MECHANIC FALLS — At age 85, country singer Slim Andrews may never have been more popular than he is today.
The Auburn entertainer has a growing legion of fans far from Maine, thanks to independent country radio stations playing his music across the globe.
For the first three months of the year, Andrews has enjoyed success on the International Mainstream Country Music Chart. Published in the Netherlands, the chart measures which country songs and artists are being added to playlists around the world. The list is a mix of new and classic songs and artists.
Last week, for example, Andrews received airplay from several stations in New Zealand for his song “The Image of Me.” Other songs of his received airplay in Denmark, Australia and on several internet stations.
Andrews was at his peak earlier this year when he cracked both the Top 200 Artists Chart and the Top 40 Singles Chart for multiple weeks. He was listed on the Top 200 charts for eight weeks during a 10-week span, reaching a high of No. 27.
His song “The Autumn of Our Lives,” which he wrote for his wife, reached No. 3 on the international Top-40 chart in mid-January. The next week, his version of the song “Freightliner Fever,” a song popularized years ago by Boxcar Willie, came in at No. 13.
‘They love him. He’s 85,” said local songwriter Jim Flynn. “He’s got DJs, all of his fans who have known him for years and years and years. When a song comes through, I’m sure they smile and say, ‘That old son of a gun. He’s still making music and still sending me songs.'”
Inducted into the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame in 2002, Andrews has enjoyed a long career in country music as an entertainer and a leader in the state’s country music industry.
The airplay he is suddenly receiving overseas has caught him a little off guard.
“The quality of what I do is important,” Andrews said. “I can keep a tune, maybe not like I use to. But I think it’s the quality. It’s the approach that you have. If it’s not good music, people aren’t going to listen.”
The Top 200 Artists Chart includes an interesting mix of country stars and unknown artists. For example, on the chart for the week of March 8-14, Andrews is listed at No. 112. The artists in the Top 20 that week included Merle Haggard, George Strait and Johnny Cash. Who’s listed below Slim Andrews? How about Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, Zac Brown Band, Alabama and Dierks Bentley.
“When you are an indie and you’re on one of these stations around the world, you’re competing with over 3,000-plus independent performers,” Andrews said. “It’s special when you see your name on the same sheet as a Johnny Cash or Merle Haggard. But we especially look to see the ones below our names.”
Andrews, who was born in Boston when his parents temporarily lived out of state during the depression and raised in the Twin Cities since the age of 6 months, has enjoyed a long career in country music. He was successful in Massachusetts when he formed the band The Berkshire Mountain Boys. With a large family to support, he never ventured to Nashville to try to make it on the big stage.
“I always wore two hats. I had to earn a living,” said Andrews, who sold insurance full time. “I had six children. I could never go to Nashville. I couldn’t do it. You just don’t walk away and leave six children at home. Believe me, those guys who did, I don’t have the most respect in the world for them.”
He returned to Maine in 1971 to form the Cumberland Valley Boys. He found his calling a few years later when he created the Maine Country Music Awards, the precursor of the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame.
It’s unlikely anyone knows more about the history of country music in Maine than Andrews. He bounces from exhibit to exhibit, eagerly telling stories of the various artists who have been inducted in the hall, an impressive collection in the basement of the Silver Spur in Mechanic Falls.
It’s the same excitement he shows on stage, whether in a group or as a solo performer. By his estimate, he does between 75 and 100 shows a year, singing with his signature rasp.
“He’s an inspiration for a lot of people,” Flynn said. “He proves right now that you’re never too old, and it’s never too late to be productive.”
“I just try to be happy and take whatever the good Lord gives us,” Andrews said. “The quality of life is what’s important.
“As long as they still want me, I’ll do it.”