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Tanas says his new CD fulfills quest for happiness

By Larry Rea

Special to Bartlett Appeal

May 22, 2005

Talk about a person with a never-give-up attitude, that's Andy Tanas.

He admits to having had more than his share of battles, problems and obstacles.

And yet he's still playing his music, doing it his way.

It all goes back to 1977 when he got his first big band break thanks to being encouraged by members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, who told Tanas he needed to stop being road crew and get serious about music.

How bad was it?

"I was an emotional drugged-out train wreck and had the self-esteem of a gnat," said Tanas, who lives in Bartlett. "Most of this was coming from a family with a schizoid, bipolar alcoholic stepfather and my anxiety-ridden mom. She thought I'd either be dead or in prison by 20."

Truth is those "demons," as Tanas, 51, calls them, have haunted him through most of his life . . . even when he was on top performing with Black Oak Arkansas and other groups.

Yet, thanks to help from "some very cool teachers" in high school (he's a 1973 graduate of Frayser High School) including John Hester, who recently died, and friends, this talented man was able to turn his life -- and his career -- around.

It doesn't take long to realize Tanas has a story to tell.

In fact, he said, "If I'm getting too heavy. Let me say that I'm not trying to be (a) negative guy. My life, my family, this CD (Songs from the new South, RT etc. Music) and my current peace of mind is a living testament to what God can do if you let Him."

This is where Tanas's never-say-die attitude comes into his story.

We'll let him tell you how he's been able to be more than a survivor in life and music: "It's also about never giving up no matter what problems you're facing or dealing with."

To understand Tanas, you've got know where he's been . . . and where's he's going.

First, his mom, Virginia, was a dancer and his dad, Dick, was a drummer for a lot of touring shows in the early 1950s, such as the Ringling Brothers circus, minstrel shows, Passion plays and others. His dad, Tanas said, spent most of his life traveling with the Royal American Shows as "a talker (emcee) for the carnival."

Tanas was 6 months old when his dad left home.

It wasn't until 24 years later that he located his father.

"I found him in 1978 in Detroit, Mich.," said Tanas, who at the time was playing with Black Oak Arkansas.

The elder Tanas, who died in 1993, just couldn't handle the responsibilities of being a father. While he hit the road working for various carnivals, Andy spent a lot of his time with Black Oak Arkansas searching for his father.

"I looked in every phone book in the town we'd play at," Tanas said. "I'd look and see if there was a Richard A. Tanas Sr. in the phone book. I finally found him. Those were tough times for my dad and my mom, but that's the way life was in those days."

Life is what his CD is all about. The CD, which features 12 songs, he said, "has received incredible reviews over the last year." One reviewer called it "fresh, different and unique."

To give you an example of Tanas's popularity, in March his Web site (andytanas.com) received more than 40,100 "hits" from enthusiastic fans from all over the world. In a poll conducted by a Texas Web site, Tanas came in second to Kassie DePaiva, an Emmy-nominated actress featured on TV's "One Life to Live."

"I almost beat her until the last two days (of the poll)," Tanas said. "The good news is that over 3,000 people worldwide voted for me and my site had over 41,000 hits in March. We're shopping labels in Nashville and New York and I'm trying to find a publishing company to get the songs to."

The CD, which Tanas calls "an exploration into rock and country," is getting national airplay, which is, he said, "pretty amazing since I haven't promoted it to radio that much." Some of the CD's songs deal with many of his ups and downs in life, such as "Just Another Heartache," "Tennessee Girl" and "Justice." One song -- "Crying Angel" -- is about a well-known statue in Shelby Forest. He wrote all of the songs on the CD.

Tanas is married. He and his wife, Nancy, whom he met while he was a "rock star," have three daughters, ages 16, 20 and 21, with two of their daughters in college.

"I'm still struggling with some health problems," he said. "The doctor can't figure out why I have about four years of great productivity and then I crash. The last year and a half have been kind of rough. It all came at a bad time considering I was just coming out with my CD."

Tanas, who works part time in the computer field, said he's committed to his music.

After all, it's what he's all about, a way to reflect on his past and those preteen days when he first picked up a guitar. The CD features two photos of Tanas, one at age 11 on the cover and a present-day photo on the back. He's playing a guitar in both photos, which isn't surprising when you consider how his music reflects his life.

"There's a lot of people who are like myself and have been down some hard roads," Tanas said.

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