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To keep you better informed I've started a monthly newsletter. On the  first day of every month, I'll give you an update covering the preceding month's activities: the latest transcriptions, arrangements, and recordings that are now available on my web site. Just click on the "Receive My Newsletter" button and enter your email address and name. You'll never be spammed, and the list will never be shared with anyone.

Happy November 2017!

Dr. John, born in New Orleans as Mac Rebennack, grew up in the Third Ward listening to minstrel tunes. He did not take music lessons before his teens, and only endured a short stint in choir before getting kicked out. His father, the owner of an appliance store and record shop, exposed him as a young boy to prominent jazz musicians like King Oliver and Louis Armstrong.

Throughout his adolescence his father's connections enabled him access to the recording rooms of burgeoning rock artists such as Little Richard and Guitar Slim. From these exposures he advanced into clubs and onto the stage with varying local artists, most notably, Professor Longhair.

When he was about 13 or 14 years old, Rebennack met Professor Longhair, which started a period in his life that would mark rapid growth as a musician and the beginnings of his entry into professional music.

At age 16 he was hired by Johnny Vincent as a producer at Ace Records. There, he worked with artists like James Booker and Earl King, his musical experience expanding notably.

He struggled through intermittent years of high school. While a student at Jesuit High School, he was already playing in night clubs, something the Jesuit fathers disapproved of. They told him to either stop playing in clubs or leave the school. He chose the latter. This was the seed of his classic, "Right Place, Wrong Time."

In late 1950s New Orleans, Rebennack originally concentrated on guitar, but that changed around 1960, when his left ring finger was injured by a gunshot at a Jackson, Mississippi gig. After the injury, Rebennack concentrated on bass guitar before making piano his main instrument.

During the 1950s, he sold narcotics and even ran a brothel. Arrested on drug charges and sentenced to two years in a federal prison at Fort Worth, Texas, when his sentence ended in 1965 he left for Los Angeles, where he became a "first call" session musician - part of the so-called "Wrecking Crew" stable of studio musicians.

As for how he became "Dr. John", he says, "Well, there was a guy the name of Dr. John, a hoodoo guy in New Orleans. He was competition to Marie Laveau. He was like her opposite. I actually got a clipping... about how my great-great-great-grandpa Wayne was busted with this guy for runnin' a voodoo operation in a whorehouse in 1860. I decided I would produce the record with this as a concept."

Rebennack imagined that this character could front an interesting stage show, while serving as an emblem of New Orleans heritage. And, Dr. John was born - one of the greatest rock keyboardists of the rock era.

My Dr. John transcriptions:

"Take Me Out to the Ballgame" - B-3 Organ Solo - Dr. John, organ -
"Pine Top Boogie" - Complete Piano Part - Dr. John, piano

My other "New Orleans piano-style" transcriptions:

Albert King - "Crosscut Saw" - Booker T. Jones, piano
Allen Toussaint - Early Professor Longhair - Riff No.1
Allen Toussaint - Later Professor Longhair - Riff No.2
Ernie K-Doe - "Hello My Lover" - Allen Toussaint, piano
Ernie K-Doe - "Mother-in-Law" - Allen Toussaint, piano
Ernie K-Doe - "Popeye Joe" - Allen Toussaint, piano
Ernie K-Doe - "She's Waiting" - Allen Toussaint, piano

Born in Savannah, Georgia, Billy Currington failed an audition at age 16 for a spot at Nashville's Opryland.

After high school he moved to Nashville but ended up working for a concrete company and as a personal trainer.

He started writing songs, eventually having cuts by George Strait, Tracy Byrd, and Marty Raybon. He signed to Mercury Records in 2003.

Since then he has recorded six albums, with 18 singles and 11 number one hits.

On his first album in 2003, Currington used a Nashville session pianist, Gary Prim, who has recorded with Alan Jackson, Alabama, Kenny Chesney, Reba McEntire, Willie Nelson, George Jones, Randy Travis, Billy Ray Cyrus, Oak Ridge Boys and others.

Gary was born in Kingston, Tennessee, and learned to play piano "by ear" as a child in his local church. He moved to Nashville to pursue music in 1977, and toured with gospel groups until the early 1980's.

In 1981, he began his career in the Nashville recording studio. Norro Wilson (formerly A&R at RCA Records) gave Gary his biggest break, hiring him for master recording sessions with top country artists including Charley Pride, Eddy Arnold, Mickey Gilley, and Charley McClain.

My "Nashville and C&W piano-style" transcriptions:

Billy Currington - "Growin' Up Down There" - Verse 3 (Piano Solo) - Gary Prim, piano
Asleep at the Wheel - "Boot Scootin' Boogie"
The Browns - "The Three Bells" - Floyd Cramer, piano
Carrie Underwood - "Undo It"
The Charlie Daniels Band - "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" - Taz DiGregorio, piano
'Crazy' (YouTube Version, by "zzipizape")
The Dillards - "There Is a Time"
Dolly Parton - "Sittin' on the Front Porch Swing" - Floyd Cramer, piano
Elvis Presley - "I Really Don't Want To Know" - Floyd Cramer, piano
Engelbert Humperdinck - "Am I That Easy To Forget" - Floyd Cramer, piano
Floyd Cramer - "Could I Have This Dance"
Floyd Cramer - "Last Date"
Hank Williams Jr. - "La Grange"
The Highwaymen - "Me and Bobby McGee" - Bobby Emmons, piano
Jonny Lang - "Still Rainin'" - Bruce McCabe, piano
Lari White - "Lead Me Not" - Bill Payne, piano
Little Big Town - "Girl Crush"
Mary Chapin Carpenter - "I Feel Lucky" - Jon Carroll, piano
Paul Brandt - "The Highway Patrol" - Steve Rosen, piano
Ricky Skaggs - "Country Boy"
Toby Keith - "American Soldier"
Willie Nelson - "Good Hearted Woman" - Bobbie Nelson, piano

Also new this month are two excellent finger exercises. For all the wonderful rhythms in rock and pop piano/organ playing - and some is very rhythmic, almost like playing drums on a keyboard - one still needs excellent fingers to really get the job done. Just listen to those cleanly articulated runs of Nicky Hopkins.

These two new exercises are especially for developing agile, dexterous, nimble, speedy fingers.

Each exercise is based upon a particularly difficult single-note run in classical piano literature, one by Chopin and the other by Liszt.

Over the years I've used these runs - with my own variations on them - to improve my own technique, and want to share them with others who really want to polish their 'chops'.

These are not the easiest exercises, but they are concise - no wasted time - and they yield significant benefits. Plus, they are fun to learn, as you watch yourself overcoming their challenges.

And after 1000 practice hours your rock-and-roll playing will sound a little bit more like Nicky Hopkins. :)

(BTW, if you need other good, effective technical exercises, please check out the other 38 exercises available.)

My latest exercises:

Elmo Peeler - Finger Exercise inspired by Chopin's 'Winter Wind' Etude
Elmo Peeler - Finger Exercise inspired by Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No.6


Happy October 2017!

The month of September saw the transcription of the piano part on "Ramblin' Man", a classic, smokin'-hot track by the Allman Brothers, played by a 20-year-old Chuck Leavell who would go on to play with the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton.

Also new is the wonderful lilting piano solo on Jonathan Edwards' "Shanty". If that jazz-tinged solo sounds familiar, it's because Van Morrison's "Moondance" had the same pianist, session ace Jeff Labes.

And for those lovers of serious Delta blues, I've transcribed "Come Back Baby" (an early hit for Ray Charles in 1954) as played on Wurlitzer electric piano by Eli 'Paperboy' Reed. I've also arranged Reed's Wurly part for acoustic piano, throwing in some extra goodies and taking his version up a notch.

Plus, a new Gospel Rhythm exercise is available.

Chuck Leavell's background is interesting. He learned piano by listening to his mother play the family spinet, and by age six was sitting at the piano with her, beginning to learn.

While his mom did housework, Chuck would sit on the piano stool and pick out little melodies and harmonies.

She would ask him what would the piano sound like if he woke up angry, or if there were a storm outside, or if he felt really good. She was getting him to think about music as feelings and emotions, not just notes on a page.

At the encouragement of his parents he began taking lessons but quit after six months. His cousin taught him guitar chords; he played tuba in the Jr High School band; and then started his own band, the Misfitz, playing every Friday night at the local YMCA.

He started out playing guitar but soon added a Farfisa Combo Compact organ, then a Wurlitzer electric piano, and began concentrating on keyboards.

By 15 he was doing recording sessions, making $25 a day playing demos in Birmingham & Muscle Shoals.

After moving to Macon, GA at age 17 in 1969, he played with artists including the Marshall Tucker Band, Charlie Daniels, Wet Willie, Bobby Whitlock, and Bonnie Bramlett.

And then in 1972 at the age of 20 Chuck was asked to join the Allman Brothers Band. And ten years later he was touring with the Rolling Stones. Not bad for a Georgia tree farmer.

