One of the three best friends I ever had was born on November 14th. His name was Kelly “Andy” Anderson and today would be his 51st birthday, if he were still in “this world”. And this is my tribute to my dear departed friend.
Andy was multi-talented and multi-skilled. By the time he was in junior high school he had taken up photography and had built his own darkroom in his Mom’s basement. It was Andy who took my first “head shots” when I embarked on the beginning of an ill-fated acting career, and although I had a professional photographer take more photos of me some years later, I always felt that the ones Andy shot were the best.
Andy was also a mechanic (he rebuilt the engine in his old green pickup truck) and he was a locksmith and a gun enthusiast (he handloaded his own bullets and named his little dog “Ruger”) and he was a skydiving addict. He also had artistic ability, and in later years he worked as an animator for Don Bluth on ‘The Secret Of Nimh’ production.
In October of 2006 and in April of 2007, I composed Amazon.com reviews for the music albums ‘Mama’s Big Ones – The Best Of Mama Cass’ and ‘The Best Of The Best Of Merle Haggard’ respectively. In both of those reviews I wrote considerably about my old friend Andy, and I have cut and pasted and combined below, in italics (with minor edits), portions of those two reviews in order to tell you what I want you to know about Andy:
From 1972 to 1986, I had a great friend named Andy – as loyal a friend as anyone ever knew. But Andy was something of a character. He listened to nothing but Country-Western music (unusual in Los Angeles), and I don’t mean stuffs like Dwight Yoakam and Garth Brooks – not THAT kind of Country! Heck, Andy couldn’t even stand those “longhaired hippies” Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson! No, I’m talkin’ REAL hard-core Country-Western like The Sons Of The Pioneers and Hank Williams (the dead one!) And Andy was certain that Merle “Okie From Muskogee” Haggard was god.
His most famous remark – heard daily and known to all of his friends – was, “You know what Merle Haggard says: Fu#k 'em!” That was Andy’s answer to everything... “You know what Merle Haggard says: Fu#k 'em!”
Andy's greatest disappointment in life was the fact that he couldn’t get into the U.S. military (preferably the Marines) because he had a metal plate in his head from a childhood accident where he went through the windshield of a pickup truck that his older brother was driving.
Through the years I tried to turn Andy onto more contemporary music, tried to get him into the 20th Century a little bit, but he was having none of it: “Check it out, Andy, these guys are good. They’re called Thin Lizzy.”
“You know what Merle Haggard says: Fu#k 'em!”
One night while we were cruisin’ Mulholland Drive in his old green pickup truck, I quietly slipped a ‘Mamas And Papas Greatest Hits’ cassette into the tape player, but I was afraid that ‘Smith And Wesson’s Greatest Hits’ would be playing next, and right up against my temple (Andy was usually armed and dangerous). But... nothing. No gun, no “Merle Haggard says:” ...nothing. I left the tape in his truck when he dropped me off at home that night and faster than you can say, “I’m proud to be an Okie from Muskogee”, Andy was a dyed-in-the-wool Mamas And Papas fan. Merle was still god, of course, but the Mamas and Papas were angels.
It was The Mamas And The Papas that finally brought Andy up-to-date ...well, sort of. From there he went on to discover the very, very early, pre-disco Bee Gees. One day in 1983, while quaffing Coors beer - Andy’s drink of choice (you know what Merle Haggard says about Budweiser!) - and watching MTV, Andy showed no small amount of enthusiasm for a Journey song. That’s when I knew that things had gone too far and I threatened to play him ‘Samuel Colt’s Greatest Hits’ next. Journey? Feh!
In September of 1986, in California City, California, Andy put a bullet through that metal plate in his head. His friends and I held a wake where we played Merle Haggard’s music [the album ‘Going Where The Lonely Go’] in honor of him. I later acquired the compact disc 'The Best Of The Best Of Merle Haggard' to listen to each year on Andy’s birthday. I learned [in 2007] that the Country-Western legend, Hag, had written a song called ‘HILLARY’, promoting Hillary Clinton’s White House bid. Well, I’m almost glad that Andy didn’t live long enough to see that day, and you know what I say about Merle Haggard: “Fu#k ’im!”
