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While I was at the Hank III show in Portland on 3/3/09, I interviewed the great Andy Gibson. Not only is Andy Hank III’s steel guitar player, he’s also a recording guru whose recorded and performed on albums from such artists as Bob Wayne, The .357 String Band, Honky Tonk Hustlas, and others. I wrote an artist review about him HERE if you want to read more.
I’m in the process of editing the audio of the interview and it’ll be available shortly, but here are a few nuggets I pulled from it to wet your whistle, and for those of you that avoid podcasts like the ugly girl at the dance. Way more stuff from this interview is coming.
The Triggerman: There’s that great picture when you open Hank III’s Straight to Hell with III standing in the middle, you on one side and Joe Buck on the other. Tell me about recording that album.
Andy: I was living in a house at the time that was half empty, huge ceilings, big open rooms with no furniture and Hank III just wanted somewhere to go where no corporate guy was poking over your shoulder.
The Triggerman: So Straight to Hell was recorded in your house?
Andy: Well yeah the house I was living in at the time. I don’t live there any more. The last two we recorded at Shelton’s house.
The Triggerman: So you say the last two albums, so that’s Damn Right, Rebel Proud, and are you finished recording the next album?
Andy: We’re in the middle of doing it right now. We took a break to do this tour.
The Triggerman: Talk about recording the .357 String Band’s Fire & Hail.
Andy: They’re a bunch of great guys man. I basically just mic’d em and pushed record. They’ve got enough energy and talent to go around to just let it happen. They were easy to record. When they left I had like $300- $400 of beer cans to take to recycling. They’re from Milwaukee man, they drink beer like water.
The Triggerman: So you didn’t do much producing for them? Do you ever put in your two cents?
Andy: Not for a band like that, for a string band like that. I really hate to use that word too: “producer.” It’s weird. Cause what does a producer really do? The most input I probably has was with Bob Wayne. He just lays down the song and says “Go ahead, put what you think sounds good on it.”
The Triggerman: So you help Bob Wayne with let’s say “arrangement.”
Andy: Yeah Bob just shows up with the bare song, you know.
The Triggerman: You see the same names float up as players on these albums, whether it be Hank III, Bob Wayne, The Honky Tonk Hustlas. People like you, Donnie Herron. Is there just a cast of characters around to perform on these albums?
Andy: Were just a group of friends in Nashville, Chris Scruggs is another one.
The Triggerman: You’re an understudy of Kayton Roberts. How did you meet him?
Andy: I was looking for him and this guy named Dwayne Birdwell, guys that nobody knows about. Kayton was the first one I found. An old bass player for Hank III named Jason Brown said “Man you’ve got to meet Kayton.” I was like yeah. Got his number, and a couple of weeks later got the nerve to call him up. Went over to his house, became friends.
The Triggerman: So you know who this unknown standup steel guitar player was. What turned you on to stand up steel?
Andy: Just the overflow of guitar players everywhere man. I was getting bored with the instrument, and to get work you had to play like Stevie Ray Vaughn. Those old Hank Sr. songs man, a lot of Don Helms. I lived in New York City for 8 years. Dobro and steel was just so anti-city. You know the guy who really made it hip was Donnie Herron. When BR549 first came out, there was lot more guys wanting to play non-pedal steel.
The Triggerman: How did you meet Hank III?
Andy: He just called me up one day. He was on the road and his guy got sick, they flew me out and the other guy never came back.
The Triggerman: When I think about what is at the core of the Hank III sound I think about the steel guitar. For example on Lovesick, Broke, & Driftin’ on the song “Nightime Ramblin Man” Kayton takes a break, and then he takes another break right after that. You just don’t hear that coming from Nashville right now. My favorite song on the album Damn Right, Rebel Proud is “Stoned & Alone,” and Hank III built the shape and wrote the lyrics, but after that it is your song. Does Hank III give you a lot of leeway on what to play or does he tell you what to play?
Andy: Both. I have ideas or He’ll let me do whatever. Sometimes he has something specific, something he hears in his head.
The Triggerman: Associating yourself with Hank III, with all the stuff he has said about Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry, are you concerned about how that reflects on you? Or are you proud of it?
Andy: I’ve got nothing to fear. If I was some top session player that might be different. But we also had Marty Stewart on Damn Right, Rebel Proud, and he laughed at us, he though the song “The Grand Ole Opry” was great. If you hold anybody in high acclaim in Nashville it’s him. I’m sure he’s a buck past it all. He’s made his money and can do what he wants.
The Triggerman: Who are your favorite musicians?
Andy: All of my favorite musicians are all either dead or dying. Kayton of course, Jerry Byrd. I like a lot of bluegrass, Don Reno, Bill Monroe, Herb Remington, the list really goes on but there’s a handful. But as far as everything else, I like a lot of bluegrass.
The Triggerman: It seems like Hank III has been getting into a little bit of bluegrass here lately. He added a banjo to the band . . .
Andy: Um, yeah. The addition of the banjo picker was the guy just came around and there was room. He’s (Hank III) always liked banjo man. I think he plays it at home by himself for fun. Who wouldn’t want a banjo picker in their band?
The Triggerman: You guys are in the middle of recording this new album. What’s the mood of it? I know that Shelton has talked about the mood was a little bit weird with Damn Right Rebel Proud.
Andy: No it’s fine. It’s going along smooth man. I think his problem (with Damn Right Rebel Proud) was that he didn’t get along with the guy that was recording it.
The Triggerman: “The Bitch” as he is editorialized as in the liner notes?
Andy: Yeah. I think the guy thought he was going to show up and party and do a bunch of coke, and that’s not how we work. That rubbed him (Hank III) wrong and understandbly, and rubbed me wrong too man. I don’t want anybody on my bill snorting coke when they’re supposed to be recording me.
The Triggerman: I think Hank III has a lot of respect out there because he’s a hard working kind of guy.
Andy: And and he wants people to work hard around him too. I’ve been around since 2002 I think, and I’ve seen a lot of people come and go because they are not pulling their weight you know.
The Triggerman: Well I appreciate you sitting down here with me and doing this. I know you have a lot of fans out there. Andy Gibson fans, not just fans from your association with Hank III or anyone else.
Andy: Well then where are all the pretty girls waiting back stage? Put that in your interview.