Here's an interesting thing that happened to me this week. I got a
call from a lady pleading with me to come and fix her player piano.
I explained that I never do on-site repairs; I restore, rebuild, but
I never do repairs, much less on-site. The next thing she said changed
that and left my jaw open wide. She explained that she could care less
about "that old player" -- it belonged to her grandfather and as far as
she was concerned it could go to the dump.
But the reason she wanted it playing was because -- and I hope you all
are sitting down -- her 14-year-old daughter and her daughter's friends
just loved the songs from the Roaring '20s and that piano was worth more
to them than a wide-screen TV with MTV on it! I could not resist to
investigate, so I made an appointment.
I found an upright that had been played so much it's drive gears needed
lubrication (after un-jamming them, evidently from an over-enthusiastic
pianolist throwing the play/rewind lever a bit too hard). The 14-year-old
daughter came out so I could show her some of its expressive possibilities,
care of the rolls, cleaning, general maintenance, etc.
She was dressed like so many 14-year-old girls today: a black T-shirt
with white Gothic death epithets, a silver skull on a chain around her
neck, tattoos, and an assortment of facial metal rivets and studs that
made her look as though her father had to be the tin man from The
Wizard of Oz.
But you could have knocked me over with a feather when she began to
sing the words of "Toot, Toot, Tootsie, Goodbye!" and showed me her
favorite rolls -- all classic songs from the '20s! Oh yes, I repaired
the frozen gears and the piano pumped fairly well. I showed her how to
use the expression controls and she was actually grateful, explaining
how she and her friends could only find those songs on rolls for it and
how much she loved "that" kind of music.
Isn't it amazing how easily we write off the value of our own musical
and mechanical interests? There's a whole generation out there just
looking for alternatives to the electro-noise being foisted off as
"music". I can only hope that collectors start making their collections
more accessible to those who may be interested. There is the future of
See you all in Sacramento at the West Coast Ragtime Festival!
Stephen Kent Goodman