My Chuck Leavell transcriptions:

The Allman Brothers Band - "Ramblin' Man" - Piano Part - Chuck Leavell, piano - NEW!
The Allman Brothers Band - "Jessica" - Complete Piano Part - Chuck Leavell, piano
The Allman Brothers Band - "Jessica" - Solo from Tutorial Video
The Allman Brothers Band - "Jessica" - Solo - 1973/2007 'Hybrid'
The Allman Brothers Band - "Southbound" - Chuck Leavell, piano
Eric Clapton - "San Francisco Bay Blues" - Chuck Leavell, piano

My other Allman Brothers Band transcriptions:

The Allman Brothers Band - "Midnight Rider" - Electric Piano Riff - Gregg Allman, Wurlitzer E. Piano
The Allman Brothers Band - "Stormy Monday" - Organ Solo - Gregg Allman, B-3 organ
The Allman Brothers Band - "Whipping Post" - Complete Organ Part - Gregg Allman, B-3 organ

Jeff Labes has been a pro keyboardist since 1967. Living in New York City, he was a composer and arranger for the Saturday Night Live band, and a member of the house band at Catch a Rising Star.

He later moved to Los Angeles, working as a studio musician. Currently living in Marin County, California, he is the musical director of 4 or 5 musical theater shows each year.

Over the years he has toured and recorded with many top artists, including Bonnie Raitt, Elvin Bishop, Jesse Colin Young and Van Morrison.

That's Labes playing the piano part on "Moondance".

One of the artists he's worked with is Jonathan Edwards, of "Sunshine (Go Away Today)" fame. His solo on Edwards' "Shanty" - on the same album as "Sunshine" - is somewhat reminiscent of his "Moondance" solo, with it's jazz-influenced rhythms.

My Jeff Labes transcriptions:

Jonathan Edwards - "Shanty" - Piano Solo
Van Morrison - "Moondance" - Piano Solo

A native of Massachusetts, Eli 'Paperboy' Reed moved to Clarksdale, Mississippi after graduating from high school to immerse himself into the juke joint culture of the Deep South.

After spending a year there he moved to Chicago where he played piano and organ in the South Side Chicago church of soul/gospel singer Mitty Collier.

"Come Back Baby", a slow blues song written in 1940 by blues singer/pianist Walter Davis, was recorded by Ray Charles in 1954, peaking at #4 on the R&B singles chart.

My Eli 'Paperboy' Reed transcriptions:

Eli 'Paperboy' Reed - "Come Back Baby" - Complete Wurlitzer Elec. Piano Part
Eli 'Paperboy' Reed - "Come Back Baby" - arranged for Acoustic Piano

Click here to listen to me playing my acoustic piano arrangement of Reed's "Come Back Baby".

Also new this month is an excellent exercise in gospel rhythm. Gospel piano-playing is nothing if not rhythmic.

This month's new exercise is based on one of the most common - and important - rhythm patterns in gospel music, dating back many generations. Every pianist from Leon Russell to Richard Tee to Nicky Hopkins played this rhythm at one time or the other.

Bill Payne recorded this common riff on Lari White's "Good Good Love". This is a transcription of that 2-bar gospel piano riff. Also included are three variations on the original, demonstrating how other left hand patterns can be used without altering the right hand riff.

This exercise will clarify this gospel/rock rhythm, and allow you to add an important pattern to your repertoire of gospel elements.

(BTW, if you need other good, effective technical exercises, please check out the other 37 exercises available.)

My latest exercises:

Elmo Peeler - Gospel Rhythm Exercise (in the style of Lari White's "Good Good Love")
Elmo Peeler - Coordination Exercise No.2 - Billy Preston-style
Elmo Peeler - Allman Brothers Exercise No.1 - Triplets Riff on I & ii Chords
Elmo Peeler - Thumb-under Exercise

Click here to listen to my new Gospel Rhythm Exercise.

Happy September 2017!

Don McLean's 8:33-long "American Pie" contains one of rock's most amazing piano tracks ever recorded. You can know the chords in the song and still not have a clue as to how to make the piano part sound like the record because of its amazing rhythms, non-standard right hand fills and left hand that isn't just octaves.

What's "In the News!" is that it has now finally been revealed, note-for-note, both hands - all of it. The pianist on the record is not a familiar name to most, although he was New York City's leading session pianist for decades, laying down the piano parts for a wide range of artists: from the Isley Brothers, the Shirelles, and Chuck Jackson to Bob Dylan, Dionne Warwick, Van Morrison, Paul Simon and Steely Dan to Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt, Stanley Turrentine and Cal Tjader.

That was Paul Griffin, keyboard genius.

Growing up in Harlem during the 1940s he had no male role models "except the junkies, the pimps and the numbers runners," as he himself said.

But his mother made sure that he was in church every Sunday - and up front. At Paradise Baptist Church on 135th Street, young Paul's regular seat for years was in the pew right behind the church pianist. The youngster would pay more attention to the pianist's hands than to the service. This went on for years. One day after church, while still a child, Paul slid onto the piano bench and began doodling around on the keyboard. After a few more times, he found he had a knack for it. When the church's pianist eventually died, Paul took her place.

As an eighth-grader, his dream was to attend New York's prestigious High School of Music and Art. Unfortunately a short-sighted guidance counselor, perhaps observing either Griffin's humble station or mindful of Music and Art's high academic requirements, assured him he would never be admitted.

Griffin slumped out of her office and began weeping quietly in the hall. At just that moment, a teacher who had befriended Griffin happened by.

"Why are you crying ?" he asked.

Through tears, Griffin explained. The teacher was appalled at the guidance counselor's insensitivity and promised Paul that he would not only reprimand the counselor but that Paul would audition for Music and Art just like anyone else. Griffin passed the audition; and four years later, in 1953, he graduated from the High School of Music and Art.

In the late 1950s King Curtis offered Paul his first opportunity to record and he never looked back. If you listened to the radio in the 60s & 70s or have an 'oldies' mp3 collection, you've heard Paul's piano- and organ-playing - a lot.

Including on all of Dionne Warwick's hits - yes, even though Burt Bacharach was/is an excellent pianist, he always insisted that Griffin play on his sessions. Although Paul said he never understood why, Bacharach said it was because Paul's timing was so much better than his own.

And also on many of Bob Dylan's biggest hits, including "Like a Rolling Stone", "Positively Fourth Street", and "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (Everybody Must Get Stoned)".

Al Kooper, who played organ on some of Dylan's tracks, said "the piano-playing on (Dylan's) "One of Us Must Know" is quite magnificent. It influenced me enormously as a pianist. It's probably Paul Griffin's finest moment. It's great, two-fisted, gospel piano-playing, played with the utmost of taste."

With all respect to Kooper, as outstanding as all of Griffin's Dylan tracks are, the pinnacle of Paul Griffin's discography is "American Pie", for several reasons.

One, the length of the track - 8:33 - is extraordinarily long, requiring great creativity to keep coming up with outstanding piano licks/ideas. Yet he achieved it, without any exact repetitions of previous sections.

Two, his left hand part is truly amazing. Rather than rely on just playing octaves (although he includes some great octave walk-ups), he uses his left hand far more creatively, throwing in all sorts of lines, frequently with a 'bouncy' calypso influence (BTW, his "Brown Eyed Girl" organ track also used calypso-influenced fills).

Three, perhaps the single most outstanding aspect of this track is his rhythm. Paul Griffin's piano track for "American Pie" is one of most rhythmic, highly-syncopated piano parts ever recorded.

Four, his overall conception of the long piece was pitch-perfect, i.e., the way he voiced the slow, out-of-strict-time verses, using low 5ths in the left hand, and then brilliantly segueing into the highly rhythmic sections.

Five, his accuracy is excellent. Even though it's to be expected of such a fine professional player, it's still remarkable that in the entire 8.5 minutes he missed only four notes (nothing major, of course) and smudged the complex rhythms very slightly only twice.

If you'd like to read more about one of rock's greatest players, there is an excellent article about Paul on Steely Dan's web site here.

My Paul Griffin transcriptions:

Don McLean - "American Pie'" (Long Version) - Complete Piano Part - played by Paul Griffin - NEW!
Bob Dylan - "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" - Complete Piano Part - played by Paul Griffin
Van Morrison - "Brown Eyed Girl" - Complete Organ Part - played by Paul Griffin

When Jerry Lee Lewis traveled to Hamburg, Germany in 1964 to perform at the Star Club, he had no idea that the recording would come to be regarded as one of the greatest live concert albums ever made - by anyone.

Recorded during his "wilderness years" following the fallout after his 1958 marriage to his thirteen-year-old first cousin once removed Myra, the album showcases Lewis's phenomenal skills as a pianist and singer, which had been honed by relentless touring.

In a 5-out-of-5-stars review, Rolling Stone raved that "Live At The Star Club, Hamburg is not an album, it's a crime scene: Jerry Lee Lewis slaughters his rivals in a thirteen-song set that feels like one long convulsion. Recorded April 5th, 1964, this is the earliest and most feral of Lewis' concert releases from his wilderness years".

Q Magazine commented "This might be the most exciting performance ever recorded".

The album was included in Mojo's "The 67 Lost Albums You Must Own!" - "An unbelievably seismic document of rock 'n' roll so demonic and primal it can barely keep its stage suit on. It's up there with James Brown's great live albums."

