Well all I can say is about dang time!
After the Luthier Panel on Saturday afternoon, we concluded the day’s presentations with the long-awaited return of Mr. McKee.
Some eleven years ago (2003) a very youngish Andy McKee showed up at the very first Harp Guitar Gathering, toting a Spillers harp guitar on loan from SB (Stephen Bennett) and already one of the best players on the instrument. He dutifully came every year, culminating in HGG5, the concert finale of which was captured on YouTube here.
However, as all schoolchildren now know, at this same time, Andy’s Candyrat videos went viral…and life on earth was never the same. Overly dramatic? Carl Sagan’s clichéd “billions and billions of stars” line has now probably been surpassed by Andy’s YouTube views…
But if Andy thought he was gonna waltz right in for a happy HGG reunion after a six year absence without a severe hazing, he was sadly mistaken.
As the unsuspecting star prepared his DI set-up, he was oblivious to the screen behind him which suddenly lit up with:
Actually, only SB himself was in on the surprise. I got Andy good. My nostalgic photo montage “trip down memory lane” ranged from Embarrassing to Incriminating, but Andy was the good sport I knew he would be (lawsuit pending).
He was impressed by this impromptu bit of logistics: In the frenzy of the weekend, I had completely forgotten that I needed to get a new pic of him at HGG11 to end the slideshow with. So, with 15 minutes to spare, I sent photographer Chuck Thompson off to find him. He did, acting all casual “hey Andy, can I get a quick photo?…no, something with attitude!”…came back, got it from his card into our laptop, I inserted into PowerPoint, and mere moments later, ended his introduction with a photo of him “time-lapsed” from just five minutes before.
Andy then spent an hour playing his harp guitar tunes (as it had broken earlier on tour, he had barely touched it for year, but was of course flawless), and telling stories about his harp guitar and musical journey.
It’s worth going to see Andy live just to hear him tell about his tour with Prince, a fascinating gig all around it seems. But the capper is his story about one day receiving an email from the Purple One with the portentous subject line, “Your Outfit.”
Pause and let your imagination run for a moment, as it did for all of us in attendance. The reality (as Andy finished his story) was even more unreal. Suffice it to say that if not for our limited non-profit HGF budget, we would have sent the women out for fifty feet of fabric for an elaborate sight gag in that evening’s concert. Oh, the visuals! After Andy finished and we settled down, Mike Doolin turned to me saying, “There’s one moment at each Gathering that reminds us why we do this…that was it.”
In the larger scheme of things, many of us were quite emotional with both pride and admiration having watched Andy McKee’s path from that very first Harp Guitar Gathering to this moment.
Yeah, he’s all grown up and is more famous than the President, but he’s still family.