Remembering the Music Scene of Magpie’s and Mosby’s Tavern

Written by Kailey Cheng | Photos by Joanne Maisano

One morning in 1994, Middleburg native Andre Fox started his day as an engineer fixing metros from front to back. By the end of the day, he’d become a musician for the rest of his life.

Fox was on his way to work, sitting in the middle of I-495 traffic, when he realized he’d be able to reach more people with his music than by turning a wrench. So, he quit his job of 10 years and drove home. “Music reaches so many people’s souls,” Fox said. “It reaches down deep inside you, it can evoke emotions, it can take you back to a different place in time in your life.”

The same day, Fox rode down to a pawn shop in Warrenton to sell a shotgun. A fender guitar hanging on the wall caught his eye. He bought it for $50, returned home, turned on the radio, began to play, and effortlessly fell back in love with the music.

Andre Fox.

He knew that Bryan Fox and Gary Smallwood, members from his first band, Galaxy, played at Magpie’s Café — now the Red Horse Tavern — every Thursday night, and so Fox began playing two or three songs on their breaks. Soon, he was invited to play his own gig at Magpie’s. “From there, it just exploded,” he said.

Fox is the face of the Andre Fox Band, and his fellow bandmates are “all [his] friends.” Essentially, the members of his band are “whoever is available.” The Andre Fox Band has been playing acoustic soul music in and around Middleburg for years. Fox said the genre includes anything from Prince, to Michael Jackson, to Ed Sheeran. “Who knows what’s gonna come out of my guitar when I start playing?” he said, laughing. “You never know.”

Due to COVID-19, Fox has taken a break — his first in 26 years — but once it’s safe to perform at local venues once more, he’s more than ready to take the stage, guitar in hand. And naturally, music has always been a part of his life. 

Born and raised in Middleburg, Fox said he grew up around horses, music, and good people. His family also knew the Kennedys and worked at the family’s farm in Upperville. To this day, Fox has Kennedy artifacts in his home. He went to Banneker Elementary, a segregated school, until 1968 when students became integrated into Middleburg Elementary.

“All the kids told me, ‘Did you know next year we have to go to that white school?’” Fox said. “And I said, ‘No. It’s a brick school.’ And they was like, ‘No, it’s where the white kids go.’ And I suddenly realized that all the students in my school were Black. I didn’t know we were separated like that.”

But Fox said integration was a smooth transition. The kids grew up together, played together, and even made music together. At home, he was raised by a “singing family,” where every member sang and played. He said his grand uncle Fred Fox and the Middleburg Harmonizers served as a major musical influence on his life. Essentially, Fox grew up surrounded by song. 

Andre Fox with his dog Peace.  

After graduating Fauquier High School in 1978, Fox joined the Navy. He was on the USS Conyngham DDG-17 and shot the big guns. He said he counts himself lucky because he never had to pull the trigger on anyone. After leaving the Navy, Fox wore many hats, some of which included working at Lanier Business Products and at Capitol Hill in “almost every government agency that you can think of.” 

Eventually, Fox came back home to work on his farm. He wanted to get his money together and figure out what he wanted to do. He watched the paper every day and got the job at the Metro fixing trains. But once he chose music, he entered one of the most vibrant music scenes in the state: the live local venues of Middleburg, Virginia.

Fox said that back in his day, there’d be at least five live music venues in Middleburg every weekend. He remembers jazz at Back Street Café and acoustic at the Night Fox. He remembers playing at Mosby’s Tavern, where hundreds of people from miles away would come to hear the Andre Fox Band play.  “I would be on the mic and the party was jumpin’ and everybody’s grooving, right?” Fox said. “I had to sing; I would get on the mic and I’d go, ‘What’s the word?’ And everybody would holler, ‘Middleburg!’” 

If Fox asked an audience, “What’s the word?” today, people would still shout, “Middleburg!” He thanks the vivaciousness of the music community in the “old days,” and although it can never be recaptured, he’s glad to see that a number of establishments around Middleburg still support live music.

Fox said his band isn’t just a band; it’s a “big family of musicians,” and that playing together feels like kicking a field goal or a touchdown every night. He also favors playing at local venues over big cities. Throughout his career, he’s played in cities such as D.C., Miami, and Chicago, but always finds that he prefers the local scene. Fox believes in the potential of talented and up-and-coming musicians in the Middleburg area.

When asked what his favorite venue is, he simply says, “the next one.”

“If you take [performing] as seriously as I do, it feels like the most important job in the world, whether there’s 10 people in the audience or 10,000 people in the audience,” Fox said. “I would like to apply that work ethic not just to the stage, but to whether you’re on your computer, whether you’re on a lawn mower, whether you’re driving a bus, or fixing a car. At that moment, it’s the most important job in the world.”

Through his extensive and fruitful career as a musician, Fox said he’s probably written a new song in his head every day. His inspiration for creating music begins when he wakes up in the morning, and from there, he finds inspiration everywhere — whether that be from the people he meets or from a bird flying by. 

Fox believes he came out of the womb singing. And at 60 years old, he doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon. For him, musicians just “keep doing it,” and one can never truly retire as a musician. 

“You cannot change being a musician if you are a musician,” Fox said. “Once you say, ‘I’m a musician,’ you’re a musician for life. That’s it. There’s nothing we can do about it. I was even born with a musician’s name, ‘Andre Fox.’ What does that sound like? A musician.” ML

This article was first published in the September 2020 issue of Middleburg Life.