Sunday, September 22, 2013

Get to the Pointe!

Village Pointe, that is.

Ever since Lisa Schlotfeld, the artist who painted the Village Pointe Shopping Center's Marshall & Wendell 1910s upright, invited me during the 8-23-2013 Memorial Park get-together that kicked off the Omaha/Council Bluffs/Bellevue "Play Me, I'm Yours" art exhibit to come out to the Omaha Metro's busiest shopping center to play for a reception two days later (only to find out I couldn't come to the reception due to a prior engagement), I'd been pointing to the first opportunity to come out to the Pointe. 

The engagement that kept me away from that earlier opportunity to play the Village Pointe piano: That month's meeting of the Great Plains Ragtime Society, the folks who put on the annual Ragtime to Riches Festival.

What's more, the GPRS meeting on 8-25-2013 happened at the Pink Poodle Steakhouse, a restaurant in nearby Crescent, IA. (This landmark restaurant features, among other things, three player pianos.)

So, after twelve long days, I arrived at VP's Center Court (173rd and Davenport Sts.) at 10:28 AM on Friday, 9-6-2013...and I met up with Steven Raphael. 

This time, though, Steven and I didn't have the shopping center to ourselves.

We had a pretty good crowd during the three-hour period I managed to spend at Omaha's most popular shopping center. Lots of young moms and little children passed through Center Court and listened to Steven and me...but Steven went back home around 11:45 AM.  

All the while preparing for the opportunity to give ol' Marshall & Wendell a go, I kept thinking about one of the most often-quoted phrases to come out of the last twenty years: "It takes a village..."

So I picked out some songs with American cities' names in the title ("The Sidewalks of New York," "Sweet Home Chicago," "Houston," "Detroit City Blues," etc.)...when I wasn't doing railroad songs ("Wabash Cannonball," "John Henry," "I've Been Workin' on the Railroad," and so on). 

By the way...the first thing I did when I got a chance to start playing was take the music rack off the piano. This not only exposes the upright's inner also brings the sound out.

And I just didn't want to hog the every chance I got, I'd ask passersby if any of them tickled the ivories.

It turned out that a little boy named Jack answered the call.

Result: One of Jack's exercises is now on 

Speaking of exercises...when people find out you can play an instrument, some want you to teach them how to play said instrument.

I get that a lot...but I'm not really much of a teacher. Still, a man named Roland (he's on Village Pointe's maintenance staff) asked about whether or not I'd be able to teach him.

It's going to be tough for Roland and I to hook up, what with both he and I holding down hectic schedules. (Oh, well...) 

Still, that C-E-F-G trick I learned early on in the local going of Luke Jerram's claim to fame is a step toward teaching someone to play the 88s. At the very least, it helps generate interest in somebody who's never played (but wanted to)...and helps those who played in the past (but gave it up) get that I've-got-chops feeling again. 

Well, as big as that first Friday here in September 2013 was, the next day was even bigger.

And I'm going to talk about it in my next post.

I'm Jim Boston...and thanks for reading this blog!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Steven and Jim Show

The next stop on my two-week-long piano crawl was Omaha's Rockbrook Village Shopping Center, the "Play Me, I'm Yours" stop that featured Paula Wallace's charming take on a Wurlitzer studio piano from the 1950s or 1960s (or maybe the 1970s). 

Paula gave the piano a Cinderella-themed look...right down to the presence of a fake mouse!

At any rate, if you're an American and your formal education took place between the 1950s and 1970s, chances are one of the schools you went to had a Wurlitzer studio piano...or one by competitors like Baldwin or Everett.

I didn't get to see Paula this time (although I met her at the "PMIY" kickoff at Memorial Park on 8-23-2013).

In fact, the only person I saw at Rockbrook Village the Tuesday (9-3-2013) I stopped by was...none other than Steven Raphael.

When I got to the Rockbrook Village gazebo, Steven was playing and singing "Ain't Misbehavin'." 

I knew Steven was (and still very much is) an excellent pianist (as a matter of fact, he got his own public access TV show on Cox Cable Omaha not long after moving here to Nebraska from California in 1998)...but I didn't know he sang, too.

