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‘Ambassador’ of local music still gets around on the square
Photo courtesy of Rick Moore – Coming up on 50 years of entertaining, music man Buzz Andrews is known for bringing live music to McKinney’s downtown historic square.
By Katie Oliver, Special to the McKinney Courier-Gazette
As the first person to play on the square in historic downtown McKinney, Buzz Andrews gets credit as ambassador to the local music scene.
His first gig in McKinney was at the former Collin County prison after it had been renovated and reopened as a restaurant in 2000. The “Prison Restaurant,” as Andrews called it, had an interesting history. The last Texas hanging occurred at this prison. Even one of Bonnie and Clyde’s getaway drivers was held captive behind its bars.
The new restaurant offered a tasty meal in an old cell where historic outlaws once were held. The place appealed to the public and its success took off, taking Andrews with it.
“There wasn’t music in McKinney yet, just antique stores and knickknack shops, no restaurants or anything,” he said. “I was a part of McKinney music before McKinney had music.”
Andrews found himself entertaining more than 400 people a night. From this, word of Andrew’s talent quickly spread. Other businesses began inhabiting the square, and it wasn’t too long before McKinney’s night life was born.
“McKinney has been a good place for me because I got in on the ground floor,” said Andrews, 62. “I’ve had a 13-year run of nonstop playing, and people haven’t gotten tired of me yet.”
Though 2000 was a pivotal year for Andrews and his music, his career as a performer began many years prior. His first show was in Hope, Ark., at a poultry festival, with a band comprised of 13-year-old Andrews and two other young boys who played for an audience of 2,000 people.
After that gig, they all made the decision to pursue music for the next 50 years, he said.
In 1969, an opportunity presented itself that would have allowed Andrews to go to Nashville and make music full-time. He took an athletic scholarship instead and stayed home to pursue his education. After graduating, Andrews became a teacher and has been a track and field and football coach for more than 34 years.
Coaching has been his primary occupation, but Andrews has always stayed active with music. While he loves all instruments and can play the trumpet, mandolin and harmonica, his preference is the guitar.
“I grew up in the ’60s and that’s when all the great guitar players were coming out like Jimmy Hendrix and Eric Clapton,” Andrews said. “It’s cool to be a guitar player, just like every other kid.”
When performing, the Richardson resident said he often reminisces on how fun the past 50 years have been. Though he has written a few original songs, Andrews hasn’t recorded a CD and doesn’t plan to.
“Music has always been a hobby to me; it’s never been a career chasing thing for me,” he said. “I do so much and have so many interests that writing songs has never been one of them. I wanted music to be as entertaining to me as much as it is to everyone else.”
Andrews is far from singing his last tune. When asked where he sees himself in the future, Andrews said: “Finishing up right” – going out with a bang, sitting on a stool while singing with his guitar.
“I would love for that to happen, to be 85 years old and say I played [until the end],” he said. “I think that would be a fitting way for me to go. I’d fall off and then someone would tap on his microphone to say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I think that was Buzz’s last performance.’”
Kelley Chambers contributed to this article.