Here is the link to a song we did : Song from our Album called “Oscar Wilde”
My Heart’s own Love : Always my Turtle and my Banjo Andy
It’s impossible to fit Andy into such a small format as an obituary. As a good friend of his said, “Andy’s death is more than loss, it is as if the fabric of stuff itself has been ripped.”
Andrew Merrick Fahrenwald was born on June 28, 1942, in Evergreen Park, Illinois near Chicago where he grew up. Andy used to describe himself as an “everythingist.” Whenever he filled out application forms, in addition to putting “human” for his “race,” he would often write “Everythingist” for his occupation. To the locals around Amador County, California, he is probably most known for his devotion to and enthusiastic involvement in the effort to restore the Knight Foundry in Sutter Creek, and his dream of turning the foundry into an educational “living history museum.” He threw himself wholeheartedly into this project, impersonating Samuel Knight–the foundry’s founder and inventor of the Knight Water Wheel and high-pressure “water motor,” which Andy managed to say in a Maine accent (Knight was from Maine). “Banjo Andy” as he is famously known by his fellow musicians, started and co-founded the annual “International Jug Band Festival” of Sutter Creek, which has been going strong for the past decade, bringing jug bands from all over–as far as Japan.
To anyone who knew him, it’s understandable why Andy called himself an Everythingist. Aside from being a foundry man and a banjo man, he was a filmmaker whose work includes Stereopticon: A Collaborative Acid Jazz Poetry Opera (1966-1968), the labor history documentary Redevelopment: A Marxist Analysis (1974), Hair-Trigger Don’t! an anti-nuke musical (1985); Running a Steam Locomotive (1991), Grandpa Worked on the Railroad (1994), and Pouring Iron, his documentary on the Knight Foundry (1995)–and the list goes on: he was an industrial archaeologist; an artist (drawing and painting from an early age); a musician who played the banjo, piano, jaw harp, recorder-flute and guitar, and who helped start San Francisco’s still-thriving eclectic Babar Jug Band ca. 1982, (also highly noteworthy, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, who he jammed with, was born in his apartment’s living-room in Chicago in the early 1960’s); a storyteller, like a walking encyclopedia who seemed to know something about everything in almost any conversation, always with something interesting to say; an activist for social change passionately engaged in antiwar protests and the anti-nuclear movement; an anarchist who believed in true democracy; a card-carrying member of the IWW; a pacifist and revolutionary; a lover and deep appreciator of beauty, particularly the beauty of nature; a lover of people, poetry, knowledge and books; an avid reader who read aloud excellently (doing all the voices) to his younger siblings growing up, then to his children and to his girlfriends–everything from Pogo comics to James Joyce’s Ulysses; a historian and active member of the local Historical Society for over a decade; a train enthusiast and co-owner of the Amador Central Railroad who wrote in his notebook, “My Spirit Will Be With The Railroad”; an inventor; an experimentalist; a gardener who made elaborate irrigation ditch-systems to efficiently water our vegetable garden; a bird-watcher who informed me that the California Quail’s call is ironically “Chi-ca-go”; an agnostic-atheist Zen Buddhist with a semi-Quaker bent; a punster with a zany sense of humor; a former San Francisco cab driver who actively organized with the Independent Cab Drivers Association for better working conditions. He was the eldest of five children of Joan Brautigam and Francis Merrick Fahrenwald, survived by his siblings Jimmy, Susie, Peter and Billy. Also surviving Andy are his three lovely daughters : Paprika, Ginger and Maya; and four beautiful grandchildren: Ryan, Jodi, Isa, and Alex, and adored step-grandson Elijah. Andy was an adventurer who loved road-tripping to new places such as the desert to explore ancient pictographs and petroglyphs left by Native Americans; a teacher in so many ways; an eternal optimist; a dreamer to the core; and oh, a turtle. (Or at least that was his “totem.”)
Of his many different interests, qualities and occupations, which can’t possibly be sufficiently captured in this brief format, most importantly and above all, Andy was a truly good person. He was an extremely loving, kind-hearted, open-minded individual with a strong sense of integrity and justice, a childlike creativity, and a sparkle in his eyes. He was, to say the least, quite a unique character whose extraordinary vibrant presence will be missed by all who knew him.
Sutter Creek, California certainly will not be the same without its quirky Samuel Knight impersonator. Jug band festivals and music parties will be lacking the same sparkle without their Banjo Andy. And coffee shops all across Amador County and beyond will miss this non-morning-person as he was gradually awakened by their cups of black coffee and copy of the New York Times.
Andy was a noble fighter of prostate cancer for four years, who never gave up hope. Unfortunately, the cancer won that battle in the end. He passed away on April 7th 2013, at age 70, in our home in Sutter Creek. Andy and I were married on 9-10-11 (September 10, 2011) under a magnificent ancient oak tree, the happiest day of my life. He was my partner of four years (far too few), my soul-mate, my comrade, and the finest friend I have ever known. I miss him beyond words.
I’ll close this obituary of sorts with a few of what he called “Andy aphorisms”:
“Necessity is the mother of invention, having nothing to do with the necessity.” “All things come to those who live right.” “The unknown is larger than the known by an unknowable factor.” “What can you do today that no one has ever done before?” “We are infinitely perfectible.” And “In the land of the mind, the one man king is I.”
May we all continue to carry Andy in our hearts and minds and learn from his example–to live life to the fullest, to love deeply, to be kind and just, to appreciate beauty in nature and all around us, and to always hold on to our inner-child and our dreams.
And as Andy liked to often quote the poet Bob Brown, “Luff, Luff, that’s the stuff!”
–Oliah “bird” Fahrenwald, April 22, 2013
Bird and Turtle is a duo of Sutter Creek California. Oliah “Bird” plays guitar and does vocals. Andy “Turtle” plays banjo, jaw harp and flute. They count among their top influences : Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Patti Smith, Roscoe Holcomb, Ralph Stanley, Olias Fall (Oliah’s former band), and Charlie Poole and the list goes on. Oh wait, and there’s Ramblin’ Jack Elliot!
These two can be found playing at local farmer’s markets or at small venues in Amador County California.
Contact : allergic (at) riseup.net for further info
The amazing Ramblin’ Jack Elliot is kindly going to do a benefit show for Banjo Andy on Sunday, June 10th 2012 3 pm at the Sutter Creek Theatre in Sutter Creek California at 44 Main Street. Local Bird and Turtle are the opening act.
Tickets are $20 cash/check only at the door or at Heart and Soul the small shop beside the theatre (advanced tickets are available through the theatre–link below). A silent Auction will be held at 2 pm. All proceeds go to Andy’s Healthcare Fund in his battle against cancer. Please come show your support for Andy and don’t miss Ramblin’ Jack the folk-rock legend who’s 80 and still ramblin’ on. Among other things, he taught all of Woody Guthrie’s songs to the young Bob Dylan and was the biggest influence on the Rolling Stones. He’s a man of many trades. He’s won two Grammys for Best Traditional Folk Album and Best Traditional Blues Album. Dylan described him as “king of the folksingers.”