Crossroads: GUITARIST ANDY TIMMONS
Pivotal moments propelling musicians from obscurity to infamy
by Mark E. Waterbury
Talented, versatile and dedicated musicians can sometimes take different routes to success in the music business. Call them session players, hired guns, sidemen or whatever, a lot of musical recording artists and performers enhance their music utilizing the abilities of these individuals. Andy Timmons has gained a serious amount of respect throughout his career, lending his guitar prowess to artists as varied as Danger Danger, Olivia Newton John, Kip Winger and Simon Phillips. And as much as this pedigree could place Andy in that hired gun category, he would not have found the success he strived for without performing in the constraints of bands at the onset.
Although George Harrison's guitar riff in "I Saw Her Standing There" really put the hook into the Indiana born and raised guitarist, Andy actually started to appreciate the works of session players such as Steve Lukather. Having an idea of his life's path in his early teens, Andy knew that he had to keep a realistic perspective on his musical career. "I realized that making it in a rock band is such a long shot that I had to diversify the styles of music I was learning as well as learning to read music," Andy notes. "The best thing that I did was get into a band in eighth grade, because even though you can sit in your room and practice all the time, it doesn't mean much if you're not getting out and applying it, playing live shows with other players. I did learn all that I could on my own, but it also took a lot of gigging." This first serious band which featured mostly musicians that were more musically mature than Andy lasted seven years and into his first two years of college. For his final two years of college, Andy transferred to the University of Miami, which produced such distinguished music alumnus as the Dixie Dregs and Pat Metheny. At the university, he met Steve Bailey, Dizzy Gillespie's bassist, and Steve's drummer friend Ray Brinker who was performing with Maynard Ferguson. When Ray left Maynard, he wanted to form a rock band, so Ray, Steve and Andy got together and moved to Denton, Texas, where Ray knew a producer. They recruited a singer and released an album, but the independent record didn't go very far.
In 1988, after hopping around to a couple of different cover bands, Andy formed his own trio. "Things began happening quickly after I started doing my own thing," Andy recalls. "We got quite a bit of notoriety in the Dallas area, and I started to get a pretty good reputation." One band that began to notice Andy was Danger Danger, a rock band who were starting to experience some success of their own. When their lead guitarist left, the band's bassist Bruno Ravel, who endorsed the Spector line of basses made by Kramer, contacted the Kramer rep Buddy Blaze, who in turn called a friend of his named David Huff. David was a journalist in Texas, and Buddy knew that Texas had a reputation of having great guitarists. He recommended Andy, who had just auditioned for the guitar slot in Bad English through basically the same connections. Andy actually secured the Bad English gig, but very shortly after joining, Andy was left out of the mix when Neal Schon decided he wanted to play with the band. So Andy went to Danger Danger. "For me it was a major landmark in my career, because my goal had been to play on a major label record. I wanted to see that piece of vinyl with my name on the credits, so that was really big for me." Andy recorded the solos on two of the songs on the debut Danger Danger album, and then after touring behind that release which would include slots opening for KISS and other top acts, he worked on the entire sophomore effort as well. But when the Danger Danger ride came to an end after the label originally refused to release their next album, Andy was left with a decision to make about where his musical career would take him next. "I had the choice of staying in New York and slugging it out there, or coming back to Dallas where I was established as a studio player. So I went back, started working in the studio as well as with my own music. At first it was kind of hard to step away from the stigma of being attached to a hair metal band, but when people started hearing my solo music, they were really impressed with my versatility."
Andy's growing reputation as a versatile musician would bode well for him into the 90's. He landed session gigs working with Kip Winger on his post-Winger solo albums, as well as a brief foray with Paul Stanley and an extended period working with Simon Phillips. He also released six solo albums that received some critical praise, but were only distributed in countries outside the U.S.. As the end of the twentieth century approached, Andy's persistence was about to be rewarded with large jolts to his career. In 1999, Olivia Newton-John and her band embarked on a comeback tour, and when the Australian leg was such a success, they decided to tour the States. They lost their guitarist, and at the time Olivia's management also worked with Toto, with Simon Phillips as drummer. Simon recommended Andy to Olivia. He became their guitarist and eventually their music director as well. "It's been a great experience both musically and personally. We've put some really fantastic bands together over the years, and it's a total blast. Obviously, it's something that's different musically, but it's very challenging because of her wide variety of styles."
