By: Ashley DeNardo
Morgantown is home to a variety of musicians and sounds. Its intense diversity is redefining the sound of Appalachia and mountain music. One such musician is Andy Tuck, the lead singer of local band The Greens.
Tuck began playing guitar when he was 15 years old. He was in trouble and wasn’t able to join his friends, who were out “doing wild teenage things.”
“My dad showed me the basic chords,” Tuck recalls. “Then, I got Nirvana tapes and learned how to play by listening and playing along.”
He went on to play rock classics such as Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin until he had learned enough to begin writing his own music. His first song was called “Probation Blues.” Eventually, he played music with some friends. The Greens became, as Tuck describes them, the “blues-funk-soul-folk-rock band” it is in 2002. The band is quite literally underground; it began in a basement.
Almost 15 years later, Andy Tuck & The Greens still plays regularly at venues around Morgantown, namely 123 Pleasant Street. When Tuck isn’t fronting the band, he spends his time perfecting his craft at lesser-known venues such as Black Bear Burritos.
“As for smaller venues, I enjoy playing them as a kind of workshop,” he explains. “Getting to try out new ideas and arrangements. And it is a more direct and intimate setting to connect with the audiences.”
Local audiences can watch and hear musicians like Tuck up close and personal and with sonic clarity at these types of venues. While 123 Pleasant Street is his favorite venue for The Greens, Black Bear Burritos is his solo spot.
“I love Black Bear,” he says. “I’ve been playing there, solo acoustic, regularly for over 11 years. I have met some great friends there, have had more of their great food and beer than I can even recall, have written and performed and heard great songs – and they proudly represent art and artists from West Virginia.”
As for the sound of Morgantown, it’s a difficult sound to place. Tuck describes the sound to be an eclectic mix of styles and genres that is surprisingly sophisticated. For example, in one month a venue typically features punk, indie, reggae, hip hop, bluegrass, jazz and other experimental sounds.
“There is an openness and freedom to do what you want in terms of music, and the audience can reflect that openness, which can lead to some amazing and far-out new things,” Tuck says.
From his point of view, Morgantown’s local music scene is a supportive, encouraging place due its small size, lack of opportunity for major exposure and mutual awareness and appreciation for each others’ work.
Outside of rocking out on stage, Tuck is married with two children. He participates in videography and teaches as a substitute in Monongalia County. In the summer, he finds work on farms. All the while, he is working on his master’s degree in Special Education, which he will complete this year. This is all in addition to the time he sets aside for his creativity.
“I just started a new acoustic string band, with Chris Jones and Greg Thurman,” Tuck says. “We’re calling it 18 Strings because there’s guitar, bass and mandolin.”
The band is currently recording its debut album, and plans to tour locally, regionally and even in North Carolina. On Friday, April 15, you can catch 18 Strings opening up for Larry Keel at 123 Pleasant Street.
“It is really great to get a fresh new thing going,” he continues. “It keeps us all inspired and working hard to make it to that next level.” The Greens will also release a double album called “Killer Double Album” soon.
Tuck’s impact on the community is obvious to those who listen, and he really works to make sure people get their money and time’s worth.
“If I can provide a few hours’ worth of good music for good people, then I did my job,” he says. “What I do is write and play and sing songs for people, to present music that is both rooted in traditions and branches out into new original forms.”
This is the local sound. It’s the transformation of tradition into diverse musical harmony. It celebrates Appalachia and makes way for modernity. It’s the sound of the Morgantown underground.