Andy Goessling — a pillar of New Jersey’s roots music community, who played with stunning skill and versatility — has died, his band Railroad Earth has posted on its website.
“Friends we come with heavy hearts and the sad news that our brother Andy has passed,” the band posted. “He was truly one of a kind — a brilliant musician, and a better person. It was a privilege to share this journey with him, and through his music he touched many lives. There’s simply too much to feel right now, words are hard to find, and we’ll have more to say in time.”
The band also quoted from the Hazel Dickens song, “Won’t You Come and Sing for Me”: “How dear to my heart, how precious the moments, we stood side by side, singing a song.”
Goessling was 59, and lived in Long Valley. No cause of death has been confirmed, though he has missed some Railroad Earth shows over the past year and a half, due to illness.
A multi-instrumentalist who played guitar, banjo, dobro, mandolin, saxophone and other instruments, and also sang, Goessling (pronounced “guess-ling”) also performed with other RRE members in the Shockenaw Mountain Boys and, before the Sussex County-based band was formed, was well known to New Jersey audiences as a member of Blue Sparks From Hell and Kings in Disguise.
He also had the opportunity to play with luminaries and heroes of his such as Warren Haynes, David Bromberg, John McEuen of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Phil Lesh and Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead.
Tim Carbone, who performed alongside Goessling in both Railroad Earth and Blue Sparks From Hell, posted on Facebook: “I lost one of my best friends this morning. RIP Andy Goessling. There are no adequate words to express my grief. It is incalculable the amount of knowledge you’ve imparted to me or the mountain of inspiration you have given me. It was an honor to play, create and share music with you. We had a great run brother. 40 years of laughs, tears, love and music. I am blessed to have known you. We grew up in a Greyhound bus together. Travel gently to the other side. Say howdy to Tucker and Buck (deceased Blue Sparks members C.T. Tucker and Buck Dilly). I know we’ll meet again but I miss you already.”
Railroad Earth bassist Andrew Altman wrote on Facebook that Goessling 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.”
Singer-songwriter Kathy Moser also wrote about this aspect of Goessling’s personality on Facebook: “I went on tour the first time because he told me ‘you don’t have to wait for someone to tell you you can tour, you can just get in your van and go.’ So I did, and then called him from the road when I freaking out and he talked me through. His sense of humor and kindness were there til the end.”
As a member of Shockenaw Mountain Boys, Goessling graciously lent his talents to two benefits for NJArts.net, in Oct. 2017 at Crossroads in Garwood, and in March of this year at the Stanhope House. Today on Facebook, organist John Ginty posted a photo of the grand finale of the March show, with him on one side of the stage and Goessling on the other.
“Oh how many times we book ended a stage … We spoke more notes than words … Grateful for all the opportunities to play with you … RIP Andy,” he wrote.
In a 2016 interview with the web site, themusicvibes.com, Goessling was asked about the message of Railroad Earth’s music.
“I wouldn’t say we send a message so much as people seem to tell us the music helps center them to a place they can do the work they need to do in their own life,” he said. “It’s like an island they can go to, to spiritually recharge.”
He was also asked which, of the many instruments he played, was his favorite.
“My favorite string instrument is the German concert zither,” he said. “It has five melody strings over a fretboard and 30 accompaniment strings. You can play independent melody and background with the range of a piano and it sits on a table like a dulcimer. … I’m working on playing a more Americana style on it right now as opposed to the German folk music it’s descended from.”
(Oct. 19 Update: Here is information posted by Bailey Funeral Home:
Memorial visitation will be held on Saturday, December 1st at St. Luke Parish, 265 W. 265 W Mill Rd, Long Valley, NJ starting at 10am followed by a Memorial Mass at 11am.
In lieu of flowers, you can donate in his name at Hungry For Music, a charity that distributes musical instruments to underserved children that wish to learn music. Andy was a firm believer in encouraging youth to play and express themselves through music, and often donated his time to music programs for that purpose. hungryformusic.org/make-a-dedication-donation)
Here is a video of Goessling playing the standard “As Time Goes By” on zither, and, below that, videos of him with Railroad Earth and the Shockenaw Mountain Boys.