Raised in the heart of Surry County, Andy Edmonds became one of the area’s old-time music ambassadors at a young age. “Traditional music dates back in my family way before my great-great-great-grandpa, Confederate veteran McGowan Edmonds,” he says. Family members were fiddle and banjo players. Members of his grandparents’ generation became interested in radio and recording stars like Fiddling Arthur Smith, Jimmie Rodgers, and Merle Travis. “All of my great-uncles could pick the guitar in the Travis style, and all of them sang traditional gospel in the Chuck Wagon Gang style,” he says. “Music is definitely a gift that God has given to my family.”
With the help of his uncles, Andy learned to play guitar when he was 11 years old. On radio station WPAQ, he heard many local and regional musicians. “I eventually picked up a banjo and two records that changed my life,” he says. Those records were Tommy Jarrell‘s June Apple and Flatt and Scruggs‘ At Carnegie Hall. Andy started to learn Scruggs-style banjo, but he gravitated to clawhammer style. “I was mostly self-taught,” he says.
On hearing an album recorded by local fiddler Benton Flippen, Andy was immediately drawn to Flippen’s style of playing. “I went to see him at a dance, and he was short a guitar player,” Andy recalls, “So I scrounged up a guitar and sat in with him that night.” Benton’s fiddling inspired Andy to learn to play fiddle, which he did by watching Benton closely at dances and other performances. “He’s my number-one influence on the fiddle.”
Andy played with Benton Flippen’s band from 2001 through Benton’s death in 2011. They played numerous festivals, concerts, fiddlers conventions, and square dances.
Andy won the Mount Airy Fiddler’s Convention fiddle contest at 19 years old, and he has won numerous ribbons in fiddle, banjo, and guitar from conventions and festivals throughout the region. He has become well known for his ability to play in Benton Flippen’s style and instruct others on the finer details of Flippen’s style, as well as other Surry County old-time styles.
In 2009 Andy helped form The Buckstankle Boys along with Wes Clifton and Seth Boyd. Todd Hiatt and Tim Eaves would later round out the group. The band has become known for playing both oldtime music and traditional bluegrass, and blurring the line that divides the two styles. They have won many contests and were selected to play the University of Chicago Folk Festival, the National Folk Festival, and other prestigious venues.
The Buckstankle Boys are still fairly active. Andy has also played with a few other groups over the years, including the South Carolina Broadcasters, who were featured artists at MerleFest for several years. His music has allowed him to travel extensively in the United States, and across parts of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Canada.
Andy Gray Edmonds is available for performances and dances. He also offers lessons and workshops on fiddle, banjo, and guitar.