Man, I really loved what Steven did with that Fats Waller-Andy Razaf classic from 1929. 

After that, Steven became the listener and turned the piano bench over to me. 

He wanted to know if I'd gotten any requests since the local "Play Me" kickoff...and I told him about a little boy named Joel, who saw me at Memorial Park after the art exhibit officially got under way. 

Joel's favorite song is "Baby Elephant Walk," from the 1962 movie "Hatari!" And I'd never even tried the song until "Play Me, I'm Yours" came to the Omaha/Council Bluffs/Bellevue area...but now, because of Joel, I'm getting more comfortable with the Henry Mancini composition. (Speaking of Henry Mancini...after giving Steven "Baby Elephant Walk," I tried "Moon River..." from another movie, 1961's "Breakfast at Tiffany's.")

The conversation Steve and I had eventually came down to memory. 

And he wanted to know how I'd been able to remember people's names, what with me meeting so many during the local "PMIY."  

Steven found out that I try to repeat the person's name after I meet him or her; then I try to match the name with the person's face. 

Then he said something rather profound after I (sheepishly) told him that they tell me I've got a photographic memory: "Everybody's got a photographic memory in something." 

He's right.    

And what Steven Raphael said ranks right up there with one of my dad's favorite messages: "It's always the end of the world...for somebody."  

It comes down to what each of us tends to focus on.   

Steven and I had a ball as the next phase in our get-together shifted over to trading tunes with each other...and I ended up recording two of his numbers ("St. Louis Blues" and "New York, New York," the latter being the theme to the 1977 film of that name).

Then he turned around and caught me doing two more songs ["Ma (He's Making Eyes at Me)" and "In the Good Old Summertime"]

Anyway, the four numbers are now up on  

We kept it up until the clock struck 11:54 AM, when Steve and I went our separate ways (he to go back home not far from Rockbrook Village, I to go back home in the Dundee part of town). 

But I took a little detour...back to the Midtown Crossing Shopping Center.

And when I got back to that fun 1920s Werner upright, I did what I said I'd do: 

I fired up "The Crazy Otto."  

Speaking of fired up...wait 'til you read my next post. (It's about what happened at Omaha's most popular shopping center...another of the ten "non-rogue" street-piano sites in the area.)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013: M-A-G-I-C!

At first, it didn't look as if the second day of the ninth month of 2013 would have any magic to it.

And a snag ensued in the middle of the day.

But still, I'll never forget Labor Day 2013 as long as I get to draw breath. 

Just before 10:00 AM this past Monday, I arrived at Omaha's Tree of Life Sculpture (24th and L Sts.), site of a 1920s Richardson upright piano, decorated for the Omaha/Council Bluffs/Bellevue area's leg of this year's "Play Me, I'm Yours" tour by Bill Hoover, who used a Haiku alphabet theme.

After parking in front of Southside Barbers (4526 S. 24th St., 68107), I started to walk up 24th Street when...a woman named Maria told me: "Hey! Come here! I want to talk to you!"

When somebody I don't know talks to me like that when I'm walking someplace, that's a red flag for me. 

Maria sat underneath one of the trees spaced along 24th Street in the south part of the Big O. When I sat down next to her, Maria announced that she was a Christian woman...and that she knew what people like me are like.


She also informed me that she was drunk. (That after asking me to spend some time with her...and wanting to know what I was doing in South Omaha.) 

I told her: "I heard there's a piano a block away...and I just wanted to check it out."  

I had the feeling Maria was going to lecture me. I mean, I'd been there before with so many other people who'd been drinking and/or using some other drugs besides alcohol. (You know, it takes, for example, just One Stiff Drink before you've all at once got all the wisdom in the world.)

I wasn't going to have any more of that. I grew up with that kind of thing.

And so, when Maria pulled out a cigarette and began to light it up, I made my way toward the Tree of Life quickly as I could.

When I got to the Richardson upright, I tested all its keys (and realized they were totally unaffected by the rain of the previous morning), took the music rack off, sat down, and thought of just what to start out with.

After a few seconds, I launched into Ritchie Valens' "Donna."

About three minutes later, I realized...four people were standing next to the old piano.

And they liked what I'd done with "Donna!"  

