Many years ago, I started working with a guy who had the same mischievous sense of humour as me. That’s all I really ask for in a work colleague. We made work fun (which was necessary in those days), we made our colleagues laugh and we became friends. Andy was introduced to me as Elvis, as he had recently won a competition by impersonating Elvis and singing some of his hits. I saw him perform shortly afterwards at another work night out. He was very good. Being in a band, I found we had a common interest. Andy decided to make the most of his talents and started gigging. I was at his first evening and he was brilliant. From there on there was no looking back and he worked with other talented musicians in acts that encompassed Elvis, The Beatles and Roy Orbison (to name but a few). In a few years, they were one of the most popular (and certainly the busiest) acts in the area.
Andy was always up for a charity gig and I was fortunate to share the stage with him on several occasions. I remember lending him my smoke machine and to the thundering strains of ‘Phantom of the Opera’, the stage curtains opened and Andy stepped out in a thick fog of smoke. It worked though, and that was another good gig. I was part of his act twice, again both charity nights. As ‘The Bootles’, four of us played Beatles covers at the Pontlliw Village Hall. My lasting memory of that night was Andy suddenly appearing with a full wig and beard and very good Liverpool accent to be John Lennon for the finale, which was ‘All You Need Is Love’ as I recall.
On another night, and once again demonstrating his generous nature (it was a weekend and he could have been earning good money) Andy and I performed as a duo for a fund raising night for a colleague. As we worked through the set, Andy kept handing me hats and wigs and other props and it was all I could do to keep up. He was totally professional, of course, and knew exactly what he was doing. He guested at one of my band’s gigs, where he sang a few Elvis numbers in a packed pub in Ammanford.
Off stage, we often ended up at the same works nights out even though by now we were no longer working together. I remember towards the end of one such evening, when both of us had consumed a shandy or two, performing that ‘Madness’ dance, (you know the one) to ‘Baggy Trousers’. I sang a duet with him at his 30th birthday. In the silly days when I smoked, he would sometimes bum a cigarette off me. And I from him on occasion.
Our paths crossed again in work and he started to tell me about his guitar collection. It took days as he had so many (and I thought I had a few!) It took so long that he was adding news ones before he’d finished telling me about the existing ones.
I was devastated when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour and then relieved when it was operated on. When Andy returned to work it was great to see him fighting back and not letting a trivial thing like brain surgery get in the way. He was even planning on getting back on stage and I believe he had already sung with some of his duo colleagues. I last spoke to him a couple of weeks ago, just before I went on leave. He wanted to know when my band was playing so he could come along and watch.
So to hear today that he passed away yesterday was a complete shock. I’m still not really taking it all in. Sometimes, as friends and colleagues struggle to find something to say, the words can sound false or twee. I’m struggling to find words so I’ve let the memories tell the story, as they will for all his friends and family. Andy was a person that no one had a bad word to say about.
Andy, I can’t believe you’ve gone before you finished telling me the history of your guitar collection.