Friday was a big night for Andy Gibson.
The 24-year-old Gilbertsville guitarist checked off one of the big items on his musical bucket list, gracing the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, where he appeared as a member of country legend Tanya Tucker's band.
"It's surreal, like a dream I don't want to wake up from," Gibson told The Sun earlier this week. "I just tell myself every day when I wake up, when I walk out of sound check or on stage, the thought is bouncing around in my head, that I get to do this."
With just over a year of playing in Tucker's touring band, Gibson has come a long way from playing Downtown After Dinner back in western Kentucky during his youth.
"Andy is one hell of a picker! He's been all over the world with me and we're having a blast on tour," Tucker said of the musician. "Kentucky has produced world-class musicians and Andy is up there with some of the finest."
His father, Jerry Gibson, remembers buying Andy his first guitar and amp for Christmas when he was 8. Though he wouldn't start playing seriously until age 10, he proved a quick study.
"I sat down with him and showed him the major chords and progressions but, to be honest, within six weeks or so he was playing the lead solo from 'Sweet Child of Mine,' along with some blues riffs and he'd done taught himself the pentatonic scale," said his father. "We knew right then it was definitely a God-given talent. It just comes natural to him.
"He's always been very humble. I have to brag on him because he won't brag on himself," Jerry Gibson said.
While Andy Gibson now plays with a more twangy tenor, his original guitar inspirations come mostly from the realm of rock.
"I was really into '70s rock when I started playing. Stuff like Ozzy Osbourne and, eventually, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Slash -- the guitar heroes every kid has at that age," Gibson recalled. "Growing up my parents always fostered a love of music. There was always either classic rock or blues or country on in the house. Music was always on and I was around it."
He went through a jazz band era and, after graduating from Marshall County High School in 2013, moved on to playing in the genre that would become his profession. This occurred during the musician's time at Murray State University, where he earned a degree in business management.
"I discovered that if you're going to make a living playing guitar, that's the way to do it."
Gibson then spent some time commuting back and forth between his Marshall County home and Nashville, networking and performing with bands in the hopes of being seen. Eventually that paid off when he hooked up with Brad Morgan, an artist around Gibson's age with whom he's become writing partners.
"That's what kind of got my foot in the door to becoming a full-time Nashville musician," he said. "I took almost any opportunity I could and played with a slough of different artists around the city at different showcases, just trying to get as many people as I could to hear me."
One of his first breaks came in February 2017, when he got asked to play with Jake Johnson during his set at Bridgestone Arena opening for Bon Jovi.
"That was like the first time that the little kid in me was just saying, 'Oh my gosh. This is happening.'"
With this big show now in the rearview mirror, Gibson hopes it's just the first of many milestones in a long career.
"I would love to become one of the top-dog session musicians in Nashville someday and hopefully become a more established songwriter in the industry, but I'm blessed to be here. I just take it day by day."