Marcos, Raimundo, Juan, and his young son Juan Jr. were the foursome who'd heard me do the flipside of "La Bamba."  

Man, I didn't want all the goodies to myself, so I asked them if any of the four also played the 88s.

I found out that Juan the Younger was taking lessons, so I traded places with him, took out my camcorder, and recorded footage of him trying out a song.

And I caught Marcos' playing on video, too...and, as soon as I get it all up on, you'll be able to hear what Marcos and Juan, hijo, did. 

I had a chance to do some more playing (Juan the Elder even caught footage of me doing "Creeque Alley," a 1967 hit for the Mamas and the Papas) when...two more people stopped by.

Their eyes lit up when they heard ol' Richardson being played.

The two sets of eyes belong to a married couple: John McIntyre and Laura Vranes...the very couple who donated said piano to the "PMIY" cause. (John's a branch manager for a bank; Laura's a school librarian.) 

Here's what happened: John's grandmother sold milk and eggs to buy that piano back in the 1940s...only to, later, give the piano to her daughter, Barb (John's mom).  

Barb went on to okay the donation of that amazing piano to the "Play Me" exhibit.

If Barb McIntyre had made it to the sculpture this past Monday, she probably would've been as tickled to death about hearing somebody tickle the piano's keys as Laura and John were.

Speaking of tickled...I threw in "Tickled to Death," the 1899 rag written by Charles Hunter (AKA Robert Hampton). That morning, I tried to go all over the map, with tunes like "Chiapanecas," the 1933 Albert Ackley hymn "He Lives," Scott Joplin's "Peacherine Rag," a 1963 hit for the Orlons called "South Street," and so much more...when a mother and her three children strolled over to the piano.

And as a result, I got a chance to meet Marisol, her sons Maximo and Mauricio (I hope I got his name right!), and her daughter Marisol Jr.

First thing I thought of when I met Marisol the Elder and her three children: "Get them to actually touch a piano key!"

No problem at all.

In fact, Maximo, Mauricio, and Marisol the Younger were eager to show what they could do on that amazing upright under the Tree of Life Sculpture. And as a matter of fact, Marisol Jr. told her mom that she (Marisol Jr.) couldn't wait to get another crack at the Richardson.  

After Marisol Sr. and her three youngsters left to go home, I went back to the piano and played some more. And all that time, I'd tried to keep from clashing with the drivers who'd had their stereos cranked up as they were traveling on 24th Street.  

And I tried to get and stay mindful of people trying to use their cell phones.

One of those cell-phone users stopped by, taking a seat underneath the nearest tree to the Tree of Life Sculpture.

I found out her name's Lynn...and that she's a nurse. 

Well, Lynn, Laura, and I had a pretty good conversation. In fact, it was a very good conversation.

And eventually, Lynn told me she wanted to hear me do "Amazing Grace." (She also offered to sing it!) 

I played "Amazing Grace" the conventional way so that Lynn could sing the song...but she ended up leaving the site in order to get ready to go to her job.

When that happened, I turned John Newton's testimonial into a rag.

It was now Monday afternoon, and I fielded another request...this time, from a woman named Emilia.

Man, I'm lucky to have retained enough of my two years (1969-71) learning Spanish in high school to be able to converse with Emilia. As a result, I was able to find out she was looking for Santana's "Black Magic Woman."

Coming into Labor Day 2013, I'd never attempted this 1971 smash in my life.

But I dug right in and gave it a shot.

And the audience- which included a John McIntyre who'd come back from running an errand to join his wife Laura Vranes- enjoyed it.

Now I've got to find out who actually wrote "Black Magic Woman." In spite of what I told the audience, Tito Puente didn't come up with that song. (Tito penned a later Santana hit, "Oye Como Va.")

Well, it was now 12:35 PM (Central time), and I was ready to pack it in. I started to put the music rack (a two-piece job!) back on that stupendous Richardson upright piano when John offered to help me fasten the rack back on the piano.

Good thing the rack went back on...for four piano students (Bridget, Kate, Abby, and Emma), their dad (Pat), and two of their grandparents (Michael and Carol) made their way to the sculpture, adding to what was still a good-sized audience. To top it all off, Abby, Emma, and Kate brought sheet music with them. 