AllMusic said of the album: "Words cannot describe - cannot contain - the performance captured on Live at the Star Club, Hamburg, an album that contains the very essence of rock & roll. Live at the Star Club is extraordinary - the purest, hardest rock & roll ever committed to record. He sounds possessed, hitting the keys so hard it sounds like they'll break, and rocking harder than anybody had before or since. Rock & roll is about the fire in the performance, and nothing sounds as fiery as this; nothing hits as hard or sounds as loud, either. It is no stretch to call this the greatest live album ever, nor is it a stretch to call it the greatest rock & roll album ever recorded. Even so, words can't describe the music here - it truly has to be heard to be believed."

In the 2014 book Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story Rick Bragg deems Live at the Star Club, Hamburg, to be "one of the grittiest, most spectacular pieces of recorded music ever made."

And rock writer Joe Bonomo calls "Mean Woman Blues", the opening number on the album, as "nothing short of a concert in itself".

That very recording, "Mean Woman Blues", and his early studio version of "Lewis Boogie" are brand-new transcriptions this month.

My Jerry Lee Lewis transcriptions:

Jerry Lee Lewis - "Mean Woman Blues" (Live at the Star Club, Hamburg 1964)
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Lewis Boogie" (1957)
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Crazy Arms" (1956)
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Drinkin' Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee" (1957)
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Great Balls of Fire" (1957)
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Great Balls of Fire" (1989)
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Real Wild Child (Wild One)"
Jerry Lee Lewis - "She Was My Baby (He Was My Friend)" (1964)
Jerry Lee Lewis - "That Lucky Old Sun" (1989)
Jerry Lee Lewis - "What's Made Milwaukee Famous" (2006)
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" (1957)


Plum Nellie (not to be confused with the 1970s psychedelic band) is a two-man band from the UK, comprised of a great singer, Sam Dean, and an equally great keyboard player, Joe Glossop - a first-rate London session player who specializes in old-style Hammond B-3 and Ray Charles/Leon Russell-style piano.

In 2013 Plum Nellie recorded several excellent videos of just the two performing several classic songs, including "That Lucky Old Sun", which was done as their homage to Ray Charles, who often performed it himself.

Glossop's gospel-blues piano is outstanding, including licks straight out of Ray's own pianistic vocabulary.

The duo has also done an excellent video of "A Love Like Yours", a Holland-Dozier-Holland classic first recorded by Martha & the Vandellas in 1963 and then in 1966 by Ike & Tina Turner (produced by Phil Spector).

This time on Hammond organ through a great-sounding Leslie, Glossup accompanies Dean with an exquisite, gospel-rock organ part that either Billy Preston or Booker T would've been proud of.

Watch "That Lucky Old Sun", the piano homage to Ray Charles, here.

And watch the really beautiful gospel/rock Hammond organ version of "A Love Like Yours" here - with excellent drawbar registration changes during the performance.

This month I've transcribed both these outstanding performances, plus created a piano arrangement of the "A Love Like Yours" gospel-influenced organ part, which you can listen to here.

My Plum Nellie transcriptions:

Plum Nellie - "A Love Like Yours" - Complete Organ Part - Joe Glossop, organ
Plum Nellie - "That Lucky Old Sun'" - Complete Piano Part - Joe Glossop, piano

My other transcription of "That Lucky Old Sun":

Jerry Lee Lewis - "That Lucky Old Sun" (1989)

Also new this month is an exercise to improve a very important aspect of piano-playing: Left/Right independence and coordination between the hands.

Years ago when I studied Billy Preston's style to see how he achieved his 'sound', I found that he played one rhythmic octave lick more than any other - four 16th-notes with the last one tied forward.

And I subsequently discovered that playing that riff, and its variants, significantly improved Left/Right independence and coordination.

This exercise distills Billy Preston's signature lick into a 4-bar exercise that should help you:

1) improve your Right/Left coordination

2) sound more like Billy Preston when you want to

(BTW, if you need other good, effective technical exercises, please check out the other 36 exercises available.)

My newest exercise:

Elmo Peeler - Coordination Exercise No.2 - Billy Preston-style

Happy August 2017!

By 1976 a senior product design engineer for Polaroid had recorded in his home-made basement recording studio an album's worth of material. But for five years he'd experienced complete rejection in submitting his demos to national record labels.

However, when CBS/Epic decided to give his recordings a chance, the album became the biggest-selling debut album in history. And Tom Scholz' band, Boston, was born.

Himself born in 1947 in Ohio, young Tom loved tinkering with everything from go-carts to model airplanes, and was always building and designing.

As a child he studied classical piano, and as a teen he taught himself to play guitar, bass, and drums. In 1965 he won a full scholarship to M.I.T., graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering, and became an inventor holding 34 U.S. patents, including for the Rockman, a portable guitar amp used not only by Scholz himself but also by Ian Hammer in his "Miami Vice" scores to make a synth sound like a guitar.

Click here to hear my own recording of "Dixie" using a DX7 through a Rockman (recorded in 1985 as an homage to Jimi Hendrix' "Star-spangled Banner").

Scholz first started writing music in 1969 while at M.I.T. Upon graduation he went to work for Polaroid in Boston, using his day-job savings in the early '70s to build a recording studio in his basement and to rent professional studio time to record song demos. Although he could play all the instruments, he needed a good singer and auditioned many before finding Brad Delp in 1970.

For five years they did a lot of basement recording but received zero recognition locally and complete rejection by national labels. In 1976 when their first album, "Boston", was released, they became the first band in history to make their New York City debut at Madison Square Garden.

(BTW, I myself have had the good fortune to have performed six concerts at Madison Square Garden with two different Hall-of-Fame artists - three sold-out nights with the Beach Boys, and three sold-out nights with Rod Stewart - a long way from the cinder-block juke-joints in rural Mississippi where I started playing at age 15.)

Boston's recordings have always been those of a two-man band, Scholz and Delp, with supporting musicians necessary for live concerts chosen by Scholz. Only the drum tracks on the albums have not been played by Scholz (even though he does play drums also).

So far Boston has released six studio albums and sold over 75 million records. In 1987 Scholz became seriously involved in philanthropy and charity work, setting up the DTS Charitable Foundation to support causes such as the environment, animal rights, food banks, homeless shelters and children. He strongly supports the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and Earth Island Institute.

My new Boston transcription:

Boston - "Smokin'" - Complete Organ & Clavinet Parts

Born in 1949 in Waco, TX, Bill Payne at the age of two moved to Ventura, in Southern California, where he grew up in a house in the hills built by his father, with big picture windows in the kitchen and living room affording tremendous views of the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands.

His mother introduced him to piano-playing by sitting him on her knee at a large old upright piano in the basement, and playing "Vaya Con Dios" from sheet music. She would play a few notes and then show him what notes to play.

At five or six, he began taking lessons from Ruth Neuman, playing the theme from "Davy Crockett" for her at his very first lesson. She said, 'The next time you come in I'll have this written out for you. I'll show you what you actually played.' She encouraged him to play by ear taught him how to read music also, and guided him through a study of the classics until he was 15 - Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms.

(BTW, by striking coincidence, Davy Crockett was the very first piano piece that my daddy taught me at age 6. It seems to have been a big hit among pianists in the 5 to 6 year-old range in the mid-1950s)

While growing up, and hearing his older sister listening to Elvis Presley, Bill began listening to a lot of radio.

When he was about ten, Mrs. Neuman taught him to play pipe organ, which, in his words, "included playing one hand on the keyboard at the bottom rung and my right hand lets say at the top level. While making changes, using your feet to play the pedals and all that stuff. It was a really good education for me."

Later, in his teens, he rebelled by dropping acid, smoking marijuana, and playing rock-and-roll piano. "Piano was a refuge for me," Payne has said. "I was a teen with a ton of angst, and bands helped me get through it."

At the age of twenty he placed a call to Frank Zappa's record company, basically, saying, "Uh, I play keyboards... It took several calls to sort of get this person, this lady on the other end of the line, to take me seriously enough - or maybe she felt sorry for me - to put me in touch with Jeffrey Simmons, who said, 'Oh, well, I play keyboards, too, and this might kind of destroy what I'm doing, but there's this guy Lowell George that I really think you ought to try and reach.'

"I got to his house and there was a cool girl sitting on the floor, 18, 19 years old. She's listening to some Erik Satie, that's a composer. 'Oh you must be Bill, Lowell is expecting you. He'll be back in about four or five hours.'"

He and Lowell hit it off and decided to work together, and then he met Zappa, all within a month. Soon afterward he began playing with the GTOs, a Zappa band, and session work took off from there. He and Lowell, whom he considers his mentor, founded Little Feat, which so far has released 16 studio albums.

One of the many artists that Payne has recorded with is Lari White, who was a back-up singer in Rodney Crowell's band in 1991. Two years later RCA released her debut album, "Lead Me Not", produced by Crowell. All but one of the tracks use Bill Payne on piano.

The title song, "Lead Me Not", is a gospel-flavored track in 9/8 meter (a waltz within a waltz), with an excellent country-gospel piano part containing lots of walk-ups, octave fills, #IV-diminished chords, high strums, and other fun gospel techniques, plus a whole-step-up modulation.

