The Secret Admirers
Andy Goessling: guitars, mandolin, woodwinds, backing vocals
Dave Goessling: Guitars, backing vocals
Lisa Knouse: Vocals
Band active 1996 – 2001
The Secret Admirers was an eclectic Americana band that consisted of Andy, his brother Dave Goessling and Lisa Knouse, singer and songwriter. The band was active from about 1996 to 2001, when Andy left to help launch Railroad Earth.
Lisa and Dave met through Andy and the Blue Sparks from Hell when they were both living in Hoboken, NJ in the late 90s. They started collaborating on songwriting, with Lisa writing melodies and lyrics, and Dave giving them structure and working out arrangements before finishing the songs together. This collaboration led to open mike and coffee house gigs as “David & Lisa”, the name taking off from the 1962 film.
Since they were all hanging out together anyway, it was only natural that Andy would decide to be a “sideman” with the sort-of-a-band. Lisa and Dave brought songs out to Andy in Long Valley, NJ, and he’d add things: another guitar part, a different instrument, a solo. Later, Andy offered some instrumental tunes that he had been working on which Lisa added lyrics to: “You Were Once A Mountain” and “Old Times.”
Some time in 1996 the name changed to The Secret Admirers and they began to play a lot more gigs and gained a larger following. The Secret Admirers contributed the track ”Don’t Ask Me Questions” to the 1996 Graham Parker tribute CD ‘Piss & Vinegar”, a compilation of cover tunes done by bands on the growing Northwest NJ scene what centered around WNTI-FM in Hackettstown and the local Buy or Die label. Andy played on tracks by a number of the other bands on the CD as well including, Kings In Disguise, Len Mooney, Samuel St. Thomas, Bill Kelley, Neal Casal, and Jack Tannehill.
As a trio The Secret Admirers played out often starting in 1997/99, sometimes adding Mick Hargraeves
, then of The Gripweeds, or Paul Kusick on bass. Venues and live radio performances included:
- Krogh’s in Sparta, NJ opening for Dave Alvin
- Maxwell’s, Hoboken
- Live Tonight, Hoboken
- Bitter End, NYC
- Tucker’s Breakfast King, Long Vallet, NJ
- Peter’s Valley Craft Show, NJ
- Turning Point, Piermont, NY
- Fountain House, Newton, NJ
Radio airplay of the band’s demo tape came from WNTI, WDVR, WFMU, WDIY, WPRB, and the BBC. This led to recording of the CD “Modern Album”.
“Modern Album” was recorded at Don Sternecker’s Mix-O-Lydian studio in late 1998/early 1999. Produced by Dave and the band, it includes 14 original songs. Conceived as an “old school” album with 2 sides, it runs the gamut of styles from Celtic-tinged folk to country, to swing and space rock. The album cover is a photo-collage puzzle, with images that key to song titles and lyrics. Lisa handles the lead vocals and some percussion. It especially showcases Andy’s instrumental versatility. On different tracks Andy plays: mandolin, 6 & 12 string electric and acoustic guitars, clarinet, flute and saxophones, and sings. Dave played electric and acoustic guitar and sings. The record includes appearances by many well-known musicians from the Northwest NJ scene including:
- Jeff Barg – Bovine Social Club
- Jamie Coan – From Good Homes
- Dave Goessling – Blue Sparks from Hell, WKGB, TV Toy, Legendary Wild Ensemble, The Wizards, Miss Terry & the Healing Power, BooneScuttle5
- Benny Harrison – Peter Cris, Joe Bonamossa, Joe Lynn Turner, etc.
- Stephen Kerlinger AKA “Buck Dilly” – Blue Sparks from Hell
- Paul Kuzik – Patrick Fitzsimmons, John Ginty, Swapadelica
- Len Mooney – Roamin’ Gabriels
- Ned Stroh – Dick Dale, Coffin Daggers
- Terry Wetmore – Blue Sparks from Hell, Gene The Plumber
Tracks featuring Andy included:
Meeting of The Minds – Andy channels Bix Biederbecke and Benny Goodman, two of his jazz idols, on this melodic swing tune written by Lisa. Dave provides the Freddy Green-style rhythm guitar.
Time With The Boys – This country rocker written by Dave allows Andy to use his blazing bluegrass chops on electric guitar for a change.
A Certain Mood – On this jumping, great swing tune with sassy lyrics and sharp tune by Lisa, Andy plays both baritone and tenor sax.
You Were Once A Mountain – A moody, atmospheric tune that showcases Andy’s fingerpicking and Lisa’s vocal. This song started as an instrumental that Andy had been working on for a while. Lisa added a great melody. Andy also plays a beautiful penny-whistle solo.
Old Times – Another collaboration between Lisa and Andy. Andy plays perfect acoustic guitar and sings harmony on this evocation of what the band always talked about: “old times” in rural New Jersey, which even then seemed to be slipping away: “when all those traffic lights were just stop signs”.
But, for all this, late in 2000 Andy started rehearsing with the group of musicians that became Railroad Earth. He soon decided to devote all of his time to the new band. The Secret Admirers did a few more gigs with substitute players, but Dave and Lisa soon decided that the band wasn’t the same without Andy and called it quits. Dave moved on to other projects and Lisa moved to Scotland.
Andy always said that of all the records he contributed to, he was proudest of his work on Modern Album in The Secret Admirers, because it really showcased everything he could do musically, and had his most personal contributions to the music and songwriting.
Text written by Dave Goessling