Bridget (the youngest of the four and the only one playing from memory) went first.

And the exercise she'd memorized cooked!

Kate was next up to bat...and she came up with Johann Pachelbel's "Canon in D." This rendition received plenty of attitude from Kate.

And like Bridget before her, Kate received plenty of heartfelt applause.

Abby followed with Calvin Jones' most famous composition, "Whitewater Chopsticks." (It's the same selection that, when Gering, NE native Teresa Scanlan played it at the 2011 Miss America Pageant, helped her become the first Nebraskan to don the crown.)

Abby's version was excellent. Matter of fact, hers was an out-and-out killer...and the crowd let her know that.

Emma had to run the anchor leg...and run it knowing Abby had left the piano smoking.  

Well, Emma produced her own sparks. And she did it with a jazzy selection from the Mannheim Steamroller album "Fresh Aire."


With four excellent performances under their belts, Kate, Emma, Bridget, and Abby bowed to the audience, then waved to said audience.

A great time had by all.

Now it was time to go to Bellevue's Fontenelle Forest and try out the Wurlitzer spinet painted up by Bellevue University's Eric Luchian.

No such luck.

I got to the forest at 1:00 PM...only to find that the previous day's rains turned the Wurlitzer spinet's keys into 88 inanimate objects.

That still didn't detract from what turned out to be an excellent day...and I spent a couple of hours at my new safety valve: Midtown Crossing Shopping Center, the home of that 1920s Werner upright with the honky-tonk sound.

And with a morning and afternoon both full of wonderful memories, it turned out to be a magic (okay, M-A-G-I-C) day after all.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Halfway There

On Sunday, 9-1-2013, I visited my fourth and fifth "Play Me, I'm Yours" Omaha/Council Bluffs/Bellevue area piano sites. And, fortunately for me, they were three minutes' drive time apart.

A day in which I made it to both the ConAgra Foods Plaza and the foot of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge (at Lewis and Clark Landing) had a good news/bad news feel to it.

Well, I'm just going to get the bad news over with:

I didn't get to play the Lewis and Clark Landing piano, a Schmoller & Mueller spinet from at least the late 1920s.

It rained profusely early that morning, and apparently somebody forgot to put the lid over the spinet's keys to protect them from the storm. And so, not one single key on the piano worked.

But I did get some good exercise from the Lewis and Clark experience. On top of that, it was great to see an Omaha-based piano company represented...even if Schmoller & Mueller actually sold pianos rather than building them. (The instruments that bore the S&M name were actually put together by Chicago's M. Schulz Co., if not by a Richmond, IN firm, The Starr Piano Co.)  

Another thing: Half (if not that, a great chunk) of the "Play Me" experience is the artwork...and I like what the Teen Alternative Art Camp at the Joslyn Art Museum did to enhance that S&M spinet. 

You've got to hand it to the camp: The members painted "KA-POW!" on the bottom cover of the piano at Lewis and Clark.

I made it to Lewis and Clark Landing at 4:00 PM...three minutes after I left ConAgra Plaza. And I arrived at the plaza at 1:30 PM, after fighting to get a parking space within a block of the plaza's 10th and Farnam address.

And the early-morning storm made most of the white keys on the Hallet & Davis upright (from the late 1920s) at ConAgra Plaza unplayable...but didn't affect most of the piano's black keys.

I was about to pack it in...except the very artist who painted the H&D upright, Creighton University's Bob Bosco, arrived at the plaza just before 2:00 PM.  

Bob told me that another pianist was going to come in to play that afternoon, and he liked the idea of me trading riffs with that other pianist. (And besides, a good-sized audience had started to assemble at the plaza...some of the audience members being into the thing that keeps Bob going, yoga.) 

He also came up with a great idea to get the piano playable again: Turn the piano around so that it got sunlight to help dry the keys.

So...Bob, two other people, and I moved the upright so that it no longer faced Farnam Street.

It worked.

Met quite a few people early that afternoon at ConAgra Plaza. Besides Bob (whose love for yoga showed up in the redesign of that Hallet & Davis upright), I met Ethan (he's into piano, too). 