If you don't remember it, click here to listen to it on YouTube.

My Bill Payne transcriptions:

Lari White - "Lead Me Not" - Complete Piano Part - Bill Payne, piano
Little Feat - "Willin'" - Piano Solo & End Run - Bill Payne, piano

Scales should be perfectly legato and even, like a glissando. If your scales are not perfectly legato (connected), a 'skip' or a 'hop' may occur. This is almost always because of a flaw in moving the thumb under the 3rd and 4th fingers during a Right Hand ascending scale or a Left Hand descending scale - the thumb doesn't arrive on time, causing an audible break.

In fact, the thumb's ability to move smoothly under the 3rd and 4th fingers is the most important finger motion in piano-playing.

This new exercise concentrates on that motion of the thumb moving under those two fingers, by concentrating on a range of only 4 or 5 notes. Included are three exercises for the thumb-under-3rd-finger motion and three for the thumb-under-4th-finger.

(BTW, if you need other good, effective technical exercises, please check out the other 34 exercises available.)


Elmo Peeler - Thumb-under Exercise -

 

Happy July!

Richard Tee was for years New York City's top session keyboardist, playing for all the biggest stars. And it wasn't because of his pleasing personality, which he had in abundance. It was because he was head and shoulders above all other players - he had great technique, improvising parts that most players couldn't play after weeks of practice. And great rhythm - Steve Gadd was his best friend and called him his Little Brother. Plus an encyclopedic knowledge of chords - just listen to his substitutions in "Happy Birthday".

Born in Brooklyn, Richard was classically trained for 12 years of his early life, attending the High School of Music and Art and the Manhattan School of Music.

After graduating from the High School of Music and Art he obtained a position at Motown Records as a 'house pianist'. His first recordings there included a session with Marvin Gaye. As time progressed he became a staff arranger at Motown, and started playing more organ.

After returning to New York, he continued to work in the studio, and along with the other leaders of the NYC studio scene, founded his own band, Stuff, which was the NYC equivalent of L.A.'s Wrecking Crew.

BTW, the drummer for Stuff, Steve Gadd, was a classmate of mine at the Eastman School of Music.

In 1984 Richard made an hour-long video tutorial, "Contemporary Piano", in which he demonstrates his amazing R&B/Gospel style. He uses "Happy Birthday" to show various ways it could be played, first changing it from its usual 3/4 meter to 4/4, and then playing it with very creative R&B/Gospel chord changes and rhythms. There was no song so simple that Tee couldn't transform into a masterpiece.

Click here to listen to Richard Tee's "Happy Birthday".

My new Richard Tee transcription:

Richard Tee - "Happy Birthday" -

Far from Brooklyn, down in Oklahoma, another little boy was born a year after Richard Tee, and that was Russell Bridges - whom we all know and love as Leon Russell - rock pianist extraordinaire.

Little Russell began playing piano at the age of four. He attended Will Rogers High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the same 1959 class as David Gates ('Bread'). Russell and Gates played and recorded together as the Fencement.

At 14 Russell was already performing at Tulsa nightclubs. "Oklahoma was a dry state and consequently there was no liquor laws, and I was able to take advantage of that by playing in nightclubs at the age of 14. It was real handy."

At 17, in 1958, Russell moved from Tulsa to Los Angeles, where as a first-call studio musician he played on many of the most popular recordings of the 1960s.

In early 1970 Joe Cocker needed to put together a band quickly for a U.S. tour and hired Russell to recruit the musicians. Russell hired members of The Wrecking Crew, the Delaney & Bonnie band, and Cocker's Grease Band, and began rehearsals.

Shortly thereafter, jam sessions with Bonnie & Delaney led to Leon recording "Faded Love" with them - a very spare arrangement that's most just Leon's gospel-style piano and Delaney's voice.

My Leon Russell transcriptions:

Bonnie & Delaney - "Faded Love" - Complete Piano Part - Leon Russell, piano -
Leon Russell - "She Belongs to Me" - Complete Piano Part
Leon Russell - "I Put a Spell on You"
Leon Russell - "Tryin' To Stay 'Live"
Bobby 'Boris' Pickett - "Monster Mash" - Leon Russell, piano
Joe Cocker - "Delta Lady" - Leon Russell, piano
Joe Cocker - "The Letter" - Leon Russell, piano

In 1965 in San Jose, California, high school friends formed People! (yes, the exclamation point is part of their name) - a classic one-hit wonder band.

One of their members, Larry Norman, went on to become an influential pioneer of Christian rock music.

They had a lot of regional success, including opening for major artists, and in February 1968 released their big hit, "I Love You", originally written and recorded by The Zombies. By the summer of '68 it was #1 in Japan, Israel and Italy, and a huge smash in the U.S., Canada and the UK.

People! appeared on lots of TV shows of the day, including Dick Clark's American Bandstand and Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show.

"I Love You" was on both Billboard's and Cashbox's Top 100 songs for 1968.

The recording contained a keyboard solo that was actually two keyboards playing the same notes: a piano and a Hammond organ. If you like Retro and/or the 1960's 'sound', you might like "I Love You".

To listen to the keyboard solo, click here.

People! - "I Love You" - Piano/Organ Solo, plus Bass Guitar -

This month there is a new exercise for those that like the Allman Brothers, Chuck Leavell, or want to improve their chops in general - or all the above.

This exercise is designed to increase your facility with chord inversions, show you how to harmonize a scale (or at least 6 of the 7 notes) using just I and ii chords (good for both Southern rock and gospel), and hopefully help your sense of rhythm while doing it.

The pattern is a group of 6 phrases, before repeating and then changing direction, that are sometimes grouped 3 + 3, and sometimes grouped 4 + 2. The exercise contains both patterns, including fingering. They both sound a lot like something Leavell might play with The Allman Brothers.

(BTW, if you need other good, effective technical exercises, please check out the other 33 exercises available.)


Elmo Peeler - Allman Brothers Exercise - 'Triplets Riff on I & ii Chords' -

Happy June!

Gregg Allman was born and spent much of his childhood in Nashville, Tennessee before moving to Daytona Beach, FL at age 12.

When he was only two, a hitchhiker shot and killed his father. Almost destitute, his mother placed Gregg and his older brother Duane into a military academy while she studied to become a CPA.

Gregg worked as a paperboy to afford a Silvertone guitar, purchased at Sears, and with Duane formed his first 'real' band, The Escorts, who evolved into the Allman Joys.

It was with the Allman Joys that he got his first keyboard, a Vox organ.

After moving to St. Louis, and then to Los Angeles, Gregg returned to Jacksonville, FL and founded the Allman Brothers Band. The rest is history.

Gregg's favorite song that he was most proud of was "Midnight Rider". Written at a rented farmhouse on a lake near Macon, Georgia, the song came to him quickly and out of nowhere. He completed a rough draft in just over an hour of writing.

My Allman Brothers transcriptions:

Gregg Allman - Midnight Rider (from "Laid Back" album) - Electric Piano Riff -
The Allman Brothers Band - Jessica - Entire Piano Part - played by Chuck Leavell
The Allman Brothers Band - Jessica - Piano Solo from Tutorial Video - played by Chuck Leavell
The Allman Brothers Band - Jessica - Piano Solo - 1973/2007 'Hybrid' - played by Chuck Leavell
The Allman Brothers Band - Southbound - Piano Part without Solo - played by Chuck Leavell
The Allman Brothers Band - Stormy Monday - Organ Solo - played by Gregg Allman
The Allman Brothers Band - Whipping Post - Entire Organ Part - played by Gregg Allman

If there were a Hall of Fame for background vocalists, Merry Clayton would be in it.

She began her recording career at the age of 14, singing a duet with Bobby Darin, "When I Can't Count on you".

Merry went on to sing with Joe Cocker, Linda Ronstadt, Carole King, Neil Young, Burt Bacharach and many, many others.

She sang a duet with Mick Jagger on "Gimme Shelter", sang backing vocals on Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama", sang on Ringo Starr's "Oh My My", and was one of Ray Charles' Raelettes - plus many others.

In 1971 she released her own eponymous album, which contained Bill Withers' song, "Grandma's Hands". A particularly funky/R&B piano solo is in it.

Merry Clayton - "Grandma's Hands" - Piano Solo

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, his father nicknamed him Bocephus after a Grand Ole Opry ventriloquist's dummy.

After his father's death when he was 5, a number of contemporary musicians visited the family and influenced Hank Jr., including Johnny Cash, Fats Domino, Earl Scruggs, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

He first stepped onto a stage and sang his father's songs at age 8, and at 17 made his recording debut with "Long Gone Lonesome Blues", on of his father's classic songs.

In 1983 he recorded the ZZ Top hit, "La Grange", on his "Strong Stuff" album. The song contains a powerful piano solo that is more rock than country.

Hank Williams Jr. - "La Grange" - Piano Solo

Bobby "Blue" Bland was born in the small town of Barretville, Tennessee. Shortly afterward, his father abandoned the family.

