Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Lilly Tomlin said one time, "I am afraid that the guy who thought up Muzak is sitting around trying to think up something else."
Where ever there is a place for music I prefer live music to canned. My one requirement about any music in public is this:
Unless it is a concert that is intended to be listened to as a singular performance, background music should be played very quietly.
Besides wanting to be a ventriloquist I also had a desire to play piano.  I ultimately devoted more time to ventriloquism than to music but at one time I wanted to be good enough on the piano to play background music at Furr's Cafeteria in Lubbock, Texas.
Furr's Cafeteria was the only place I had ever been as a kid living in Abernathy, Texas that had live music to dine by.  Our family did not eat out much and when we did it was Cafeteria or burger joints.
The Burger places had a juke box that was too loud and the "wrong" kind of music according to my Dad.  But Furr's had a guy playing piano unobtrusively in the corner of the dining room.  There was a large snifter full of cash on the top of the piano and he played from a thick book of music that seemed to have millions of songs.  For some reason this image was appealing to me. I didn't want it as a career but I did want to have the ability to do that whenever I wanted.  I probably had that goal in mind until I was 8 years old.
I found out the thick book he played from was called a Fake Book.  It was a book of lead sheets and chords for popular songs and the name came from the idea that you could "fake" your own arrangements to the songs.  I had to get me one of those fake books.
At the time they were considered illegal because the "publisher" paid no royalties on the songs.  You could not find one in a regular music store. Through some of my Dad's musician friends I finally got my wish and for Christmas one year received the Fake book.
This was the early 60's and the music in my Fake Book was mainly songs from the 30's and 40's.  There were only a few songs that I recognized and even those were not the kind of songs that would impress my peer group.  I leaned the basics of this technique but grew bored with the old music.  My interest in the piano wained a little.  It came down to a repertory of only a few songs I played over and over to the annoyance of anyone living with me.
Eventually my folks sent the family piano to me here in California so my kids could learn.  My oldest son plays piano well but prefers guitar, base and harmonica.  For years my piano became just a shelf for family pictures and very old music books.
More that a year and a half ago I decided to pick up where I left off on the piano.  Maturity, time and availability of more current "legal" fake books has expedited my playing and increased my repertory. I usually play for an hour or so before dinner. Sandi is encouraging and even suggests I play piano when I find myself in a depression.  It always seems to help.
Recently I was at the house of a really good friend.  They have a nice baby grand piano and I love to play it when I am there.  The lady of the house even put a tip jar on top of the piano for me.  The arrangement is:  every time I play it... I have to put in a dollar.
Recently the Man of the house said, "You know I think you are  getting good enough to play at the Airport Holiday Inn Happy hour." Wow... already a step up from Furr's Cafeteria in Lubbock, Texas.

An owner wants to put music into his club.  His friend plays piano and asks if he will fill in until a regular piano player is found.  The friend says to the owner, "Well I only know two songs."  The owner says, "Well maybe you can play those songs several times... what are the two songs you can play?"
The friend says, "I can play 'Jesus Loves Me' and 'Lush Life'."

That is my favorite musician joke... Not everyone gets it... but it always makes me laugh.
As you were,


Anonymous said...

Jay, I love this. Growing up in Wichita Falls produced the exact thoughts when we went to Luby's Cafeteria on Sundays. I was 8 years old The cafeteria had the same set-up, I had just finished Mr. Johnson's Little Red Book for piano...had finished the last Indian piece in the book and had the attitude I could do anything on the piano, and decided I could eventually get this guys job. The next day I looked at my first sheet music. Game over. I still think about it, though.

Love the joke......Be well.

P. Grecian said...

I wish I'd learned to play piano. When I was a kid in grade school, there was a door to door salesman selling accordion lessons for the local accordion school. I still remember him standing on the porch with that glittery instrument strapped to him. I was hooked.
It took me two years to figure out nobody wanted to hear me play the accordion.

And nobody ever wanted me to take it out of the case when we had company.

I've written a couple of musicals. I can write the right hand in the key of C. I have to hire somebody who CAN play piano and HUM the left hand to them.

I envy people who can play piano.

Wonder if it's too late to learn piano. :-)