Not long after the upright got turned around came the other featured expert Mary Kay Mueller. A few minutes later, a father-son duo who'd worked with Mary Kay before arrived...Evan and his son Pete.

Pete brought his alto sax and used it to team up with Evan, who tickled the still-trying-to-dry-out Hallet & Davis ivories. Then, after Pete took over on piano, Pete went back to sax, Evan returned to the 88s, and Mary Kay joined in to sing (with Evan doubling on backing vocals) Bill Withers' "Lean on Me."

After that, Mary Kay took a piano solo.

All the while, two more people I met up with- Frances and a fellow former Iowa State University student of mine, Alan (could be Allan or Allen instead; I hope I'm spelling your name right)- kept encouraging me to go up there.

And all this time, I kept wishing the battery-level indicator on my camcorder hadn't turned up red. I wanted to get more footage of the ConAgra Plaza goings-on, that was for darn sure.

Still had my digital camera...but even then, I was skating on thin ice, what with two fresh AA batteries left to my name at the moment. 

Finally, I took Alan's and Frances' advice and took to ol' H&D as part of the festivities.

The piano was still in less than razzmatazz shape, so I did some slow blues at first...then, eventually, sneaked in Scott Joplin's "Peacherine Rag."  

Speaking of blues...any time I ask people if there's anything special they'd like to hear, and they end up saying "I don't know," I tell them that there really is a song called "I Don't Know." (It was a Number One R&B smash in 1952 for the man who wrote and recorded it, singer-pianist Willie Mabon.) Before Bob, Evan, Mary Kay, Pete, and Co came to the plaza, I played "I Don't Know" for a family whose members made it to the spot after I got there.

Because so many white keys were out of kilter that I couldn't do it in G, I had to go to G flat to get "I Don't Know" over. And the song was written in A flat!

But the time I spent at ConAgra Foods Plaza went by quickly; had a great time shooting the breeze with Frances and Alan/Allan/ well as listening to Mary Kay, Pete, and Evan (when not playing).

Toward the end of it all, Bob did some yoga exercises to the tune of a song Mary Kay played. 

After the big audience left, a married couple- Braxton and Bailey (he and she, respectively)- came by, and Bailey took photos of Braxton tickling the still-trying-to-dry Hallet & Davis keys.

They left, then I gave Bob Bosco's "Yoga Piano" one more chance, closing out with "Tin Roof Blues."

And I left to go to the landing...only to find I'd have to wait until the next day to get some more piano jollies (not only as a musician, but also as a listener).

Wait 'til I tell you what happened that next day at the Tree of Life Sculpture!

Another Rogue!

After I got back to Omaha and washed up and changed shirts to go back out, I found out I had some time on my hands before going to the 5:00 PM Saturday service at the church I attend.

So...I went to the Midtown Crossing Shopping Center to check out a piano I'd heard on YouTube.

Like that 1916 Bush & Gerts upright at Sweatshop Gallery, the Midtown Crossing piano isn't officially one of the "Play Me, I'm Yours" instruments.

But it's still some kind of fun to play!

Midtown Crossing's piano is a Werner upright from the second half of the 1920s, and it's found in the garden space of the shopping center. (The garden space is between Prairie Life Fitness, a restaurant known as the Black Oak Grill, and another restaurant, Crave.) 

On, a teenager named Isabella turned in snippets of two classical pieces she played on this Werner upright. And they sounded great!

Ragtime greats Del Wood and fellow Tennessean Johnny Maddox would've really enjoyed playing ol' Werner, because it's got that real "honky tonk" sound.

It's also got a palette- with real dabs of paint and a real brush next to the palette- right in the middle of the music rack. What's more, the design team led by an artist named Larry Roots replaced the wood of the music rack with Plexiglas (so that you can actually see the hammers). 

Well, I spent an hour playing this piano, starting out with "Tennessee Waltz" and "That's All Right" before going through some much older "The Entertainer" and the one that made Del famous, "Down Yonder."

All this time, I was able to get the attention of quite a few passersby...such as a security guard named Derek and a woman named Lisa, who lives in the apartment complex next to the shopping center. (Lisa played the piano until getting in an accident...otherwise, she would've done her version of "Fur Elise.")