Never graduating from school his mother moved to Memphis when he was 17, and he began singing with local gospel groups and hanging out on Beale Street, where he became friends with B.B. King, Junior Parker, Johnny Ace, and other aspiring bluesmen.

At Ike Turner's suggestion, Bland recorded for Sun Records, unsuccessfully, and was then drafted for two years into the U.S. Army, during which time he performed in a band with Eddie Fisher.

When Bland returned to Memphis at age 24, he signed a recording contract that gave him just half a cent per record sold, only 25% of the industry standard.

At age 25 his first single for Duke Records was released, and by age 27 started having chart success. By 31 he was having #1 hits, including "Cry, Cry, Cry" and "Turn On Your Love Light". In 1975 he recorded "I Take It On Home", which starts with a wonderful piano 'flip', then modulates up a half-step after two verses with another piano flip.

Bobby 'Blue' Bland - "I Take It On Home"

Three things that contribute to good technique is Left/Right-hand coordination, facility with 4-note triads, and finger independence.

This month there are two new exercises for just those needs.

I've taken Roy Bittan's piano part for Springsteen's "Hungry Heart" and made it into a simple exercise in coordination that also gives practice for 4-note chords and how to 'weight' those chords for a brighter, more exciting sound. Two exercises are included, the second only slightly more challenging.

Also, to address finger independence, e.g., getting the 4th finger to function more independently of the 3rd and 5th fingers, I've taken the old "horn 5ths" voicing (as in hunters' horns or early valveless French horns) and made it into a 4-octave double-note exercise for the Right Hand. Not only will it help your technique but also it is a commonly-used voicing that all pianists should know. You've probably heard "horn 5ths" without realizing they had a name.

(BTW, if you need other good, effective technical exercises, please check out the other 31 exercises available.)

Elmo Peeler - Right Hand Double-note Exercise - 'Hunting Horns'
Elmo Peeler - Coordination & 4-note Triad Exercise - 'Hungry Heart' Style

Happy May!

Dr. Ethel Caffie-Austin is West Virginia's "First Lady of Gospel Music". Born in Bluefield, WV on February 11,1949, she was immersed in gospel music literally before she could walk - her father was pastor of the local Pentecostal Church.

At age three she began singing with the choir, and at six began playing piano. By nine she was accompanying church services, and at age ten directing the choir.

At fourteen she assembled with singers from ten parishes what has become the Mass Choir of West Virginia State. She graduated from Mount Hope High School, and founded the Black Sacred Music Festival at West Virginia State University. Also, she has been appointed the Minister of Music for the State of West Virginia.

A wonderful pianist, vocalist, and teacher, she has performed in prisons, schools, housing projects, and festivals across North America and Europe. Widely respected for her teaching and for her gospel workshops, after the death of Mahalia Jackson, Ethel has become known as the First Lady of Gospel Music. She was the subject of a 1997 Goldenseal magazine article, "Hand-Clapping and Hallelujahs: A Visit with Ethel Caffie-Austin", and a 1999 documentary film entitled "His Eye Is On the Sparrow".

Her solo piano performance of "Amazing Grace" has had over 130,000 hits on YouTube. If you haven't seen it, treat yourself. Just click here. After watching it you might want to learn it. The good news is that now you can - note-for-note. The CrowdFunding appeal last month was a success, and allowed the creation of this brand-new transcription.

If you haven't heard Ethel Caffie-Austin's wonderful performance of "Amazing Grace", listen to it here on YouTube.

My gospel-style piano transcriptions:


Ethel Caffie-Austin - Amazing Grace - Complete Piano Part
Leon Russell - She Belongs to Me - Complete Piano Part
Ray Charles - "Sweet Sixteen Bars" - Complete Piano Part

Two of the most important elements of old-time gospel piano are the knowledge of how to voice chords and to know how to segue from one chord to another. One of the many ways to voice gospel-style chords is to play the melody with two hands, with a chord in-between - sort of like George Shearing's two-handed block-chord jazz style, but less complicated.

My new Gospel Chord Exercise No.1 explains exactly how to do it. Please listen to the example, which illustrates this technique on both piano and organ.

Near the end of Ethel Caffie-Austin's performance of "Amazing Grace", she pauses right after a wonderful gospel riff, and says that she plays that riff more than any other - that it must be her signature. It is indeed a very important old-time gospel riff, mostly used for leading from one chord into another, sort of a transition line.

My other brand-new exercise addresses exactly Ethel's "signature lick", explains exactly what it is, and gives a 7-bar phrase (fun to play!) to clearly illustrate exactly how it's transcriptions:


Elmo Peeler - Gospel Chromatically Descending Riff Exercise - Ethel Caffie-Austin's Signature Lick
Elmo Peeler - Gospel Chord Exercise No.1

Back in the 1970's and 1980's when I was touring with The Beach Boys, The Sweet Inspirations, and Ricky Nelson - color photographs from outer space became available for the first time in history, thanks to NASA's satellite exploration of our own solar system.

The color NASA photographs were beautiful and inspiring, but not easily acquired for wall art - I wanted to put some of them onto the walls of my home studio. So I started a company, Woodstock Products, to make them available to the public. As my musical career progressed, I had no time for the lithograph company, and shut it down in 1981.

Over the years I've been asked many times to make these classic lithographs available again. The recent fly-by of Saturn's rings has finally convinced me.

  • There are five large - 34" x 22" (almost 3' x 2') - lithographs available:
  • Large
  • High Quality
  • Titled
  • Full-Color
  • Heavy KromeKote paper
  • Markote finish (a liquid laminate protective spray)
  • Perfect for framing

If you'd like to order any of these prints, here are important details:

  • These are "NOS" - New Old Stock. Over 36 years old, they've been well-stored but show slight signs of aging, such as slightly yellowed borders near the edges. Matting and framing should make them look like new, by covering those edges.
  • The original 1981 price for each print was the equivalent of $65 in today's dollars. The price of this New Old Stock is $29.95 each + 8.05 shipping (in a sturdy tube).
  • Stock is limited.
  • Shipping will be slow. Give your order a couple of weeks to arrive.
  • Unconditional Money-back Guarantee
  • All sheet music (transcriptions, exercises, etc.) is in PDF format and is available for digital download immediately upon completion of purchase.
  • Lithographs are not downloadable, and require physical delivery to an actual address.

 

My NASA Outer Space Photography High-Quality Lithographs:


Saturn - October 1980
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Rings of Saturn - August 17, 1981

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Lunar Earthrise - July 31, 1969

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Orion Nebula - March 1978

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Jupiter - February 5, 1979

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Happy April!

Growing up in Chicago, Dennis DeYoung, a self-taught keyboardist, began his career as a vocalist at age 14 in 1961 when he teamed up with his two 13-year-old neighbors in a three-piece combo.

The trio later added two guitarists to form the band Tradewinds in the late 1960s, and then renamed itself TW4 in 1968 before becoming Styx in 1970.

Before the band met with success, DeYoung spent time as an elementary school teacher in the southern suburbs of Chicago, where he taught music at a variety of schools.

During this period, the band played a number of small venues and school auditoriums, refining their craft before the song "Lady" propelled them to stardom.

I've already transcribed both synth solos in"Fooling Yourself", one of their biggest hits, and have recently completed transcribing all the keyboard parts for the entire song.

Here are my four synthesizer transcriptions:


Styx - "Fooling Yourself" - Complete Song - All Keyboard Parts
Styx - "Fooling Yourself" - Synth Solo No.1
Styx - "Fooling Yourself" - Synth Solo No.2
The Cars - "Bye Bye Love" - Synth Solo

Jonny Lang, a talented blues/rock guitarist from North Dakota, heard his first blues band at age 12.

Afterward, he asked the lead guitarist to teach him guitar; and after only a year of lessons, the band asked him to join them, changing their name to Jonny Lang & The Big Bang.

At 15 he recorded his first blues album, and at 17 his third album, "Wander This World", was nominated for a Grammy.

"Still Rainin'", a driving rocker with an edge, was written by Bruce McCabe, who also played piano on it.

McCabe's favorites include Otis Spann, Lafayette Leake, and Memphis Slim.

This month the entire piano part on "Still Rainin'" has been transcribed.

Don Henley, the co-founder of the Eagles in 1971, was their drummer until they broke up in 1980, whereupon Henley started a solo career.

His band included pianist Jai Winding, son of jazz trombonist/composer Kai Winding.

A talented pianist with a good flair for gospel/rock, Winding eventually became one of Los Angeles' most successful real estate agents.

On October 13, 1986 Henley performed at the Bridge School Benefit at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California.

His set list included the 1961 Stax Records R&B classic by William Bell, "You Don't Miss Your Water".

Jai Winding played a wonderful gospel/rock piano part on it. In 9/8 meter, it's similar to a waltz within a waltz. Winding made good use tremolos in 3rds and 6ths, octaves, and other gospel-piano techniques, including a solo halfway through. This song has never been included on a Don Henley album, but sometimes appears on YouTube.

This month I've transcribed Winding's entire piano part, exactly as it was played. If you enjoy gospel-rock, you'll like this track.

