxious to get his music going and to finish the album he started in Nashville with James Stroud, called his old friend Jackie Thompson. Jackie invited Andy to record at International Recording Studio, his studio in Pearl, Mississippi. There he met Jimmy McNeil and bobby Furman. They could identify with Andy's goals and decided to complete his Nashville project at International. As usual, nothing was easy for Andy. The master tapes had been recorded with DBX noise reduction, and International did not have the equipment to record over the DBX. In order to salvage the Nashville session, he had to have the songs transferred to another master tape without the noise reduction. He sent the master back to Nashville, but they could not do the transfer. The studio in Nashville sent the tapes to Criteria Studios in Miami. There, they not only transferred the songs without the noise reduction, but they transferred sixteen tracks to twenty-four tracks giving them more tracks until the master tapes returned to International in perfect condition. While waiting on the old masters to return, Andy started cutting new songs he had written in Taos. They cut Hot Rod Baby, Wichita Wichita, Omaha Cowboy, and Mississippi Lady." "Mississippi Lady" was a remake of Texas Woman," a progressive country tune he had previously recorded with J.J. Hettinger and Eagle & the Hawk. Texas woman had caught the hearts of fans in Texas and Andy felt the same might hold true for fans in Mississippi.

Andy finally got the master tapes back from Criteria Studio, but by now Jimmy McNeil had moved on to Nashville. Bobby Furman was now fully in charge and he and Andy decided to go all out on the new projects. Andy and Bobby worked very closely together producing, recording, and creating their own sound. They feel they have achieved perfection in their art. Andy for the first time in his career is happy with his music. It has a message, it kicks, and it satisfies. It is the finished art of the many who helped create it and it will live. It is a reflection of everybody who contributed to its being, and most important of all: One man's Rock 'n' Roll still lives on!

Rockabilly Hall of Fame