Three little boys- one named Pedro, another named Gustavo, and the name of the third escapes me- tried the C-E-F-G trick I started showing people a week earlier.

Then after the boys left the garden space, the audience changed over to four teenage girls- Sydney, Cindy, Liz, and Prithee.

Of the four of them, only Prithee had had any prior contact with piano she ended up coming over to the Werner upright, where she played the first part of Johann Sebastian Bach's "Minuet in G." (This is the same piece 1960s songwriters Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell transformed into "A Lover's Concerto," a 1965 Number Two pop hit- and Number Four R&B hit- for a singing group called the Toys.)

Well, by 4:38 PM, I had to pack it in.

But I really DO want to get back to Midtown Crossing to play that "honky tonk" piano before they take it away.

After all, I'm itching to do "The Crazy Otto." (That's the rag that not only put Johnny on the map, but did the same for its originator, Fritz Schulz-Reichel, the original "Crazy Otto.")

Sunday, September 1, 2013

"Play Me, I'm Yours" Comes to Iowa, Too

While "Play Me, I'm Yours" turned Omaha and Bellevue into the second and third Nebraska cities to ever host at least one street piano (Kearney took the lead in 2010 when the owners of the city's Tru Cafe and Evo Salon stuck an old upright in front of their restaurant and invited passersby to play), something else happened.

When a 1900-1905 Epworth Upright Concert Grand (built by the Chicago piano maker Williams & Sons) got placed in Bayliss Park at the same time as Bellevue's and Omaha's "Play Me" pianos, Council Bluffs became just the second Iowa municipality to ever set a street piano in a public place.

Sorry...but the first one wasn't Des Moines.

Well, Council Bluffs (the city that gave us jazz greats Art and Addison Farmer) became the third stop on my own "Play Me" tour, and I got to Bayliss Park around 9:35 AM yesterday.

And at that time, a man named Victor was playing that Epworth upright.

Victor's own brand of jazz piano captivated the people who were passing through Bayliss well as those who came to sit a spell to listen.

I found out that Victor's a New Jerseyite-turned-Iowan, and he's been playing professionally since 1961 (the year he turned 18). Back in the Garden State, he'd spent 25 years playing in bands that mainly performed in New York City's Jersey suburbs...such as Bayonne.  

He moved to the Hawkeye State in 2003 and now plays for his church. 

I don't know what time Victor arrived in the park (didn't ask him), but I do know this: He was still going strong by 11:45 AM. 

Some of his tunes included "The Man I Love," "One-Note Samba," "Tico Tico," and a jazzy version of "Minute Waltz." (That's right, that "Minute Waltz.")

During that first hour at Bayliss, I got in a couple of solo efforts [a 1953 Fats Domino hit called "Goin' to the River" and, before that, a ragtime version of "A Hard Day's Night" (that's right, that "A Hard Day's Night")].

In between the personal solos, I joined in on Victor's version of "Somewhere, My Love."  

I got a schooling.

To be honest, I rushed this version of "A Hard Day's Night," an effort that worked out much better the previous month at the Ragtime to Riches Festival in Omaha. And I tried to anticipate Victor's next moves during fellow movie theme "Somewhere, My Love."

Victor's main message to me, as a result, was: "Jim...slow down!"

I went ahead and reworked "Goin' to the River" to incorporate Victor's advice- once with him still at the park and the other after he left to go home.

Some of the other contestants I've played alongside at Illinois' World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival have said that slowing the music down is a way to learn it more efficiently (and a way to get audiences on your side).

It works.

So, after starting to feel flustered about trying to keep the same pace as a man who's got 52 years of professional playing experience on his side, I started to remember that, for me, every musical experience is a learning one.

And it was a reminder that, in "PMIY," every skill level is welcome when it comes to tackling (or tickling) the ivories. Period.

So...after Victor left, I spent another 90 minutes at Bayliss Park. And I did most of the playing...but definitely NOT all of it.

I wanted to share the seat of one of the most innovative piano reincarnations in "Play Me" history with some other park visitors. 

Marcia Joffe-Bouska partnered up with the Council Bluffs Public Art Commission to pretty up Bayliss Park's piano; the result made the instrument look more like a tree...a tree you can paint on on one side and/or draw on on the other side. And in the middle of the music rack, Marcia and Co. placed a mirror.