My songs by Don Henley and the Eagles:


Don Henley - "You Don't Miss Your Water" - Entire Piano Part, played by Jai Winding
The Eagles - "Desperado" - Entire Piano Part, played by Glenn Frey
The Eagles - "Please Come Home for Christmas" - Entire Piano Part, played by Glenn Frey

In 1825 Franz Schubert composed "Ave Maria", one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs ever written.

In 2010 Rick Wakeman recorded it on his "Always with You" CD.

This month I've transcribed Wakeman's "Ave Maria".

If you haven't heard Wakeman's 2010 version of "Ave Maria", listen to it here on YouTube.

My Rick Wakeman transcriptions:

Rick Wakeman - "Ave Maria" (2010) - Complete Piano Part
Rick Wakeman - "Morning Has Broken" (2017) - Complete Piano Part
Cat Stevens - "Morning Has Broken" - Complete Piano Part

Happy March!

Last month Rick Wakeman's musical background was discussed. So this month we'll look at his new CD, and only briefly cover his background.

Born in 1949 in London, Wakeman began playing piano at the age of five and began weekly lessons at seven.

At eleven he entered his first of many music competitions held around London, often winning.

Wakeman played in his first band, a traditional jazz band, at age 12.

At 13 he began taking church organ lessons, and at 14 joined a local blues group, the Atlantic Blues.

At 17 he joined another band, the Concordes, using the money to buy his first electronic instrument, a Hohner Pianet.

At 19 he secured a place at the Royal College of Music in London, studying piano, clarinet, orchestration, and modern music, with the intention of becoming a concert pianist. He stayed about a year, leaving for session work.

Last year Wakeman said, "I've been wanting to do a piano album for years, really, of classic songs, a mixture of music, some classical, all done in the only style I know how to play really.

"I spent quite a bit of time looking at everything from almost straight classical pieces to some stuff that I'd played on in the past like 'Morning Has Broken'... plus pieces of music that I thought would work really, really well, like 'Stairway to Heaven'.

"I came in here and there were four Model D Steinways (9' Concert Grands), this being one of them, there's another one up there, there's two over there, there's pianos everywhere, I've never seen so many pianos in my life... And this particular piano I literally fell in love with.

"When I was five, my music teacher she taught me that music was color, you were painting pictures.. I see pictures, I paint pictures. I can't imagine my life without music, I can't really imagine life without playing, without being able to play. It is monstrously important to me in my life."

If you haven't heard Wakeman's 2017 version of "Morning Has Broken", listen to it here on YouTube.

My Rick Wakeman transcriptions:


Rick Wakeman - Morning Has Broken (2017) - Complete Piano Part
Cat Stevens - "Morning Has Broken" - Complete Piano Part


Liberace was born in Wisconsin in 1919, and like Elvis, had a twin who died at birth.

He began playing piano at age four, and was capable of memorizing difficult pieces by age seven.

He idolized Paderewski and upon meeting him at age eight said, "I began to practice with a fervor that made my previous interest in the piano look like neglect."

Local music teacher Florence Kelly oversaw Liberace's musical development for 10 years.

He began playing in theaters, on local radio, and for weddings and dance classes (which requires good sight-reading).

At 15 he played jazz piano with a school group, "The Mixers", and soon started performing in cabarets and strip clubs. Using the stage name Walter Busterkeys he made a tidy living during tough Depression times, despite the disapproval of his parents.

At 20 he performed Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 2 in A Major with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to good reviews, and toured the Midwest.

Between the ages of 23 and 25 Liberace moved away from straight classical performances to "pop with a bit of the classics".

At 24 he appeared in his first Soundies (precursor to music videos), and at 25 made his first appearances in Las Vegas.

By 26 he was playing for the best private parties, including those at the Park Avenue home of J. Paul Getty, but chose not to pursue a career in radio, believing radio unsuitable given his act's dependency on the visual.

His first show on local TV in Los Angeles was a smash hit, which he parlayed into a sold-out appearance at the Hollywood Bowl, which in turn led to a 1952 summer replacement program for the Dinah Shore TV show, The Liberace Show.

His first two years in TV earned him the equivalent of $63,000,000 in 2017 dollars, and he went on to become the highest paid entertainer in the world for many years.

One of his most-requested pieces was "Bumble Boogie" - and also one of his most difficult. It has never before been available as an accurate, note-for-note transcription, until now.

If you haven't heard Liberace's "Bumble Boogie", watch him play it here on YouTube.

My Liberace transcriptions:


Liberace - "Bumble Boogie"
Liberace - "Boogie Woogie"
Liberace - "Chopsticks"

Also new this month is a new exercise - a two-handed repetitive, syncopated piano riff that's fun for audiences not only to hear but also to watch, as the hands alternate rapidly, almost in a blur to the viewer.

This type of riff, rather athletic in nature, has been used by lots of rock pianists, including Billy Joel. It is based on the Left Hand vs Right Hand suncopation of a drummer's paradiddle.

This 10-bar exercise will help improve your sense of rhythm and Left Hand vs Right Hand coordination as well as strength and stamina.,.

My newest exercise:


Elmo Peeler - Paradiddle Exercise No. 2 - 'Billy Joel-style'


Happy February!

Born in 1949 in London, Rick Wakeman began playing piano at the age of five. At seven he began weekly lessons with Dorothy Symes, which were to continue for eleven years - until he was accepted by the Royal College of Music.

Symes noted that Wakeman "passed everything with distinction" and was an "enjoyable pupil to teach, full of fun and with a good sense of humor", but noted his lack of self-discipline when it came to practicing.

At age 11 Wakeman entered his first music competition, and went on to win many awards, certificates and cups in contests held around London. At 13 he began taking church organ lessons, while continuing to win more festivals.

Wakeman played in his first band, a traditional jazz band, at age 12, and at 14 joined a local blues group, the Atlantic Blues.

At 17 he joined another band, the Concordes, and used the money earned to buy his first electronic instrument, a Hohner Pianet.

At 19 he secured a place at the Royal College of Music in London, studying piano, clarinet, orchestration, and modern music, with the intention of becoming a concert pianist. To enter, he was required to pass eight music exams. His teacher, Ms. Symes, bet him 10 shillings that he would not succeed. His mother recalled that he put in "two years' work in ten months", but he won the bet, and joined the Royal College on a performers course before a change to the teachers course. But he quickly found out that "everyone there was at least as good as me, and a lot of them much better."

Wakeman's first time in a recording studio was as organist and brass arranger for the Ike & Tina Turner band. During that session he met producers Tony Visconti, Gus Dudgeon and Denny Cordell, who would go on to produce, respectively, David Bowie, Elton John, & Joe Cocker.

At 20 he left the Royal College of Music to become a full-time session musician, playing an average of 18 sessions per week, and gaining the nickname, "One Take Wakeman".

However, he soon tired of session work, saying "I was getting good bread, but I wasn't getting a chance to be part of the music."

His big break came in July 1970 at a performance with his band the Strawbs, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, which was recorded for their live album. The set included an extended organ solo and Wakeman's piano piece, "Temperament of Mind", which received a standing ovation. After that concert, Wakeman appeared on the cover of Melody Maker, being called "tomorrow's superstar".

He continued performing with the Strawbs for another year, and playing on sessions, including "Morning Has Broken" for Cat Stevens.

After leaving the Strawbs, in July 1971 he was confronted with "one of the most difficult decisions" of his career - on one single day he was offered both a chair in David Bowie's new backing band, The Spiders from Mars, and an invitation from Chris Squire to join "Yes". Believing that Yes offered better career opportunities, he declined Bowie's offer.

Then Yes made their new album "Fragile" in five weeks to help finance a new set of keyboards for Wakeman. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Wakeman's newest release is "Piano Portraits", released in January 2017, an album featuring his own sublime arrangement of one of rock's most legendary songs, "Stairway to Heaven" - a stunning arrangement for solo piano that's over six minutes long.

If you've never heard Wakeman's version of "Stairway to Heaven", listen to it here on YouTube.

My Rick Wakeman transcription:

Cat Stevens - "Morning Has Broken" - Complete Piano Part

Happy New Year - January 2017!

Born as Reginald Dwight in 1947 near London, Elton John began playing piano at the age of three. At four he was overheard by his mother picking out Winnifred Atwell's version of "The Skater's Waltz".

(I'd like to interject that I can not find that recording by Atwell. If anyone has it, or knows where it can be found, please drop me a note.)

After performing at parties and family gatherings, at age 7 young Reggie started formal piano lessons. He showed musical aptitude at school, including the ability to compose melodies, and gained some notoriety by playing like Jerry Lee Lewis at school functions.

At the age of 11, he won a junior scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. According to one of his instructors, young Reginald promptly played back, like a "gramophone record", a four-page piece by Handel that he had heard for the first time.

For the next five years, he attended Saturday classes at the Academy in central London, and has stated that he enjoyed playing Bach and Chopin and singing in the choir during Saturday classes, but that he was not otherwise a diligent classical student.

"I kind of resented going to the Academy", he says. "I was one of those children who could just about get away without practising and still pass, scrape through the grades." He even claims that he would sometimes skip classes and just ride around on the Tube.

However, several instructors have said that he was a "model student", and during the last few years he took lessons from a private tutor in addition to his classes at the Academy.

