Other Early Influences

Shortly after entering elementary school, I performed publicly for the first time in a school production. I was either 5 or 6 at the time. I played the barbell (a miniature xylophone). The first song I ever performed in a show: 'Til There Was You.'
I still love that song!

Throughout my childhood, I heard piano music of all kinds ... mostly classical and 'pop' music ... my grandmother was hip enough to include popular songs so her students wouldn't lose interest.

My Mom was a big music fan. She loved Tchaikoffsky and Rachmananoff, Ferrante & Teisher, Mitch Miller, Liberace, Victor Borge, The Tijuanna Brass ... and she was a very big Nat King Cole fan. Quite an assortment. She also had a number of comedy records ... all the early Bill Cosby, Alan Sherman, various others. She and my uncle, Sandor 'Sonny' Lang (that's Hungarian too!) inherited their father's playfullness and sense of humor. This has to be the lineage of my twisted humor.

When I was about 10 or so ....
My sister, Robin ... three and a half years older then I ... began to bring her teen music into my surroundings. Early Motown was very big at that time (Philadelphia was always a big R&B town) and Robin played records by The Supremes, The Temptations and much of the Top 40 of the day.

She and I were in choirs all throught elementary and high schools, and we both had many musically talented friends.

One of Robin's friends, Barry Levin, was quite an outstanding pianist. His big number was 'Slaughter On Tenth Avenue.' I believe it was Barry who showed Robin how to play the current hit 'Downtown' by Petula Clark ... and she impressed me enough with her version that I asked her to show me how to play it too. This is my earliest recollection of my learning a song by ear. It seemed so easy.

My version of 'Downtown' was pretty good too. I played it at a choir rehearsal and the three people there made quite a fuss over me. Two were girls (and so it begins!), the third was my friend Rick ... who also took lessons from my grandmother. Then he played a couple songs he picked up by ear from his records. I had to try that! And to my surprise, it wasn't all that hard to do.

I was happy to skip gym class one day a week for 'choir practice' ... at least half of which was playing and singing pop music.

As the 60's began, pop music entered a cultural explosion ... and I went along for the ride! Although I initially resisted the Beatles craze, it wasn't long before I was playing their songs. They hit just as I entered a major 'pop music' phase of my playing and learning ... and of course became a major influence on my musical identity. I have a fantasy ambition to play every Beatles song ever ... on piano.
In some cases, that's quite challenging!

Robin gave me my first two albums ever: The Doors' self-named debut album, and Jimi Hendrix' 'Are You Experienced.' Around the same time, Rick and I performed in a high school show with three other friends ... and sang an a capella version of California Dreamin' that was quite well received.

It was time to join a band!

My first two albums

(given to me by my sister Robin)



Click this fiery CA hilside to hear
my latest version of CA Dreamin'


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