With so much going on in the redesign of that Epworth upright, no wonder it's one of the most popular pianos in the Omaha/Council Bluffs/Bellevue leg of the 2013 "Play Me, I'm Yours" tour.

And as morning became afternoon, Jessica and her son Landon stopped by to hear what was being played...and Landon just couldn't wait to get not to the upright's keys, its hammers. (Sometime when Victor was still at the park, I removed the music rack to expose the piano's hammers.)

Harrison brought his daughter Lily to Bayliss Park, and I found out he'd played tuba and trombone (among other instruments) in high school, where he was in the marching band.

Piano was another, I showed Harrison the C-E-F-G trick. (It worked.) 

Jim, his wife Kim, and their sons Garrett (he plays the viola) and Tyler (he doesn't) came by to experience "Play Me." Of the four family members, only Garrett wanted to give the C-E-F-G trick a try.

Garrett's right arm was in a sling (not just any sling- a sling featuring green and gold, the Green Bay Packers' colors), so he ended up doing the demonstration with his left arm. And it worked out, too...even if I found myself fighting to keep from making it the C-D-E-F-G trick.

A man named Kelly's been making the "Play Me" rounds during this two-week period. His biggest goal, besides seeing all ten local pianos, his mountain bike on each piano's keys.


Speaking of local...Cedar Rapids isn't credited with being the first city in America's 29th state to boast a street-piano scene. 

Ended up getting interviewed Jaci Pettie (with her cell phone) and by the Omaha World-Herald's Rick Ruggles (who brought his notepad, which featured notes he'd taken in shorthand).

Both were colorful and fun! I don't know where Jaci's interview will end up, but Rick's interview made the Sunday edition of the Omaha paper. (It's on Page 1 of the Midlands section...and is all about the heat we've been facing around here.)

Speaking of around here...the first city in Iowa to place a street piano in a public spot wasn't Davenport. And it wasn't Sioux City, either.

Well, Rick took several photos of me playing "Hello Ma Baby," the 1899 Ida Emerson-Joe Howard tune that Michigan J. Frog (one of Warner Bros.' secondary cartoon characters) took to in the middle 1950s.

After Rick's interview, a young woman named Jordan (I hope I'm getting her first name right...after all, it could be Jordyn) came over to tickle the Epworth's ivories. And because she came armed with sheet music, that was my signal to wrestle the music rack back onto the piano.  

With her mom turning the pages, Jordan (or Jordyn) played a tune whose name escapes me...but I caught the song on video, and I hope to have that (along with Victor's rendition of "The Man I Love") up on soon.

Then it was Craig Griffis' turn to play the tree...oops, I mean Bayliss piano.

Just as Jaci made it into the Omaha World-Herald article, Craig did, too. He'd been listening all this time to me and Jordan/Jordyn; meanwhile, Craig's own little daughter (why didn't I get her name, too, or that of Jordan's mother?) went swimming and/or playing under the Bayliss Park fountain. 

Craig recognized me from when I was able to go to the National Old-Time Country, Bluegrass, and Folk Music Festival and Contest when it was held in Avoca, IA...its home from 1982 to 2002. (The event now takes place in Le Mars, IA, its home since 2008; before that, Missouri Valley, IA was the festival site.) 

And I recognized what Craig was playing: "Crazy," the Willie Nelson number made famous in 1961 by Patsy Cline. 

Craig told me that he only knows chords...but to me, he had "Crazy" down.

In between a couple of Craig's takes, his daughter came away from the water to sit down at ol' Epworth to noodle around on its keys.

Then, to the tune of one more rendition of "Crazy," I headed off to Omaha.

Man, through all the heat and all the efforts to fight sweat off my brow, I still had a great time in the Bluffs...a wonderful time. 

And I was looking forward to Sunday, when I'd set out to tackle Omaha's downtown "Play Me, I'm Yours" contributions.  

Speaking of contributions...Iowa City introduced street pianos to the Hawkeye State when, in 2010, some business leaders there placed a couple of spinets downtown.

I'm Jim Boston...thanks for reading "Boston's Blog!"