At the age of 15 he became a weekend pianist at a nearby pub, the Northwood Hills Hotel, playing Thursday to Sunday nights. Known simply as "Reggie", he played a range of popular standards, including songs by Jim Reeves and Ray Charles, as well as songs he had written himself.

In 1967, he answered a magazine adplaced by Ray Williams, the A&R (Artists & Repertoire) director for Liberty Records. At their first meeting, Williams gave him a stack of lyrics written by Bernie Taupin, who had answered the same ad. He wrote music for the lyrics, and then mailed it to Taupin, beginning a partnership that still continues.

If you've never heard Elton's live TV performance of "Tiny Dancer" with just solo piano, listen to it here on YouTube.

My Elton John transcriptions:

Elton John - "Tiny Dancer" - Studio Version - Complete Piano Part
Elton John - "Tiny Dancer" - Live TV Version (Solo Piano) - Complete Piano Part
Elton John - "Levon" - Chord Chart & Important Piano Fills

Orleans was a band formed in Woodstock, New York in 1972 that played a lot of New Orleans music, so they named themselves after the Louisiana city. Their co-founder was Larry Hoppen, who played keyboards and co-wrote "Love Takes Time", which reached #11 in 1979.

This is a note-for-note transcription of the 16-bar Piano Intro, which has some chord voicings that can be difficult to pick out exactly. While this is only the Intro, it does reoccur later in the song. This will allow you to play the Intro precisely as it was recorded, and learn some new voicings in the process.

My new Orleans transcription:

Orleans - "Love Takes Time" - 16-bar Piano Intro - Larry Hoppen, piano


Happy December 2016!

Born in Lawton, Oklahoma in 1942, Leon Russell began playing piano at the age of four. He attended Will Rogers High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the same 1959 class as David Gates ('Bread'). Russell and Gates played and recorded together as the Fencement.

At 14 Russell was already performing at Tulsa nightclubs. "Oklahoma was a dry state and consequently there was no liquor laws, and I was able to take advantage of that by playing in nightclubs at the age of 14. It was real handy."

At 17, in 1958, Russell moved from Tulsa to Los Angeles, where as a first-call studio musician he played on many of the most popular recordings of the 1960s.

In early 1970 Cocker needed to put together a band quickly for a U.S. tour and hired Russell to recruit the musicians. Russell hired members of The Wrecking Crew, the Delaney and Bonnie band, and Cocker's Grease Band, and began rehearsals.

Those rehearsals led to the live Fillmore East concert that was recorded and released as the MadDogs & Englishmen album, along with the 1971 movie, "Mad Dogs & Englishmen" - a documentary of the Joe Cocker tour for which Leon served as Musical Director.

Elton John says, "I've always called him the master. When anyone says, 'Who's your favorite piano player?' I always said, 'Well, the master is Leon Russell.'"

Which made it especially nerve-racking when Elton looked out in the audience at a Los Angeles club, as he made his U.S. debut in 1970.

"I'm in the middle of 'Burn Down the Mission'", he recalled, "and I look to my right, and there's only 250 people in the Troubadour, and in the second row, I see this long mane of silver hair, and these glasses, and you know, Leon was a pretty handsome guy!

"But he was also, you know, he was kind of scary-looking, 'cause he was under these glasses and this hair. And I thought I'm gonna have to meet him afterwards and he's gonna tell me how to play the piano."

Leon was indeed the master, and one of the most influential pianists for me personally.

To honor his memory I've transcribed his 1970 performance of Bob Dylan's "She Belongs to Me".

I chose it because it is an excellent example of his "white gospel" style that he picked up as a child in Oklahoma and incorporated so well into his own gospel-rock style.

Very few have even heard it because it wasn't released until 1995, and then only as a bonus track on the "Leon Russell & The Shelter People" Deluxe CD re-issue.

If you've never heard Leon's "She Belongs to Me", listen to it here on YouTube.

My Leon Russell transcriptions:

Leon Russell - "She Belongs to Me" - Complete Piano Part
Leon Russell - "A Song for You"
Leon Russell - "I Put a Spell on You"
Leon Russell - "Tryin' To Stay 'Live"
Bobby 'Boris' Pickett - "Monster Mash" - Leon Russell, piano
Joe Cocker - "Delta Lady" - Leon Russell, piano
Joe Cocker - "The Letter" - Leon Russell, piano

John Elefante was the lead singer and songwriter of Kansas from 1982 through 1984. After leaving Kansas, Elefante formed his own band with his brother Dino - Mastedon.

"Shine On", released in 1989 on their "It's a Jungle Out There" album, was one of their bigger hits, with an ABBA-influenced sound.

If you don't remember it, click here to listen to it on YouTube.

My new Mastedon transcription:

Mastedon - "Shine On" - Piano Solo & Outro + Detailed Chord Chart - John Elefante, piano


Happy November 2016!

Nicky Hopkins - Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones called him 'the greatest rock 'n' roll piano player in the world', and the Kinks dedicated a song to him, "Session Man" on their 1966 Face to Face album.

He played piano with The Beatles ("Revolution") and John Lennon ("Imagine"), and for the Who, the Kinks, Jeff Beck, Jerry Garcia, Cat Stevens, Jefferson Airplane, the Steve Miller Band, Carly Simon, Harry Nilsson, Joe Cocker, Peter Frampton, Art Garfunkel, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and many others.

Born in England in 1944, a year younger than George Harrison, Nicky began playing at age three, and started lessons at six. By the time he was eleven his solo performances were singled out in the local paper: "Eleven-year-old Nicholas Hopkins played his own composition, "Processional March"... The audience so applauded that Nicholas played the march again."

He learned to sight-read and progressed rapidly through the classical repertoire,and from age 12 to 16 he studied every Saturday morning at the Royal Academy of Music, where he was almost certainly a contemporary of eleven-year-old Reginald Dwight (Elton John) - both scholarship winners.

Also at age twelve he later recalled, "It was the first time I remember being able to listen and then sit down at the piano and playing it. That's when I first started to understand music, beyond just having the ability to read it. Rock allowed me to experiment with new styles, but I never lost that classical element in my music. I was twelve when I first heard Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis and those records made a fantastic impression on me."

However, Nicky rebelled against authority and by his own admission was only good at music and English, so he dropped out of school at sixteen to join his first band, Screaming Lord Sutch's Savages. Later in his teen years his always-frail health - Crohn's disease - necessitated a series of operations that made him bed-ridden for nineteen months, from May 1963 to December 1964.

Upon recovery, rather than joining bands, he concentrated on session work and became one of London's most in-demand session pianists, working extensively with leading UK producers Shel Talmy (the Who and the Kinks) and Andrew Loog Oldham (the Rolling Stones).

At 23 he joined the Jeff Beck Group with vocalist Rod Stewart, and at 25 recorded his own instrumental, "Girl from Mill Valley". The 'Girl' was the then-separated wife of a Quicksilver Messenger Service band-mate - one of shy Nicky's few romantic interests. Introduced by a mutual friend in California, he invited her to return to England with him, which she did, and met his parents. However, she kept it a platonic friendship and after ten days returned to Mill Valley. Nicky once said the song was "about nobody".

Nicky's piano sound was characterized by a certain bright percussiveness, always with clean, precisely-executed rhythms that could propel a rhythm track like drum fills. He had a great sense of classical-influenced melody, balance and proportion, and was equally at home in ballads ("Angie") and up-tempo rockers ("Revolution").

Since most of his recordings were accompanying tracks with the piano often buried in the mix under vocals, "Girl from Mill Valley", his own instrumental with up-front piano throughout, is an excellent study in gospel-rock generally, and Nicky Hopkins' style specifically.

If you've never heard the elegant "Girl from Mill Valley", listen to it here on YouTube.

My Nicky Hopkins transcriptions:

The Jeff Beck Group - "Girl from Mill Valley" - Complete Piano Part - Nicky Hopkins, piano -
John Lennon - "Imagine" - Piano Part - Nicky Hopkins, piano
The Rolling Stones - "She's a Rainbow" - Piano Intro - Nicky Hopkins, piano

Chuck Leavell learned piano by listening to his mother play the family spinet, and by age six was sitting at the piano with his mother, beginning to learn.

While his mom did housework, Chuck would sit on the piano stool and pick out little melodies, and harmonies.

She would ask him what would the piano would sound like if he woke up angry, or if there were a storm outside, or if he felt really good. She was getting him to think about music as feelings and emotions, not just notes on a page.

At the encouragement of his parents he began taking lessons but quit after six months. His cousin taught him guitar chords; he played tuba in the Jr High School band; and then started his own band, the Misfitz, playing every Friday night at the local YMCA.

He started out playing guitar but soon added a Farfisa Combo Compact organ, then a Wurlitzer electric piano, and began concentrating on keyboards.

By 15 he was doing recording sessions, making $25 a day playing demos in Birmingham & Muscle Shoals.

After moving to Macon, GA at age 17 in 1969, he played with artists including the Marshall Tucker Band, Charlie Daniels, Wet Willie, Bobby Whitlock, and Bonnie Bramlett.

