Savannah Morning News: Show Preview / Andy York Interview
11.10.2011 - John Mellencamp brings 'No Better Than This' tour to Savannah
Photo by Mark Cornelison. By
Savannah Morning News
After nearly 18 years of working with John Mellencamp, guitarist Andy York has
had some incredible experiences.
One of the most memorable happened in Savannah when Mellencamp was recording “No
Better Than This,” his latest album. “Playing acoustic guitar sitting across
from John at the First African Baptist Church was a high moment,” York said.
The album, which was produced by T Bone Burnett and released in August 2010, was
recorded at historic sites in the South, the first being Savannah’s First
African Baptist Church. Other recording sessions were held at Sun Studio in
Memphis and in Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, where blues legend
Robert Johnson recorded in 1936.
Mellencamp’s songs were recorded on a 55-year-old mono tape recorder using just
one microphone. “I suppose John wanted to channel some sort of vibe from the
past,” York said. “It seemed to work.
“Those places were very spiritual locations,” he said. “I could feel it when I
was playing, when I was standing on the X where Elvis stood in Sun Studio. It
was somewhat surreal.
You’re thinking, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this.’”
York is looking forward to returning to Savannah Nov. 11 when the Mellencamp “No
Better Than This” tour comes to the civic center. “If you make a friend in
Savannah, you’ve got one for life,” York said. “I love Savannah. I love the
people, the way streets are laid out, the history, the food.”
The concert will open with a screening of “It’s About You,” a documentary film
about Mellencamp and his band that was made by Kurt and Ian Markus. It premiered
at the SXSW Film Festival in March 2010.
York’s family was quite musical. “My father plays Dixieland clarinet and my
mother piano,” he said. “My father always had a band while he was working in the
Air Force as a pilot. I would say I started playing guitar around 10. That’s
when I took it seriously.”
As a military brat, York lived all around the country. “I remember being in
Selma, Ala., during the March on Montgomery,” he said. “We lived on an Air Force
base. and the base was adjacent to the interstate, where the walk was taking
As he got older, York began performing publicly. “I was in Jason and the
Scorchers,” he said. “Then I was in a band called Hearts and Minds that made an
album that was produced by Mike Wanchic. That’s how I ended up with the
York first played Savannah with Jason and the Scorchers in the 1980s. “I’ve
played there with John I don’t know how many times,” he said. “A good five, I
would say. I remember starting off a tour there.”
The upcoming concert will have a somewhat unusual format. “I would define it as
an evening with John Mellencamp in three acts,” York said. “Act One is the
rockabilly portion, Act Two is the acoustic set, and Act Three is the
take-no-prisoners rock set.”
York’s favorite is the rockabilly set. ”I get to play a 1967 Gretch and sort of
channel Sun Studio,” he said. “We make it sound like the 1950s, which is fun.”
Mellencamp is a very demanding boss, York said. “He’s such a great songwriter
you really want to serve the song as best you can,” he said. “It challenges you
to come up with the very best ideas to accomplish that.
“A lot of times, we catch lighting in a bottle and we’re off and running,” York
said. “It’s a great job.”
IF YOU GO
What: John Mellencamp’s “No Better Than This” Tour.
When: 7 p.m. film, 8:20 p.m. concert, Nov. 11.
Where: Johnny Mercer Theater, Savannah Civic Center, 301 W. Oglethorpe Ave.
Cost: Tickets range from $39.50 to $250.