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Musicians

Andrew Calhoun

Andrew Calhoun was born in New Haven, Connecticut. Andrew’s father worked at Bell Labs; he read us the Bible for two hours every Sunday, although we preferred horsing around with him. His mother read to him wonderful books and poems, including the Iliad - 5 times – walked fast and yelled a lot. She paid me a nickel to memorize Yeats’ "Song of Wandering Aengus." Andrew’s brother memorized all of "The Congo," by Vachel Lindsay. "Fat black bucks in a wine-barrel room, barrel-house kings with feet unstable, sagged and reeled and pounded on the table..."
Andrew’s mother leapt from topic to topic in conversation, sometimes in mid-sentence. This influence is revealed in manic songs like "Never Enough" and "A Seat in the Mezzanine." Andrew lived in a large Victorian house in Long Branch, New Jersey, which had a carriage house, a grape arbor and raspberry patch, and two apple trees. There was a stained glass window, a coal bin, and a rooms full of aborigine shields and weapons in the basement. The place had been owned previously by an archeologist.
Andrew is a baseball fan and played all day most days with his brother Matthew, who generously handicapped himself to include me. In 1968, Andrew’s father was transferred to Naperville, IL. And there Andrew played a couple of years of Little League baseball, one of the only experiences of childhood which brought him into harmony with my peers.
In 1970, Andrew’s mother read a blurb in the Chicago Sun-Times about a mailman who sang his own songs. His parents went down to hear him, and then brought the rest of the family with them, every weekend for a year. It was John Prine. Andrew was usually up late trying to learn Elizabeth Cotton and Mississippi John Hurt fingerpicking tunes. Andrew listened to Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Etta Baker, Joseph Spence, Martin Carthy, Joni Mitchell, Leo Kottke, Ewan MacColl, Leonard Cohen, etc. Carthy remains his favorite living musician, a steady beacon of musical integrity and imagination.
From age 17-20, Andrew read most of the complete works of Joseph Conrad. I performed monthly at a social center for streeet alcoholics founded by James Harper, called "Save the Alcoholic" and later the "Center for Street People," now "Harper House." Andrew’s first recording, "Water Street," was funded by a couple on the board, Dick and Nan Conser, and recorded by Mike Rasfeld at Acme Studios in Chicago. That 1983 recording, "Water Street," finally got Andrew working in Chicago clubs and led to two more LPs during the 80’s with Flying Fish, "The Gates of Love" and "Walk Me To The War." James Harper, ex-alcoholic and ex-con, was ordained a minister two days before his death from cancer. He requested that Andrew sing "You Will Know God" at the ordination.
Andrew published a book, "Twenty-Four Poems" and a solo guitar tape, "Banks of Sweet Primroses." He layed for 4 years as a solo guitarist (classical, folk & blues) at Evanston’s Blind Faith Café, and for a year at Chicago’s Third Coast Coffeehouse. In 1990 het to the Kerrville festival where he connected with other songwriters. Andrew teamed for several years with Kat Eggleston. They toured the US and Europe, and made a couple duo tapes of folk songs, ballads and tunes ("Jack Spratt" and "First Comes Love", from material we performed at the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin for several summers, both out of print).
In 1992 Andrew founded an artists’ cooperative label called Waterbug Records. Waterbug has released 60 odd titles by 35 artists, and carry many more hard-to-find titles by mail order.
In 2003 Andrew obsessively translated oral tradition ballads from old Scots dialect; the result is the CD "Telfer’s Cows: Folk Ballads From Scotland," which came out way better than he’d hoped, and scored him some ink in Dirty Linen, from an interview with Pamela Murray Winters, one of the finest journalists in Folk. Well, there are only six, really, but she’s up near the top. "Shadow of a Wing" followed, 18 songs which to me represent Andrew’s stupid journey through the world of love; a look at the workings of idealization, betrayal, forgiveness and acceptance.
2004 has seen the revival of the Waterbug label with a new team of artists, among them Jonathan Byrd, Anais Mitchell, Louis Ledford, Rachel Ries, Michael Troy and Karen Mal, and two new samplers, "Waterbug Anthology 7" and "Vote in November: Election 2004 Anti-Theft Device", our first political CD. Arie Koelewyn hand-printed a new collection of my poems, "Hay," released in April of 2005 on East Lansing, Michigan’s, Paper Airplane Press. I just finished a solo CD of songs I wrote between 1973 and 1981.
These days, Andrew does poems in his shows – Mary Oliver, Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas, and have plans for a CD alternating songs and poems by different writers, where Dave Carter and Annie Gallup will hang out with Dylan Thomas and Edna St. Vincent Millay. And there are some new songs with some juice. And a live CD sometime, and of course, the long awaited comedy recording.
It’s always the beginning of the dream
That started with the men behind the scene
With the lotus ever-knowing and the holy women rowing
I know you know exactly what I mean
-Andrew Calhoun







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