b. February 5, 1959
d. October 12, 2018
Born and raised in Mendham, New Jersey, Andy was the seventh of nine children. Like his brothers, he was interested in anything from trains to turtles, depending on where their explorations took them. His family had always loved music, often singing together at family gatherings, as well as accumulating a diverse array of albums to listen too. Early on his mother gave him a zither to play with, and he was fascinated by watching his brother Dave play guitar. By the time he was ten Andy was determined to learn anything he could about music.
In his own words, Andy started his music career by “getting on the bus in fourth grade with my clarinet, and I never got off!” followed by his wry smile. Playing in band got him acquainted with clarinet, sax and oboe. By the time he was in high school, Andy was also playing acoustic guitar and mandolin, gaining an interest in bluegrass and old time music. At fourteen years of age word was out about this hot young player, and he was being smuggled into local bars to play with the bands.
In the mid-seventies, many bands were forming and reforming in the Long Valley, NJ area as more musicians were drawn to a like-minded community of acoustic style music and great energy. Entire bands could (and did) live in old farm houses for cheap, making rehearsals and song swaps easy. Andy was absorbed into this wonderful, music filled life and added banjo, dobro and anything else he could to his ever increasing arsenal of instruments.
Andy performed after school and weekends and was eventually drafted into the Lost World String Band. In high school Andy realized he could be playing the music he loved full-time, so he doubled up on his studies and graduated a year early to pursue his passion.
In 1977 Andy joined The Blue Sparks from Hell, a band that would bring him all over the east coast in a repurposed old 1950’s Greyhound bus for the next 20 odd years. The band started out more acoustic with Andy on mandolin, but as Blue Sparks grew more fascinated with the old jump/swing music, Andy switched to his saxophones, and started developing his trademark “two saxes at once” style of playing. With Tim on fiddle, the two of them made a great horn section. Blue Sparks, still legendary in their own way, went on to become a beloved staple of the east coast music scene, adding more of their own songs and keeping old favorites. The places they went and the stories they told were marvelous, and it was the band that helped make Andy into a solid touring professional. He loved that band, and its members were his brothers. They continued to perform until the unfortunate passing of the lead singer, C.T. Tucker.
Never content to stay with just one musical style or instrument, Andy also found plenty of time to work with other bands. Blue Sparks touring had its own rhythm, leaving space to work with other projects when home. By the mid-nineties Andy and his wife had bought a house in Long Valley, and he continued to do gigs with the friends he had grown up playing with, performing dixieland, old time, celtic and more. He worked at improving his skills on the zither, as he wished more people would realize the diversity of music one could play on it.
By this point, northern NJ songwriters were strongly proliferating and creating a wealth of new material, and that in turn drew more musicians to form bands around these gifted sources. An example would be Andy teaming up with his friend from Mendham, Bill Kelly, who also had become a working musician. They wanted to play their own music plus any other songs they liked, so they created the Bill Kelly Trio along with Andy’s wife, Alison, on bass.
Soon after that, Victor Valorani, a quirky, eccentric person and songwriter, drew Andy’s interest and the band Beat Planet was born. Andy really enjoyed taking Victor’s idiosyncratic style and, together with the band, giving it the musical support that showcased Victor’s depth rather than trapping the songs in to a formulaic mode.
Another multi-instrumental friend, Patrick Regan, created a band with Andy that showcased not only Patrick’s songs, but the incredible diversity of instruments they both were able to play. The recording studios would be littered with penny whistles to saxes, mandolins to pianos. Live shows were fun, virtually choreographed, as each instrument had to be in reach for the next moment.
Around this time, Dave Goessling, Andy’s guitar playing brother, started working with their mutual friend Lisa Knouse. That led to The Secret Admirers, which was more of an electric folk band. The Secret Admirers showcased Lisa’s songwriting talents along with the Goessling brothers’ incredible gift of creating music they found both challenging and satisfying to play.
Meanwhile, Tim Carbone from Blue Sparks had also started a band called Kings In Disguise. Featuring songs by Tim and other band members, it was more of an electric rock style, a fun change from Andy’s acoustic work. Though the band started with a slightly different line up, Andy became part of Kings in 1996, and periodically played with them until Railroad Earth began.
From the year 2000 until his passing, Andy played with the national touring act Railroad Earth. He was part of the band from the beginning, and he was so proud of it. Andy was already accomplished in his sax, guitar and mandolin playing at the start of RRE, and he was really looking forward to honing his expertise on those instruments. However, it was clear he could add so much to the band’s music if he started on banjo, so he found it amusing that he was regarded by the audience as a banjo player at first. However, his multiple talents were most certainly utilized by the band, and clear to the crowd as he unveiled them.
With creativity being Andy’s natural state, he worked with many different bands during his RRE years. He put tracks on albums, joined in jams, sat in on gigs. He could bring an assortment of instruments to any event, and he had them all. The right tool for the job, he would say. Valued for his diversity and ability to grasp the essence of a tune, he was considered an asset to any endeavor.
Andy often joined up with his long time friend Lindsey Horner to play music together. They were both touring with different acts, yet in 2012 they somehow created Sleeping Bee. A world-jazz-folk-other morph, it grew and became a band that helped describe more aspects of their musical selves. Andy was both challenged and delighted by the music they created. He was working on that project until he passed, also.
In 2018 Andy was diagnosed with cancer, and after a hard fought battle against it, sadly passed, though peacefully, at home.
With over forty years of performing to his credit, Andy can include a long list of musicians he has played with. Starting with some of his bluegrass heroes, the list includes Vassar Clements, Peter Rowan & Sam Bush. On a broader note, there was Rick Danko, David Bromberg and Pinetop Perkins. Andy was part of John McEuen’s beautiful release, ”Made In Brooklyn”. He played with Bruce Hornsby, Odetta, Warren Haynes and Phil Lesh. He shared the stage with Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Asleep at The Wheel, NRBQ, Buddy Guy & Junior Wells, Buddy & Julie Miller and many more.