When guitarist “Six String Andrew” Sullivan had a chance to meet his guitar idol Buddy Guy, he wasn’t going to waste a single second of the chance he’d been dealt.
The Vancleave native walked right up to the blues legend at a club in the delta and told him he wanted to play onstage with the eight-time grammy award winner. The guitarist and singer who has influenced generations of artists including Eric Clapton, Jimmy Hendrix, and Keith Richards, must have been impressed because his reply was to meet him backstage and grab a guitar.
Six String Andrew was only 13 years old at the time, and there he was ripping up the stage with a blues icon.
“I told him I wanted to play his original song ‘Ms. Ida B’ and he told me he didn’t remember the lyrics and he said to me, ‘you sing it, and I’ll string it.’ When I got on stage he said into the mic, ‘I don’t remember the lyrics’ and everyone laughed. Then he looked over at me and quietly asked, ‘What key is it in?‘ and I said, ‘G’ and then we started the song. He traded solos with me, which was like getting a guitar lesson in front of a thousand people.” And his obsession with guitars began way before that night that he said he will remember forever. While most three-year-old boys are learning to bait hooks or trap bugs in jars, Six String Andrew was jamming out in his living room while watching classic rock DVDs with his mom and dad.
“I always liked watching the guitar players,” said Six String Andrew, who is now 17 and getting ready to go to college. “Especially Queen. It was always an interesting concept to me that you could get so many cool sounds out of that one instrument.”
And from that tender age of only three, his obsession with the stringed instrument with a smooth body and notes with crisp clear edges took him on an unbelievable journey that has landed him gigs at Ground Zero Blues Club Biloxi and a spot in the 20-piece orchestra, Coast Big Band. He and three friends have even put together the band, Test Drive, and they play Gulf Coast venues such as Margaritaville, Ground Zero, First Friday, Fat Bottom BBQ, and others.
Thanks to his parents, his musical genre range appears to be endless. When he was only six, his father began taking him to Clarksdale so he could immerse himself in a true blues culture and it was there he learned real guitar licks from authentic delta blues artists.
“I am inspired by a wide range of artists,” he said. “Old blues and folk legends like Lead Belly and Robert Johnson. I’m also inspired by a lot of 70s soul artists such as Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Frankie Beverly, and The Gap Band. As far as classic rock goes, Cheap Trick has been a massive influence on me. They have been my favorite band since I was six and they even let me play with them a few times. B.B. King’s soulful guitar playing is very inspiring to me, and Eric Gales’s fast style of playing is also a huge inspiration for my playing.”
Six String Andrew along with twin brothers Kaden and Jaden Bilbo, the bass player and keyboard player, and Brody Hyde, the drummer, formed the band Test Drive in high school. Since they were all musicians and had been friends for years, a band seemed like a natural progression.
“And we like playing all kinds of music, from old-school blues to soul, to rock, to Drake,” he said.
Coast Big Band
He joined the Coast Big Band more than a year ago when Dr. Arthur Matthews extended a seat to him with the orchestra, which has given him new elements to focus on while playing guitar.
“In most settings, I am the lead guitar player, and the guitar is the main focus of the songs I do,” he said. “However, with Coast Big Band, I do a lot more background playing that is meant to be more of an accompaniment to the horns rather than a lead riff.”
He does get guitar solos with the orchestra, such as “Solo Flight” and a few others.
“It’s a great experience, and it teaches me a lot and I appreciate everybody for welcoming me in,” he said.
Six String Andrew said Ground Zero is one of the best venues on the Gulf Coast for musicians because music is the main focus.
“At a lot of places, the music is more of background music, so people have something to listen to while they eat or get drinks,” he said. “Ground Zero makes it the focal point. The sound guys, Reid and Mick, make the place sound incredible and are very accommodating to the musicians. They are real professionals who know what they’re doing. I also want to acknowledge Hobbs for booking my band and other great acts there, and I want to thank the owner, Lee, for always being so hospitable to the band and me.”
These days Six String Andrew is keeping up with his guitar commitments while dedicating time to planning his future. He knows he wants to attend a music college, but is still weighing his options.
“I have been accepted into Belmont’s music program, which is a really great place,” he said. “The guitar instructors are some of the best players I’ve seen, and the college is right in Nashville, so it is definitely one I am considering. Whether I’m on stage performing in front of a lot of people or doing studio work, I want my profession to be in music.”
And what was that very first song Six String Andrew learned to play and spent hours practicing until his little juvenile fingers bled and had calluses?
It was ‘Edge Of Glory’ by Lady Gaga.
“I learned the basic chords to it when I was six years old on a Squier acoustic guitar that was almost as big as me,” he said laughing while he recalled the memory. “She was, and is still one of my favorite singers.”
So you might just say this amazingly talented guitarist is on the edge of glory and the entire Magnolia State is cheering him on and can’t wait to see what more he achieves.
*All photos are courtesy of Jennifer Sullivan, Andrew’s mother.