I knew Andy Mackie. He was a delightful charmer when I knew him, who would give anyone he met a harmonica. And charm their socks off for his music foundation and more harmonicas.
He lives in a trailer at my father's house in Chimacum, Washington for about 5 years. He uses my father's milking barn shop to teach high school students to build strum sticks and small guitars to give to grade school children. My daughter's first grade receives a wheeled cart with thirty strum sticks and a lesson on how to play the one string instrument from Andy Mackie in 2004ish. Both my daughter and my son perform at some of Andy Makie's fundraisers later on. I go bid up the silent auction items and acquire a fancy old harmonica.
The first time I meet him my father brings him and Jack Reid (1) to my house and we play music. I have pictures of them playing and singing at a music birthday party in 2009. I invite everyone to bring instruments. I pay my son and the high school chamber group to play: twenty dollars each. The orchestral director fills in for the missing violaist. Jack spends the whole time grinning at the scene. It is happy chaos with music ranging from folk and rock to classical.
For a bit, Andy is my patient. He has more stents in his heart than you can imagine and articles about him describe how he quit taking his heart medicine in order to buy 350 harmonicas. He had asked to teach harmonica to a class of 30. The school responds would you do the whole school? I can't violate Hipaa if his medical story is already all over the internet.
At any rate, he still smoked cigaretes. I bug him to stop. Once my father calls me: "He told me you told him to stop smoking. He says he isn't going to." I laugh and say, "Ok, papa. Maybe he will eventually." The kids try to get him to stop too.
My father was a brilliant musician. He and Andy had a rather funny relationship. My father admired Andy teaching everyone harmonica and strum stick. At the same time he says to me, "Andy knows I think they are crappy instruments."
"Well," I say, "They are also really cheap."
"I know," say my father. "But they are crappy."
My father, in his 70s, takes Andy along, also in his 70s, to buy a car. The seller wants my father to falsify the sales document to save on taxes. My father refuses. You wouldn't think that Andy would be much protection, but you underrate his charm. The next Andy Mackie Foundation fundraiser features an old car to auction off, from the same seller. That probably fixes the tax issue. A contribution write off.
The cigarettes are closing down Andy's arteries. He goes down to Bremerton to the cardiac unit and gets two more stents. I talk to the cardiologist on the phone. "He is teaching the nurses in the CCU to play harmonica." says the cardiologist rather wonderingly. I laugh. "Yep, that's Andy."
He moves back to Michigan in the last few years of his life. He dies in 2011. We have a memorial, all paeans to Andy except one. One is a family member who stands at the podium and says that they cannot forget the years of alcohol and estrangement and family abandonment. I appreciate that person's words too, their truth.
The Andy Mackie Music Foundation can still be found on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/AndyMackieMusic
1. Jack Reid: https://www.youtube.com/user/jackreidmusic
How to build an Andy Mackie music stick: https://vimeo.com/59595469