David Andersen celebrates his 3,000th gig at the Country Music Hall of Fame with an album of duets with Harold Bradley
If you're one of the countless Nashville guitarists who has to deal with the headaches of finding the right band, scheduling rehearsals, handling four or five notoriously finicky musician egos — not to mention making enough money to keep a roof over your head — you've no doubt fantasized about flying solo. But of all the ax slingers who would gladly trade in the full-band experience to go out on their own, very few have the chops to cut it.
David Andersen is one of those gifted few — able to simultaneously play bass lines, chords and melodies with just six strings and two hands. It's a talent that landed him what may be the steadiest gig in Nashville: Since signing on with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum when it opened its current Demonbreun Street home in May 2001, Andersen has been performing country standards in the lobby and cafe, entertaining visitors six or seven days a week. In fact, the guitarist celebrated his 3,000th performance on Oct. 27.
Three thousand. That's enough "Crazy" to make you crazy, enough "King of the Road" to make you want to hit the road, enough "Tennessee Waltz" to make you want to two-step right out the door. But Andersen works hard to keep things fresh: He's constantly reimagining the songs, coming up with different chord voicings or variations on the melody while maintaining enough of the music's original character to be recognizable.
It's an approach Andersen also uses on his new album Countrypolitan, which he recorded to celebrate the milestone gig. He even renamed a few of the songs to reflect the reinterpretations. Andersen made one notable departure from his typical modus operandi, though: As someone who performs solo practically every day of his life, he had a hankering for a collaborator — and who better to play with than country legend Harold Bradley, one of the most recorded guitarists in history.
"He played 17,000 sessions," Andersen says with an air of reverence. "The second guitarist to play electric guitar on the Grand Ole Opry in 1943, with Ernest Tubb. Second guy! Built the first Music Row studio in Nashville with his brother Owen."
Andersen and Bradley work their guitar magic on an assortment of familiar tunes, among them "Steel Guitar Rag," "Your Cheatin' Heart," "Ghost Riders in the Sky" and the aforementioned country classics.
Countrypolitan is sure to be popular with the growing legion of fans Andersen has amassed through his daily performances. He estimates he's played for visitors from more than 80 countries, and boasts a guestbook with 60,000 entries. Back in 2004, when he crossed the 1,000-performance mark, museum director Kyle Young dubbed him "The Ambassador of Music City," and it's a title that stuck.
And it's not just museum visitors who hear Andersen play. "I get to play for the stars, when folks like Dolly and Vince and Emmylou get their awards on the [Music City] Walk of Fame," he says. "I play for a lot of the induction ceremonies at the Hall of Fame as well."
Still, it's playing for the people who wander through the museum's doors — from Kentucky and Iowa and Italy and Malaysia and Egypt and Brazil — that gives Andersen the most satisfaction. "It's an amazing honor to play for Duane Eddy or Ray Price or people like that," he says, "but playing for just the regular joes like us — what a treat it is."
Andersen plays 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and 10 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesdays at the Nashville Convention & Visitor Bureau's information center inside Bridgestone Arena.
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