Andy Leftwich, fiddler with Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder since 2001, has announced that he will be leaving the band at the end of the year.
He has literally grown up in the group, starting with Skaggs right out of high school at 19 years of age. Before that, he had toured with Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike on weekends for three years.
When we asked Andy what he will be doing after he leaves Kentucky Thunder, he seemed momentarily taken aback.
“It’s kind of a big question. Where do you go from Ricky Skaggs? Mostly it’s about being home more, and in control of my own schedule.
I’m 35 now, and I’m really feeling the pull to be home. It’s a bit scary since I don’t have something specific I’m going into, but I’m excited about the future and what doors may open for us.”
Over recent years, Christian ministry has been calling to Andy, with opportunities in that realm popping up in many different locations. He’s just reached the point where a choice had to be made, one or the other.
“My wife and I have been able to be part of some really great meetings with some churches around the country. I’m definitely not quitting, I’ll keep picking. But I’m looking to be more a part of the ministry. I’m excited about the possibilities of doing more of that.
Ricky could not have been a better boss, and I can’t imagine a better road gig. All I had to do is show up and play my fiddle. And I love all the guys in the band. They’re like my family.
I started missing things back home that I really didn’t want to miss, and having to bail on folks when I had wanted to do something with them. Ricky definitely deserves to have someone there who is fully committed, and I hate having to make that phone call when I’ve booked things and a gig came up.”
Talk of family isn’t just idle chatter. Andy really is part of the Skaggs clan. His wife, Rachel, is Ricky’s niece.
For now, the plan is for Leftwich to continue doing session work in Nashville, which he says has been steady work for him of late. He isn’t counting out returning to touring work at some point, but wants to give a fair chance to his goals on the pastoral side.
“I love to write instrumentals, and opportunities to play with other folks.
I want the best for Ricky, and I want the best for that band. We’ve always had a great band, but I feel really close to this bunch of guys. The shows with Bruce Hornsby were out of this world, and a lot of fun.
I’ve never played with anyone who plays with the heart and spirit than he does. Even at 61 years old, he’s out there on stage acting like a 20 year old. It will be hard to leave behind.”
He has a new album out, a collection of hymns recorded as fiddle instrumentals. Titled Instrumental Hymns, it is available as either a CD or download from Andy’s web site featuring his arrangements of classics like In The Garden, How Great Thou Art, Amazing Grace, Be Thou My Vision, and several others.
This really is a changing of the guard for Skaggs’ band, with Leftwich holding down the fiddle spot as a true virtuoso in the bluegrass style the past 15 years. There is no doubt that Ricky will find a first-rate fiddler to join the group, but rest assured, Andy Leftwich is leaving a mighty big hole to fill.
We’ll all look forward to what he does next in the bluegrass world.