More Than You Know: Aug 01

Where Is The Son?
My band was presenting a “Tribute To Fats Waller” show recently and were having a drink in the bar prior to going on stage when a lady approached me. “I’m looking forward to the Show” she said. “I would like to introduce you to my son and daughter. It’s my son’s 21st. birthday and as a treat I bought them tickets for the concert”. I congratulated him on his 21st. and remarked that it was nice to see younger people coming along to hear this great music. “He’s a big fan of Muddy Waters and B.B.King” the mother continued, “but his favourite is Fats Domino”. “Are you going to play Blueberry Hill?” the son asked. Alarm bells were ringing as it became obvious they had got their Domino’s confused with their Waller’s. “If we get time” I said – not wanting to disappoint him. I made a quick exit from the bar, as it was nearly curtain up time.

On stage I made the customary announcement – “Tonight we are presenting a show dedicated to one of the greatest pianists and entertainers of all time – Fats Waller”. I looked down and there in the front row were the mother, daughter and son in deep conversation, heads nodding and shaking. Before we had finished our first number, the boy had vacated his seat, no doubt concluding there were better ways to celebrate a 21st. birthday.

Donating Till You Hear From Me
In the mid–1980’s I had a three week residency at Hanratty’s, a piano bar in Manhattan which featured solo pianists. On one of my night’s off, a music collector friend of mine suggested we go to No.1, Times Square where, once a month, a noted personality in the music business would give a talk on famous Composers, Lyricists or Performers. After the talk, sheet music collectors would exchange, buy, or sell their ‘goodies’.

We arrived at the huge building. The elevator took us up a seemingly never-ending number of floors, arriving at a small room which seated an audience of about fifty. Laid out on a number of tables were piles of original sheet music – all with a price tag. The minimum asking price I saw was $10 and rarer items were anything up to $50. However, most of them were “standards” which could be obtained in England for around £1 (or 10p. at boot fairs or antique shops). In the corner of the room was a dilapidated upright piano. My pal persuaded me to play something at the conclusion of the meeting. As I dismounted from the piano stool, the organiser approached me. “What do you think of the piano?” he asked. “Not a lot” I replied. He went on to explain that the piano was once situated in the home of Fats Waller. “He used to practice on it” he went on, “his widow donated it to us a few years ago”. I sat down and played another number – the piano didn’t sound so bad after all.