AC Bushnell: How a Battle With Liver Cancer Gave a Fiddler Something to Sing About
by Ruth Eckles
On a June evening in 2005, A.C. Bushnell was taking Interstate 90 into upstate New York, daydreaming about front-porch picking, country walking and lake swimming. He was going to visit a few old musician friends and unwind from a hectic work week. But a phone call broke his reverie: His doctor was on the other end, telling Bushnell that the results of a recent blood test looked worrisome. A week later, an MRI revealed that Bushnell had a large tumor in his liver.
"It's a very strange feeling to think that you might leave the earth so soon," Bushnell, now 60 and a cancer survivor, muses. "The world looked really beautiful to me. It was very poignant. I asked myself, 'If I am to die, what is it I want to do while I'm still here?'"
Bushnell's doctor was able to remove the tumor by performing a liver resection, effectively removing the left lobe of his liver. A year after the phone call, Bushnell was cleared of cancer and past the most grueling part of his recovery. He knew it was time for some changes. He sold his company, General Vitamin Corporation, where he'd been president for the past 15 years. He'd never liked that job very much.
"One of the things I pledged to myself after the surgery was, 'I'm not going to drag my ass through anything I don't want to do ever again,'" he remembers. He had no idea what he was going to do other than record a new album.
Bushnell grew up in the heart of Greenwich Village, across the street from Allan Block's Sandal Shop, a hotbed of the newly burgeoning folk revival movement at the start of the '60s. Then a shy teenager, Bushnell would hang out with his fiddle in the background of Block's shop and listen to a young Bob Dylan play folk music. ("He wasn't as big of a deal then, but we all knew who he was.") It was the starting point of his enduring love affair with traditional songs.
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