GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – A cyclone cuts a swath of destruction.
“The Cyclone Kid” cut a swath of delight.
His nickname came from how he played fiddle at a young age – with swirls of dizzying notes.
Andy Sanders (born Shandor) spent a lifetime entertaining on violin and standup bass, singing and radiating a magnetic personality.
A video documentary, “Fiddlin’ Andy: The Cyclone Kid,” embraces all that and a whole lot more – as biographies do.
Two showings are set in Neville Public Museum’s theater at 1 p.m. Dec. 11 and 2 p.m. Dec. 18. Info: nevillepublicmuseum.org.
Not only does the remarkable documentary reveal Fiddlin’ Andy’s personality, it captures personalities of the musician’s life, of the violin and of the music scene in the latter half of last century, including in Green Bay.
The piece is a gem.
It’s been years in the making, starting in 1992. Much footage is of interviews with Fiddlin’ Andy. He died in 1999.
Everything is told through the voices of Fiddlin’ Andy, fellow musicians, friends, family and musicologists.
Footage spans the 20th century, from Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty early in the century to stage and TV appearances in the 1990s.
Photographer Jim Parish and archivist Lou Seiler weave a mightily engaging saga.
A focal area may seem to be Green Bay, but the story turns out to be bigger.
It’s that of a:
+ First-generation American whose father toiled in a coal mine with hand tools and played violin on weekends.
+ Whiz kid on fiddle who connected with a band that made it to the Grand Ol’ Opry.
+ Decorated soldier in World War II, serving in Europe.
+ Student in Philadelphia, with the esteemed Eugene Ormandy.
+ Musician whose ties include Pee Wee King, Ernest Tubb and Bill Hailey.
+ Traveling musician beckoned home by needs of a wife and three children.
+ Regular on TV in Green Bay.
+ Longtime draw on the Green Bay area night club scene.
Those last two hark to vastly different lifestyles. In the early 1950s, Green Bay had one television station, and WBAY broadcast live music as part of a daytime show. Before cable TV came along, Green Bay had 30 clubs offering six nights a week of live entertainment. Fiddlin’ Andy was well known because of them.
“Fiddlin’ Andy: The Cyclone Kid” tells much more about the life of a gifted person.
Two lists give an idea of the scope.
– Early 1900s: Ellis Island, New York harbor activity
– Early 1900s: Pennsylvania coal mining activity
– 1920s: industrial and railroading scenes
– 1940s: Chicago street and L-train scenes
– 1950s: Green Bay traffic, night traffic, snow travel scenes
– 1958: WBAY-TV “Noon Show,” two full performances, color with audio
– 1958: WBAY-TV fifth anniversary show clips, WBAY Auditorium
– 1992: live stage performance, Wrangler Inn, County Line, Wis.
– 1994: live in-studio performances, WPNE-TV, Green Bay, Wis.
– 1938 and 1940: live performances, CBS Radio, New York, N.Y.
– 1940: three 78 rpm records, Audiodisc label, Reading, Pa.
– 1952: WBAY Radio live “…Morning on the Farm” show
– 1955: 45 rpm, “Orange Blossom Special,” Coulee label, La Crosse, Wis.
– 1957: 45 rpm, “Rock and Roll Baby,” Presto label, Milwaukee, Wis.
– 1958: “Pee Wee King Show with Fiddlin’ Andy,” VFW Hall, Cecil, Wis.
– 1958-63: various WBAY-TV “Noon Show” segment recordings
– 1958-63: various WBAY label, studio 78 rpm records
– 1952-97: various home, performance and studio recordings
Precious moments include Fiddlin’ Andy performing. He plays “Orange Blossom Special” his special way – blending in fiddle tricks to sound like everything from a train at breakneck speed to a honking donkey. On the other end of the spectrum, he pours soul into a sad song from his Hungarian heritage.
Interviews with him capture a kind of warm grace with ripples of pleasure as he recounts adventures and soulmate musicians.
Johnny Romer, Dick Hirons and Jim Seiler (Lou Seiler’s late brother) are among the musicians coloring in the background. They tell of unique guy and what happened around him.
His wife, Betty, and children Andy Shandor Jr. and Sissy Sanders fill in the home picture.
Betty tells of a three-year stand at The Flame nightspot in Green Bay. “Everybody loved him,” she says. “He got the whole place rockin’.”
Fiddlin’ Andy’s passage includes time in Ralph, Pa.; Pottstown, Pa.; Europe during the war; Chicago, Ill.; Iron Mountain, Mich.; Philadelphia to study at an academy on the GI Bill; and Green Bay, Wis.
People and places of Green Bay will set local folks a-buzzing – nightspots of yore, the time when WBAY was located on top of the Bellin Building and such names as Cousin Fuzzy and the Town Hall Players, Bob Nelson and Johnny Saxe.
But “Fiddlin’ Andy: The Cyclone Kid” is a Cinemascope picture rather than a snapshot. It details a time and an everyday kind of society that was repeated in hundreds of communities around the country. The difference in Green Bay is the one-of-a-kind Andy Sanders who viewers get to know and appreciate.