Remembering Railroad Earth’s Andy Goessling
Railroad Earth multi-instrumentalist Andy Goessling passed away on October 12, 2018 at the young age of 59 following a long battle with cancer. An integral member of the New Jersey-based jamgrass veterans, Goessling’s contributions to Railroad Earth were essential to the band’s signature authentic style. A musician’s musician with an ever curious mind and passion for instruments, Goessling’s legacy is that of a kindred spirit who accomplished much and inspired many during his all-too-short life.
JamBase is honored to share remembrances written by two of Andy’s Railroad Earth band mates. The first comes from Tim Carbone who spent the most time with Andy over his career. The second was posted by Andrew Altman shortly after Gosseling’s death.
I knew and played music with Andy Goessling for 40 years. We were in three different bands together. I joined the first of our mutual bands, The Blue Sparks From Hell when I was 21 and he was 18. We played 250 gigs a year, give or take a dozen or so, for 15 years, driving up and down the East Coast and out through the Gulf Coast in a beat up 1954 4104 GMC bus. You could say we grew up together in a Greyhound.
Andy was freak of nature in the most beautiful way possible. As many know, he was a master of many instruments. I won’t count them because I’m sure there’s a few that I don’t even know about. If it had strings or you blew through it, he could probably play it — and well.
One of my favorite stories Andy told me was about him bringing home a violin he bought at a secondhand store. He’d be in his room day after day trying to play it until one day his mom knocked on the door and said, “Andy, I think this might be one instrument you can’t play.” Lucky me!
One time Andy was driving the band van into New York City for a gig with one of our other mutual bands, Kings In Disguise. He pulled up to the toll booth at the Holland Tunnel, rolled down the window and with a completely straight face said to the older man taking the toll, “We’re on the guest list.” The toll man responded, “Oh man, I about let you through!” We all laughed our asses off, including the toll man.
Another time I was supposed to meet Andy at a music store in Morristown, New Jersey called Star Music. I got there early and was the only person in the store. There was an older woman and her son behind the counter. I was quietly looking at the guitars on the far side of the store. They must have forgotten I was there. I noticed Andy pulling up out front in his Volvo and I heard the women behind the counter say, “Oh, no. Here comes that Andy Goessling again. He’ll probably play every instrument in the shop and buy nothing!” And if we weren’t supposed to be somewhere, I’m sure he would have!
I’ll never stop missing him but I’ll always have the many amazing memories we made together. A wise man once said, “He who has gone, so we but cherish his memory, abides with us more potent, nay, more present than the living man.” And I’ve found those words to be so true and of great comfort.
Andy Goessling was a musical genius. I’ve always hesitated to describe anyone in those terms but not him. Calling someone a genius implies something given not created. A gift. Something handed from beyond. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of artists are born with a love of expression and love for whatever form moves them but little else in terms of tools for creating. We all come into this world the same: screaming and unformed. The tools we use to express ourselves are forged over time and it took me a few years to see that Andy was rare. The 0.1 percent.
Andy played well over a dozen instruments in RRE alone. He played a handful more that never even entered the RRE orbit. Some of these instruments were similar but some couldn’t be more different. This in itself is a feat, but he was also an incredible soloist on a handful of these instruments. Most people spend their lives trying to be a great soloist on one instrument and he did it on many. Most people have never even heard of the zither … he owned piles of them. That instrument alone requires a certain type of brain to understand. After watching for a time and seeing the breadth of what he could say and do on an instrument I could only think that maybe the myth of some divine touch wasn’t entirely false.
The genius label can also be awkward because sometimes it’s used to excuse eccentric, rude, or even abusive behavior. Andy was the antithesis of these things. He was the glue that held our sound together musically but his unflappable personality is something no band can survive without. Art thrives on emotion and artists deliver it in spades. That’s great on stage, in words, and in melody but trying to do business, that bane of an artists existence, it can easily turn a conversation into a cage match. Andy was a grounding force.
The ground is gone now and I only see sky. The place we look when we think of the divine. The beyond. A place that I thought had little hand in the journey from screaming and unformed to coherent and complete. Thank you Andy for changing my mind. I love you. I miss you.