Michael Andrew embraced the big band sound at an early age. While his peers tripped out to The Doors and Pink Floyd, Andrew soaked in the stylings of The Four Freshmen and crooners like Mel Torme. The desire to perform consumed him around the same time. Young Michael combined his newfound passions into lip-synched productions for his parents’ friends.
As time went on, Andrew expanded beyond lip-synching and developed his own voice. He spent quality time learning about music- composing, arranging, band leading and modern recording techniques from an important mentors, Milwaukee band leader, Dave Kennedy. It was Kennedy who taught Michael not only how to play to the audience, regardless of whether they were dancing- a key element to Andrew's career success. While he enjoyed performing and entertaining, he decided to pursue a more practical line of work in college. Before he could get too far as a business major, an outing altered his path. “In my sophomore year of college, I attended a theatre picnic and met all these people who were like me and wanted to do the same things I wanted to do... eventually I became a theatre major,” recalls Andrew.
Andrew’s graduation from University of Wisconsin Eau Claire coincided with the early 1990s entertainment boom in Orlando. The Orlando hype lured Andrew out of his home state and down to the Sunshine State, where he would eventually set up his base of operations. Once in the City Beautiful, he explored all the opportunities available to him and successfully landed several small television gigs and a full-time job at Universal Studios. Shortly after he logged in time as Stan Laurel in the streets of Universal, Carnival Cruise Lines offered Andrew a chance to take his talent to the open seas as more than an actor or singer. Carnival Cruise allowed him to hone his skills as a bandleader and a character actor. By day he was an unwitting nerd running about the ship, but by nightfall he’s transformed into a suave bandleader- rolling the essences of bandleader/clarinetist Benny Goodman and Frank Sinatra into a handsome modern-day package.
When developing his dashing stage persona, Andrew drew inspiration from unlikely hipster Jerry Lewis and his Nutty Professor character Buddy Love. With his theatre training, he managed to interlace the debonair womanizer with bits of his own personality and wound up with the Michael Andrew we see on stage today. “It’s easy for me to think of myself as an actor playing the part of a singer.”
Just as Andrew was growing restless of ship life, he got his big break- a six-month stint as bandleader at the world famous Rainbow Room in New York. Through contract extensions, the gig went from six months to a 25-month job. Andrew reminisces, “The Rainbow Room gave me credibility as a singer and bandleader... It was a real romantic experience.” His experience afforded him many opportunities in later years to perform before live audiences with Merv Griffin and his celebrity friends who could fondly recall the golden days of big band music.
After his time in the Rainbow Room in 1996, Andrew took a short break from performing to concentrate on creating music. He penned and mounted his sci-fi musical comedy Mickey Swingerhead and the Earthgirls, finally meshed his passion for acting, singing, and retro-exotica music from the 1950's. The show, which ran with rave reviews, is parallel to Andrew's personal mission to keep swing music alive. At the same time, he also released his first solo album, I Guess I'm a Little Out of Date, a collection of classic swing standards and his own original songs.
Over the years, Michael Andrew attached his name to several bands including the Michael Andrew Orchestra and The Michael Andrew Retro-Swing Band, but his biggest band success Swingerhead. The band was formed by Andrew in 1998, when a certain Gap ad encouraged young hipsters to embrace swing music and the cocktail culture. Since the formation, Swingerhead has enjoyed modest success. As of 2002, they have received seven nominations and five wins from the Orlando Music Awards, released several albums—including the recent Destination Moon, and appeared briefly in the Sigourney Weaver/Jennifer Love Hewitt flick Heartbreakers. The band, comprised of talented musicians from around the country, continues to tour and record despite the current slump in swing popularity.
Michael Andrew continues to be involved in a variety of projects outside of performing with Swingerhead. In the past five years, he’s performed with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and Los Angeles based The Coconut Club Orchestra, composed incidental music for The Paper Route, a short film by Orlando production company Stars North, and returned to his acting roots in Mad Cow Theatre’s 2002 production of As Thousands Cheer.
Because his music career took off so quickly, Andrew hasn't had the chance to beef up his acting resume, but he chalks it up to sacrifice. "There is no nine-to-five when you're running your own career, there is no cutoff point, so sacrifices are a given. I've been very fortunate and don't have any regrets about my choices."
When it’s time to take a break from the spotlight, Andrew is content to return to his Orlando home. The coiffed pompadour and zoot suits are traded for jeans and t-shirts as he concentrates on remodeling the house he’s owned since his Carnival Cruise days or recording in his new home studio. During a much-needed break from touring, he is deciding which projects he’ll pursue next. One pursuit is the remount of his stage musical Mickey Swingerhead and the Earthgirls, which would reunite Andrew with local director Alan Bruun of Mad Cow during the Orlando Fringe Festival.
Through it all, Michael Andrew hasn’t lost sight of his intentions. “My ultimate goal is to entertain people, to make the audience happy.” After all these years, he remains dedicated to the swing scene and his style is as fresh as ever. For the trend-followers who want to get a running start on the next big band wagon, Michael Andrew and Swingerhead will steer you into instant fandom for one of America‘s first original music styles.