In 1929, Kirk formed his band in Kansas City, and remained active until 1948. Their pianist, and the band's arranger, was Mary Lou Williams, who went on to become a prominent figure in her own right. Kirk’s was one of the earliest American bands to use the amplified guitar. One of the band's big hits was Until The Real Thing Comes Along, a song first heard in the 1932 Revue 'Rhapsody in Black'.
Andy was born and raised in Denver, CO. His teacher was Wilberforce Whiteman, father of Paul Whiteman. In 1921, Andy played tuba in George Morrison's Orch. in Denver, Colorado.
In 1925, he moved to Dallas, Texas, where he played (doubling on baritone and bass saxophones) with Terrence Holder's 'Dark Clouds of Joy' orchestra, and in 1928, Andy took over as leader of Holder's first orchestra, moving the band to Kansas City, MO, for an engagement at Kansas City's prestigious Pla-Mor Restaurant. Andy played Bass Sax and Mary Lou Williams was the Pianist-arranger- soloist, her husband, John Williams was on alto saxophone. Other members included violinist Claude Williams and trumpeter Edgar Puddinghead Battle. The band was now known as Andy Kirk and his Twelve Clouds of Joy Orchestra. During this period, he had such sidemen as: Ben Thigpen on drums, Howard McGhee, tenor saxophonist Dick Wilson, electric guitarist Floyd Smith, Harold Shorty Baker, Jimmy Forrest, Don Byas, Fats Navarro, and (briefly) Charlie Parker.