Guns & Guitars
There are two things Jerry Andrews loves to fiddle around with—antique guns and guitars. Both help him speak through song. Both ventures involve craftsmanship, and both infuse his life with a passion that seems second-to-none.
Not many years separated the time between repairing his first shotgun and starting out playing mainstream country music. He began fooling around with guns in ‘76, and about five years later, he was dabbling in mainstream country. Both things grabbed him, but back then, one grabbed him harder than the other …at least for a while.
“In ‘82, I slid my guitar under the bed and didn’t take it out for 37 years,” Andrews said.
Instead, fixing antique guns for people took up his time. This guy from Moundsville, West Virginia – who has always loved to upland bird hunt – said he had a reasonably meager upbringing. He’d wanted a double-barreled shotgun but had to buy a broken one and figure out how to fix it. He did. Then, somebody found out he had the magic touch, so he fixed another. And another. Today, he’s one of a handful of repair experts of L.C. Smith shotguns, and he very well may have the most extensive collection of antique Smith gun parts anywhere – he’s got an astonishing 40,000 original parts from which to work.
He’s serious about this; it’s more a vocation than a job. He treats all the guns he works with the way they were when crafted and repaired between 1800 and 1952. There are no shortcuts. There are no modern devices or methods.
Dusting Off the Old Strings
“It’s an old-world craft. I’m doing it the same way it was done in the 1800s,” he explained. “There’s no way to speed it up and no way to automate it. It’s never been improved upon because it’s a perfect process. It’s been done for hundreds of years.”
He said he turns barrels a beautiful blue-black color, and when replacing a stock, he gets the gun to look like it did the day it was born: “The rust blue and bone and charcoal case coloring is as close to factory colors as can be obtained.”
“Every single gun was handmade, and every single gun is slightly different,” he said. “But now…today…there’s no handcrafting anymore.”
He said the quality of what is created by hand always wows him when it comes to firearms.
“When I look at the metal-to-metal fit, I am amazed at the fit, and it’s all done without anything like a CNC machine, he said. “I’ve re-stocked 384 of those guns from scratch in my lifetime, and I’ve probably repaired 5,000.”
In 2015, Andrews coaxed his guitar out from under the bed. Invited to perform at a local event, he dusted off the old strings and reignited his musical passion.
Since then, he and his band – Crandall Creek – have seen as much success as he found with his repair business. Back in 2019, their “Headed South” made the #1 slot on the roots charts, and Andrews talks as if their upcoming album might be even more promising.
Crandall Creek has a single out now, “Cake Walk,” which Andrews said is the first single released in advance of the entire record.
“Handprints on the Glass” will be late spring or early summer release. Andrews wrote the title song alongside Brink Brinkman, whose songs produced 17 number one hits for various artists. According to Andrews, “when we play it, half the audience bawls.”
“We don’t put anything on an album that we didn’t write,” he said, but he tempered the tone of pride in his voice with a heaping dose of bare humility: “I’m not much of a musician, and not much of a vocalist. But I’m a songwriter.”
Whether he’s assembling chords and words – or barrels, triggers, and stocks – doing things right seems to matter to Jerry Andrews. After all, old-world L.C. Smiths aren’t all that different from the mountain music of old. They both require commitment, dexterity, and love for the past.
Crandall Creek: Mason Atha, bass; Anna Dunham, vocals; Jerry Andrews, guitar, vocals; Kathy Wigman Lesnock, vocals; Hanna (cq) Livingston, fiddle, vocals; Dustin Terpenning, banjo, mandolin. [Photos by Bruce Winges]