I had lunch today with Mr. Mike Andarakes, guitarist, businessman extraordinaire, and all around great guy. Most of you know Mike as the owner of Great Neck Guitars, a longtime staple in the music business of Wichita Falls. I also know him as the little brother of Drake Andarakes, a school mate of mine at Burkburnett High School back in the Dark Ages. Well, at least before we had air conditioning in the school.
Great Neck Guitars has been closed since late 2014, but the memory of that awesome little store lives on in the hearts of many local musicians, myself included. I would imagine many of you wonder what Mike is up to since closing the store. Semi-retirement tops the list, but that only brings up more questions. Is Mike still involved in guitars? Is he still in town? Did he actually play the guitar? Is he alive and well? I will attempt to answer those questions and do away with any conspiracies that may hover around his absence. Except for the one concerning D. B. Cooper.
Mike still applies his magic touch to the repair and customizing of all types of guitars. He comes into Wichita Falls every two weeks to return customer’s instruments and pick up a few more to take back to his shop, located on his acreage near Mineral Wells, Texas. Most of the time he meets up with customers at Heritage Antiques and Collectibles located at 1503 Lamar. Today he met me and Jimi at Sevi’s! He’s a flexible kind of guy, especially when it comes to Mexican food!
I answered the question about whether Mike is still in town or not in the previous paragraph… he’s not the only flexible guy in this article! Was Mike a guitar player? You bet he was and still is! He was with AA Bottom back in the early days and I witnessed some very fine guitar playing from Mike one evening where he was pulling out some very fine Andy Summers (The Police) licks, which is not an easy task. Mike told me today that sometimes at his music store he would play a little bit of guitar and customers would say, “I didn’t know you played guitar!”. He added that owning the store did distract immensely from his guitar playing, but the love is still there and he’s back bending strings with the best of ‘em!
Is he alive and well? He sure seemed to be today. Wonderful conversation, sharing of memories, lots of laughs, and the occasional burrito were on the agenda for today and I greatly enjoyed all of it. Add his daughter Abbey Lane and two grandchildren to the mix, and Mike is not only alive and well, but extremely happy.
On top of everything that keeps Mike busy these days is his most important job while he is in Wichita Falls. Mike’s mother, Fusae Matsuo Andarakes, will be 93 years old this May and he spends as much time with her as possible. Mike added that she still has the spirit of a much younger lady. No doubt she finds endless joy having her four grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, Drake, and Mike to call family.
Thank you, Mike, for sharing time with me today and recalling great times, but more than anything, thanks for sharing your gifts with our city and your countless friends over the years. You are a treasure. And I’d like to see Drake, as long as there is air conditioning!