For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed music. My first exposure to music other than church music was country-western. That’s the kind of music my dad and mom listened to on the radio and subsequently on television when it was available. I guess my parents liked country music when country music wasn’t cool, but what was true for them was true for every adult I knew.
At our last family reunion, I mentioned to a couple of my cousins that I was really surprised when the pianist played “Your Cheatin’ Heart” at my uncle’s funeral. Of course that was twelve years ago, so I’ve remembered the piano rendition of the song for a very long time. The song was selected for inclusion in the prelude music at his service because from1952 forward, that song sung by Hank Williams got top billing with my uncle. It was his all-time favorite CW song.
My parents were family oriented. I remember throughout my childhood years, there were times we went as a family to live music performances. Even though my paternal grandparents lived next door and would gladly have provided child care for us, we were always included. If my parents were going out for the evening, they took me and my brothers with them. Interestingly, that became the template that was characteristic of our family. Seldom were there exceptions.
I can promise you that despite my parent’s appreciation for country music, there is no way they would have enjoyed it inside a “honkey-tonk”. That was not a frame of reference that defined our family.
My folks also like other kinds of music. For example, as a matter of routine, we watched the Ed Sullivan Show on television on Sunday nights. I don’t recall that he ever featured country western music, but the show was filled with performing artists. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, he featured the Beatles at one time.
That also brings to mind: “The Hit Parade.” Do you remember it? It, too, made its way into our home via television. In fact, two of my favorite songs from that venue were Harry Belafonte singing “The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” and Jim Lowe singing “Behind The Green Door”. I can hear both of those songs playing in my head as I write these words.
Talk about honky-tonk piano! I can almost hear the words with the piano pounding out the tune in the background:
“Midnight, one more night without sleeping,
Watching till the morning comes creeping.
Green door, what’s that secret you’re keeping?
There’s an old piano
And they play it hot behind the green door;
Don’t know what they’re doing
But they laugh a lot behind the green door.
Wish they’d let me in
So I could find out what’s behind the green door…”
Out of curiosity, I Googled: “Harry Belafonte – The Banana Boat Song (Dayo)” and found a link to the musician singing that song from 1956. I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. It was like turning the clock back sixty years. Check it out. It is authentic and it is Harry Belafonte. Wow! Wow! Wow! It is exactly as I remembered it from of “The Hit Parade”.
I’ve said all that to simply say, “I appreciate music, but I have absolutely no musical ability”. In the midst of adulthood, I took piano lessons for a little over a year. I wanted desperately to learn to play, but I had job that required travel and finding time to practice wasn’t easily accomplished. That being said, I’ve got such an appreciation for folks who are musically gifted and talented. I also recognize that I am not one of them.
I have a friend I’ve known for twenty plus years. He never touched the piano until he was in college. He simply sat down one day in the student center at Texas Tech and started playing. He’s never taken a lesson, but he occasionally has a gig where he plays background music for special venues. He also sings. It is a winning combination.
I noticed on Facebook recently that a friend and neighbor referenced that she took up playing the guitar and singing about three years ago. She, too, apparently is very talented and at the top of her game. I gathered that she performs regularly at some venue near Drippin’.
One day last week, I had lunch with a friend. He mentioned that he and his wife had recently purchased a new home. They haven’t yet occupied the space, but the closing is set for the first of the year. The lady selling the house is ninety years of age and she was a little disheartened that none of her children or grandchildren had room in their homes for her Steinway Grand Piano. Consequently, the Steinway is staying with the house. He said: “There is also has an incredible chandelier hanging over the piano”. He couldn’t be more pleased and rightfully so.
What an incredible find! When I asked if he played the piano, his response took me totally by surprise. He said: “ I do play the piano. I’ve been playing the piano since March. I tinkered around with my sister’s piano a little bit to determine that I wanted to play. I subsequently started out with a weighted keyboard, but quickly determined I needed more. Consequently, I bought a grand piano for our home. You need to see it. It really looks nice.”
I was immediately filled with questions: “So did you take piano lessons?” He said, “No, I didn’t need to. I’ve been a pretty accomplished guitar player for many years. Consequently, I know all the chords. With that frame of reference, transitioning from guitar to piano wasn’t difficult for me. In fact, if anything, the piano is more forgiving than the guitar. I find playing very relaxing and I play every night.
He said, “After we get the kids to bed, I start playing and I play for three hours. That has become my routine and I find it both relaxing and very enjoyable.” I was blown away. Who would have thought? I’ve had lunch with the guy almost a dozen times since he took up playing the piano and he’s never mentioned it. I obviously need to ask more questions.
So when it comes to musical talent or the ability to play the piano, is there any hope for me? Until recently I would have answered: “Absolutely not”. Perhaps I need to modify that to say: “Probably not”. I could accidentally fall into a situation that could alter my ability; although the chances are slim-to-none. Recently there was a cover story in Southwest Airline magazine about a man who dove into a swimming pool. Unfortunately, he dove into the shallow water end of the pool and hit his head on the bottom. The resultant head concussion was serious, but he recovered in about a week. A short time after the experience, he was walking past a piano is some public venue and intuitively felt drawn to the keyboard. To his surprise, he found he now had the innate ability to play beautifully. To say that it is an anomaly is an understatement. Could it happen to me? “Maybe, maybe not is my best answer. Only time will tell.”
All My Best!