Over the years Andy also cultivated a friendship with Steve Vai. They first met in 1988 when Steve was in Dallas with David Lee Roth, and they booked studio time to edit the song "Damn Good Times". It was at the same studio Andy recorded his first solo track, so he came to the studio and that song was queued up as a studio intro. "So Steve and I were introduced. He listened to the song, looked up at me and said, "This is you?" giving me the cool nod, and I thought, "This is awesome, Steve digs it!"" They would meet several more times, particularly at NAMM shows where both were Ibanez endorsees, and once for a concert in Japan when Andy was with Simon Phillips. When Steve and Joe Satriani's G3 Tour passed through Dallas, they requested Andy jam on stage with them at the end of the show. A couple of years ago, Steve launched the Favored Nations label. This eventually lead to the release of "That Was Then This Is Now," Andy's first U.S. release which is a compilation of new songs along with others on his previous overseas CD releases. "It's been fantastic working with Steve. I've always admired him as a musician, but also the way he handles the business side of it. I was really inspired to know that he liked my music and wanted to work with it." So far, there has been good reaction on the music, as a wider range of Andy's fans now have a readily available outlet for his music. He is will be doing some showcasing type promotional tours for the album, and will be going out with Olivia Newton-John again in September, on a month long tour that will feature the local orchestras from every town they will be performing in. There is also the possibility of a teaming up with Vinnie Moore for a possible guitar tour, but in the meantime, Andy just keeps doing what he has always been doing; playing, playing, playing. "All of the things in my career have just kind of come along and just happened, but they happened at the right times. At some point, obviously, if I could only do my own thing and make a living off of it, that would be fantastic. But I do enjoy the variety; it's great being the feature and main guy, but I also like being part of a team. It's fun on both ends."
Industry Profile: MARC ALLARD, Entertainment Coordinator-Woodstock Fair
by Mark E. Waterbury
Sometimes a person can have a job that is more like a second career or just an extra way to make money, and then one day that job can become the more direct object of your passion. Marc Allard was born and raised in eastern Connecticut before attending college at Marietta College in Ohio where he studied journalism and mass communications. Always having a keen interest in music, Marc was also a DJ on the college station for a brief time before he moved on to a commercial Adult Contemporary station in Ohio. He would eventually return to Connecticut where he began to work more with sports, news and talk than music at WINY. "I'd always been on the fringe," Marc notes. "Not totally dedicated to music, but certainly dedicated to radio. When I was offered the job at WINY, it seemed to be a natural move at the time." Marc would also start writing columns for a local daily newspaper called the Norwich Bulletin as well as the weekly local The Town Crier.
In that late 90's, Marc became involved with the Killingly Parks & Recreation Department, which along with his other tasks, he coordinated music shows and concerts for various events including the annual Summer Celebration. Shortly after his involvement, he was asked to join the Woodstock Fair as its entertainment coordinator. Marc never actually had this type of responsibility before, but through trial and error, and learning and growing as he went as well as attending the IAFE Convention where he met a lot of people and took as many seminars as he could, Marc dove into it. "What I'd mostly been interested in is community events. And I had a feel for music because of my days as a DJ and (community events) tied in somewhat with my radio background. And that helps me know what people like for music. With community events, it's not what you like, it's what other people like." Marc became the Chairman of the Killingly Board of Recreation, and shortly thereafter took the Summer Celebration to a point where lower level national acts perform instead of just locals, including the Coasters for this year's event. With the Woodstock Fair, he was originally one of three superintendents involved in entertainment, before taking over the duties himself about three years ago. "With three people doing it, we just got in each other's way. I know what the people want and the fair has been very receptive with letting me do what I wanted to do with it, and bring the fair to a new level." Marc has worked to bring solid acts from the local, regional and national realms of popular music that follows current trends to the Fair. Sometimes he finds it difficult to work with national recording artists, but Marc had enough solid acts perform at the Fair to get the attendance figure up to a quarter million at last year's event.
Marc definitely enjoys some satisfactions in working with the Fair and the Parks & Recreation events. "I enjoy meeting the people involved. It can be a lot of fun to meet the national acts, but it's also great to do it at the local and regional level; to see what acts are out there and what they are doing. It gives you a good idea to see where everyone else is headed and what kind of trends are developing." Marc is enjoying his work with these events enough that he has thought about what it may be like to someday give his full time effort to working with them and watch them continue to be successful. "I almost enjoy working the fair more than working in radio sometimes because it's more hands on. In radio, you're talking to yourself through a mic, where at a fair, you're actually talking to a crowd and seeing what they like. So I think sometimes working with the fair is a bit more of a challenge. When people see what you have done and they like what you have done, it's a huge high and an immediate reward. You know the people think you've done something right. I may not be the most experienced entertainment director around, but we've received some great response on what we do. Last year was our biggest fair ever, and we hope to do even better this year."
MONTHLY PROFESSIONAL ADVICE
From Marc Allard - how to pursue bookings at fairs and events.
"There are a million bands out there, so #1; you have to be persistent. Don't expect to get in the first year. If you do you're lucky. But you can't give up on it either. I've had some bands call me for four years and then I was finally able to say, yep, we're moving forward. So persistence is the key, and that also means longevity with your band. I don't think you can start a band thinking you're going to be successful in a year. You have to build it. And I don't know if you need so much of a unique sound, although that sometimes helps. But you need a good sound, and the ability to do some cover songs sometimes along with your original stuff as long as it all sounds good. With most fairs the locals are on the smaller stage, and you want that stage to get at least some respect and know it's a good band up there. You're price is also important, and you have to remember if you're a regional or local band you're probably not going to get offered the big bucks like the nationals. You've got to be willing to bargain a bit if you want to get your foot in the door. "