Herald Times: Mellencamp guitarist: Kissed By Michelle Obama, Smacked By Bald Eagle At D.C.

By Mike Leonard

John Mellencamp and guitarist Andy York were standing back in the wings of the stage at the “We Are One” inaugural concert Sunday when stage directors motioned them to move up to the front of the stage and into the line of entertainters who performed in the gala show.

“Lo and behold, I was the last one in line and all of a sudden, I found myself at the front,” York said by phone today.

“I look to my right and there’s Denzel Washington and then, me.”

To York’s left was a man holding a large, bald eagle. “When he took the blinders off, the bird kind of went crazy,” York said. “It smacked me up side of the head with its right wing and then I looked up and President-Elect Obama is standing there, extending his hand.

“Then, Michelle is right behind him and she said something like, ‘Thank you so much for doing this’ and I said, ‘God bless you,’ I think,” York said. “And then she kissed me on the cheek!”

The 15-year veteran guitarist with Mellencamp said it all passed by in slow motion to him. But the whole day, he said, is something he’ll never forget. “It was like a sensory overload being around all of those famous people and musicians and icons. But it was great. It was a blast. I had a smile glued on my face all day, like a kid at an amusement park. The best amusement park in the world.”

As York spoke by phone, he was in Baltimore, preparing to rehearse with a group of musicians who will play Pennsylvania’s inaugural ball Tuesday night . “I guess the Obamas are going to be there, too,” he said. “But I don’t think I’ll get kissed on the cheek again.”