I had decided that from then on I would honor my friend Andy’s memory by NOT playing 'The Best Of The Best Of Merle Haggard' on his birthday. And I vowed that I was going to leave that compact disc in the vast Arizona desert for the wild dogs to piss on and for the “snakes” to adopt as one of their own. Poor Andy, he must be turning over in his grave. Well, he would be if he had a grave. Andy’s ashes were let loose by a group of his parachuting buddies in free-fall over Kern County, California in 1986.
Although I’m not a skydiver, I did ride in the plane that carried Andy's ashes up into the blue skies and watched as his skydiving friends jumped out with his ashes and let 'em fly.
Let me tell you what sort of friend Andy was to me: I could have called him on the telephone at three o’clock in the morning on any day of any year and told him, “I’m stranded here in Bumphuk, Iowa”, and without one whit of exaggeration I can assure you that inside of 45 minutes Andy would be in the cab of his old green pickup truck and on the road to Bumphuk, Iowa (wherever that is).
How many people have known a friend like THAT? Not many, that’s for sure.
There were two other sayings that Andy was known for. One was "Drive fast; take chances", and the other one - which any person who has read my blogs even semi-regularly has seen me use numerous times - was “You know the gig”. This is still one of my most frequently used expressions.
As a couple of my readers already know, on the birthdays of my deceased friends and family members, I always honor their memory by playing music that they loved and/or which particularly reminds me of them.
Well, I really did follow through on my threat to discard my CD ‘The Best Of The Best Of Merle Haggard’. In May of 2007, I chucked it as far as I could in the Airheadzona desert about three miles north of the town of Benson. It landed smack-dab in the middle of a tumbleweed – a good place for it!
But ever since I chucked Merle Haggard, I’d had trouble finding one perfect song to function as the cornerstone of the music I play to honor Andy on his birthday. Traditionally the songs I’ve played have been ‘Dream A Little Dream Of Me’ by Mama Cass; ‘There’s A Tear In My Beer’ – a Hank Williams & Hank Williams Jr. duet; ‘Ol' '55’ by Tom Waits (in memory of his old green pickup truck, which I believe was a '53, a '55, or a '57); and ‘Beautiful Loser’ by Bob Seger – a song that really says “Andy Anderson” for me personally, although Andy himself would have disliked that “longhair” stuffs.
So, for some years I felt that, with Hag gone, something was really missing in the music department on my friend’s birthday. On September 21st, 2009, I was greatly lamenting this fact and even considering buying another Merle Haggard CD to replace the one I “tumbleweeded”, when two days later, an amazing thing happened:
I was in my local Fry’s grocery store at the checkout counter, when I suddenly noticed what song was being piped in over the store’s sound system. It was ‘House At Pooh Corner’ by Loggins & Messina. Andy loved, Loved, LOVED that song! I had forgotten all about it. I think it appealed to the “lost little boy” in him. Even when old style Country-Western music was ALL he would listen to, there was one, and only one, exception: ‘House At Pooh Corner’. He had a 45 rpm copy of it and I remember one night, when we were in his basement bedroom (back when we were still in our late teens) he played that song over and over so many times that I felt I could have shot him with his own gun and any judge in the land would have ruled it “justifiable homicide”.
That’s right, Andy loved one "hippie song" even before I turned him onto The Mamas And The Papas. He didn’t love Loggins & Messina, but just that one hit of theirs.
Well, I raced home from the grocery store that day and immediately got online and ordered a compact disc copy of ‘The Best Of Friends: Loggins & Messina’, and I’ve been playing ‘House At Pooh Corner’ as the cornerstone of my musical tribute to Andy Anderson ever since then. Merle Haggard? Who needs him? “Fu#k ‘im!”
~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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