Although just 26 years old, the youngest member of Kentucky Thunder undoubtedly possesses all the musical talent of his older-more experienced fellow band members, and more. Meet Andy Leftwich, the gifted young fiddler from White House, Tennessee, who has enjoyed playing alongside the legendary pickers in Ricky Skaggs' all-star band, Kentucky Thunder, for three years.
Andy started playing the fiddle at the age of six, learning first from his father, and then from local pickers in the small-rural town just a short half hour away from Music City USA. It was only a year later when he entered his first fiddle contest--and by the age of nine, Andy had won the Tennessee State Championship for Beginners. By the time he was a teenager, Andy was a well-known musician in bluegrass circles, celebrated not only for his phenomenal fiddle playing -- but also for his amazing ability on both the mandolin and guitar.
In 1997, Andy started playing professionally, joining Valerie Smith and her band, Liberty Pike, as the lead mandolin player. There he lent his musical expertise to the well-received album, Turtle Wings, released on Bell Buckle Records in 2000 -- and also toured extensively with Valerie and the band.
In February of 2000, one of Andy's greatest musical heroes, Ricky Skaggs, was in need of a second fiddler to complete his much-celebrated band, Kentucky Thunder. Without any advance warning, Skaggs made a surprise call to the Leftwich home and invited Andy to join him and the band for a show that weekend. Little did Andy know how monumental that evening would prove to be - as Skaggs made a move that surprised not only the entire crowd in Lexington, Kentucky that night, but his entire band as well! On-stage, in the middle of the show Skaggs turned to Andy and offered him his hand, asking the shocked, young fiddler: "what are you doin' for the next couple of years?" In one magical moment, the future looked very different for the young musician who had only dreamed of playing alongside his musical idols like Skaggs one day.
In the short time since, Andy has enjoyed being a featured member of the award winning Kentucky Thunder, performing in approximately 100 thrilling live shows a year; while also offering his fiddle skills to many of Ricky's recent recording projects including: the Grammy-nominated CD, History of the Future in 2001, an enhanced CD-ROM single, "Weapon of Prayer," and most recently on Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder's GRAMMY-award winning, Live at the Charleston Music Hall. Beyond thrilling Kentucky Thunder stage shows and award winning recordings, Andy can also be heard and seen playing his amazing fiddle riffs on the following high-profile video projects: PBS' All*Star Bluegrass Celebration I & II and The Gaither Praise & Worship Bluegrass Special.
Last year, as part of Kentucky Thunder, Andy was honored by the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) with the distinguished 'Instrumental Group of the Year' award - an honor the IBMA has bestowed on Kentucky Thunder six out of the past seven years!
Andy feels very blessed to work with a Christian band-leader like Skaggs in a healthy Christian environment -- "God's been opening up so many doors for me since I started playing with Ricky...I am blessed to have this job to glorify God with."
And the future looks even brighter for the young musician who recently released his first solo, all-acoustic album on Skaggs' label - Skaggs Family Records. Ride, featuring 11 tunes, 9 of which are original, showcases Andy's widely versatile tastes & musical influences including bluegrass, Celtic and jazz - in a phenomenal collection of amazing fiddle and mandolin showmanship.