Piano Man

By: Lori Walker

(4 min read)

The harmonica, the piano and Billy Joel’s true-life story – it lures me in every time! I love the picture he paints of the characters in the bar. It’s like we know them personally – the old man, John, Paul, Davy, the waitress, the businessmen, and the manager (who gives me a smile…).

Because he knows that it’s me… they’ve been coming to see…to forget about life for a while…”

My interest in music began in third grade when the director came around looking for new recruits. I went home, desperately pleading with my mother to play the clarinet. She supported my decision to learn but insisted on the flute. I pouted for a bit but eventually agreed.

When I was in fifth grade, I wanted to play the piano. I took lessons, but after mastering one simple song, I called it quits! My rationale was that I learned to read music with one staff, so it was extremely difficult to read both simultaneously while coordinating my hands.

However, the experience was invaluable. It led to being invited into the high school marching band earlier than my peers. They needed a bell player. Not the hand-held type, mine was a full keyboard. OMG, it was sooooo heavy! But, I agreed, mostly because it was pretty cool to be in the percussion section with the drummers…wink, wink!

In tenth grade, they asked me to play the mellophone (technically a French horn – but looks like a large trumpet.) That was the easiest to learn – it only had three keys! By the time I was a senior, I had participated in the concert, marching, jazz and pep bands. Those were the days!

Although I never pursued music after high school, I have the utmost respect for musicians. Drummers and guitar players deserve MAJOR recognition, but my heart will always be drawn to the piano.

In my second blog, Let It Be, I mentioned that my son shares my love of music. He played the saxophone in grade school. He also taught himself how to play acoustic and bass guitar, just by looking up chords on the internet! I had a proud Mama Bear moment when his band competed in the high school talent show. They played Viva La Vida by Coldplay. They didn’t win, but it was my son’s first experience singing on stage.

Around this time, my friend Mary asked me to go to a dueling piano bar called Sing Sing to celebrate her son’s birthday. I had never heard of anything like it before. But, if there was a piano involved, I was in!

If you’re not familiar with a dueling piano bar, here’s how it works. There are typically four piano players. Two of them play for an hour, then the next two play for the following hour, alternating for the rest of the evening.  At the top of the hour, the full band (the drummer, lead guitarist and bassist) would perform two or three songs together. Sometimes, they would even let people from the audience come up and sing with them (for a well-deserved tip!).

Sing Sing was fun! A short time later, a second dueling piano bar was opening in the historic South Side of Pittsburgh called Charlie Murdoch’s. It was an old church that was renovated into a bar/music venue.

My nights at Charlie’s were so cool. Most of the time, I’d go by myself. “Yes, they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness… but it’s better than drinking alone.”  Like Norm from Cheers, I was a regular and became friends with a few of the piano men and the guitarist.

I would regale my son with my adventures, explaining what it felt like to hear my favorite song, Tiny Dancer by Elton John. He said, “For my 21st birthday, I want to sing with the band!” I said, “I can make that happen!”

After much deliberation to find the perfect song, he chose Rock and Roll All Night by Kiss.

I made all the arrangements. I even rented the balcony at The Church of Rock so his friends and our family could have a bird’s eye view of his performance. At 10:00 p.m. that night, my son took the stage and belted out every word like a boss! The crowd went crazy! Everyone was singing along! I’ll never forget his words when he greeted us after his song. He said, “Now I can finally drink a beer!”

I’d like to propose a toast! Here’s to my son, Johnnie Walker! And to Matt, Ron, John, Ben and David (the talented musicians of Charlie Murdoch’s) who helped create this very special memory!

Life is about finding your purpose and living your dreams. When you find your passion, everything falls into place. You barely notice the long hours of practice or the hard work it takes to become your best self. Don’t let Imposter Syndrome or someone’s judgment stand in the way of shining your inner light. It’s there, waiting for you to set it free…

Lori Walker
All Things Wellness, LLC

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