And then in 1972 at the age of 20 Chuck was asked to join the Allman Brothers Band. And then ten years later he was touring with the Rolling Stones. Not bad for a Georgia tree farmer.

My Chuck Leavell transcriptions:

The Allman Brothers Band - "Jessica" - Complete Piano Part - Chuck Leavell, piano -
Eric Clapton - "San Francisco Bay Blues" - Chuck Leavell, piano
The Allman Brothers Band - "Southbound" - Chuck Leavell, piano

My other Allman Brothers Band transcriptions:

The Allman Brothers Band - "Stormy Monday" - Organ Solo - Gregg Allman, B-3 organ
The Allman Brothers Band - "Whipping Post" - Complete Organ Part - Gregg Allman, B-3 organ

Happy October 2016!

In the mid-1960's Gregg Rolie started playing rock piano in his Palo Alto, California high school after the Beatles exploded onto the scene. The best band in the high school asked him to join, so he began playing a Vox Continental organ and trying to sound like Paul Revere & The Raiders.

A friend from Palo Alto saw Carlos Santana play and said, “I’m gonna go find this guy!” So he drove 30 miles up to San Francisco and asked someone at the Fillmore how he could find Carlos. They told him that he worked at a hamburger stand called Tick Tock’s on Columbus Street. My friend found him there and said, “I want you to come jam with Gregg Rolie down in Palo Alto.” So he brought Carlos down and we played together in a little farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. This was of course, back in the days of heavy marijuana usage, and someone evidently called the cops because of the noise. I turned to Carlos and said, “We’ve gotta get out of here!” But coming from the streets of Tijuana, he was way ahead of me. We all ran out of the farmhouse and hid in a tomato patch until the cops left! And that’s how it all started.

Rolie became a co-founder of Santana, and played keyboards and sang lead on "Black Magic Woman", "Oye Como Va", and "Evil Ways".

As he says, "I bought my first Hammond B-3 organ from a little old lady in Menlo Park, California. It was absolutely beautiful and only cost me $1,100 with a 122 Leslie, which was a total steal at the time. This was around 1966 or ’67, when I joined Santana. In the beginning, that organ sounded really clean. But as the years went on, and from it being constantly loaded in and out of vans, the sound got dirtier."

His other keyboard with Santana was a Stage model Fender Rhodes 73 with a wah-wah pedal.

After leaving Santana in 1972 because of musical differences, he co-founded Journey.

Since 2012 Rolie has toured as a member of Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band.

My Gregg Rolie and Santana transcriptions:

Santana - "Black Magic Woman" - Gregg Rolie, electric piano -
Santana - "Oye Como Va" - Gregg Rolie, organ -
Santana - "Evil Ways" - Gregg Rolie, organ
Santana - "Smooth" - Chester Thompson, piano

Jackson Browne is one of rock's best singer-songwriters, and plays both guitar and piano. After early professional frustrations, Browne sent an audition tape to David Geffen and left town to check out communes in Colorado and New Mexico. When he returned to L.A. three months later, Geffen signed him and released his first album, "Jackson Browne", which contained the classics, "Jamaica Say You Will", "Doctor My Eyes", and "Rock Me on the Water". However, Browne says that his favorite songs on that album are the "low-intensity" songs, including "Looking into You", an early song on which he himself plays piano.

My Jackson Browne transcriptions:

Jackson Browne - "Looking into You" - Jackson Browne, piano -
Jackson Browne - "I Thought I Was a Child" - Jackson Browne, piano
Jackson Browne - "Rock Me on the Water" - Craig Doerge, piano

A student recently asked me to combine the Right Hand part for Chuck Leavell's piano solo in "Jessica" (1973) with his Left Hand part in a 2007 instructional video. The results came out surprisingly well, so perhaps some Allman Brothers and Chuck Leavell fans might be interested in this one-of-a-kind transcription. My transcription of the original 1973 solo does not include the left hand. But if you'd like to play that original solo with a genuine Chuck Leavell left hand accompaniment, this new 'hybrid' transcription is just what you need.

It sounds terrific - click here to listen.

My Allman Brothers Band transcriptions:

The Allman Brothers Band - Jessica - Piano Solo - 1973 Album Right Hand + 2007 Video Left Hand -
The Allman Brothers Band - Jessica
The Allman Brothers Band - Jessica Solo from Tutorial Video
The Allman Brothers Band - Southbound
The Allman Brothers Band - Stormy Monday
The Allman Brothers Band - Whipping Post

Brian Bell, lead guitarist for "Weezer", has used my orchestral arrangements and piano-playing on his own projects for years.

Currently on tour promoting Weezer's new album, The White Album, he and Rivers Cuomo mentioned my transcriptions, my arranging, and the lessons they took with me on a nationally-broadcast radio show, "2 Hours with Matt Pinfield".

Click here to listen to Rivers Cuomo and Brian Bell of Weezer characterize my Brian Wilson transcriptions as "exact, perfect".

My Brian Wilson transcriptions:

The Beach Boys - "California Girls"
The Beach Boys - "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)" (Brian's Instrumental Demo)
The Beach Boys - "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)" ("Pet Sounds" Version)
The Beach Boys - "God Only Knows"
The Beach Boys - "Good Vibrations"
The Beach Boys - "Sail On, Sailor"

Happy September 2016!

It always surprises me that so few know who British blues singer 'Long John' Baldry was, even though he was respected enough by Reggie Dwight to use his first name as Reggie's last, when Reggie changed his name to Elton John. Indeed, in 1966 Elton (as Reg Dwight) had been keyboard player in Baldry's band, Bluesology.

Elton's song "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" was written after Elton attempted suicide in 1969 because of relationship problems with a woman. Baldry and Bernie Taupin found him, and talked him out of marrying the woman.

'Long John' Baldry had a history of performing with rock's best keyboard players, starting in 1963 with Nicky Hopkins (the Cyril Davis R&B All Stars).

In 1964 Rod Stewart and Baldry were the singers in Baldry's band, Hoochie Coochie Men, which became Steampacket in 1965, with Brian Auger on organ and Julie Driscoll as the female singer.

In 1964 fantastic Scottish pianist Ian Armitt joined Baldry's Hoochie Coochie Men and stayed with Baldry as his right-hand man until at least the early 1970's.

During that time Rod Stewart and Elton John produced two of Baldry's albums, including his 1971 "It Ain't Easy", where Rod produced the 'A' side and Elton produced the 'B' side, himself playing on many of the tracks.

Rod chose to use Baldry's pianist, Ian Armitt, and produced as the first track on the album: "Conditional Discharge", a pianistically amazing 3:16-long introduction that is nothing but piano and a (very humorous) spoken vocal.

After the relaxed, laid-back "Conditional Discharge" introduction, the piano breaks into high-energy rock & roll with the entire rhythm section for another 3:23 on"Don't Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie on the King of Rock & Roll" - including a terrific, hard-driving 35-second piano solo.

BTW - a little bit of important pianistic trivia - during the piano solo, Armitt often plays the exact same Left Hand chord voicings used by Artie Butler and Chris Stainton on their versions of "Feelin' Alright" with Joe Cocker. All of that is, of course, notated in the transcription.

My 'Long John' Baldry, Elton John and Rod Stewart transcriptions are:

'Long John' Baldry - "Don't Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie on the King of Rock & Roll" -
'Long John' Baldry - "Conditional Discharge" - Ian Armitt, piano
Elton John - "Levon"
Rod Stewart - "Handbags and Gladrags" - Mike D'Abo, piano
Rod Stewart (with Jerry Lee Lewis) - "What's Made Milwaukee Famous" - Jerry Lee Lewis, piano


Lee Michaels was one of rock's greatest Hammond B-3 players. Born in Los Angeles, Michaels began his career with The Sentinels, formed with drummer Johny Barbata (later of The Turtles, Jefferson Airplane & Jefferson Starship).

After moving to San Francisco in the 1960's Michaels - called "the ultimate power organist" - began doing session work, including for Jimi Hendrix, and performing as a two-man band: himself on organ and playing bass on the pedals, and a drummer, 'Frosty'.

His most legendary album, 'Lee Michaels' (1969), was recorded live in the studio with just organ and drums, and includes a 20-minute version of Percy Mayfield & Ray Charles' "Tell Me How Do You Feel".

A 43-second section from that recording captures some of Lee Michaels' signature organ licks. My new transcription, which includes the bass pedals, will help you to better understand this organ virtuoso's style and 'sound'.

My new (and first) Lee Michaels transcription:

Lee Michaels - "Tell Me How Do You Feel" - 17-bar B-3 Organ Phrase -

A couple of years a video was posted onto YouTube titled "Crazy Random Guy Rocks Out in Hardware Store", and has received almost 3,000,000 views!

The pianist with the backwards red cap wailing on "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" is Jacob Tolliver, and the hardware store is Market Street Hardware in Portsmouth, OH.

He is currently performing in the Las Vegas production of the Million Dollar Quartet, portraying Jerry Lee Lewis.

In late 2014 Jerry Lee was asked by Keyboard Magazine about Jacob Tolliver, and the Killer replied, "He's pretty good isn't he? I think he's great."

Because Tolliver really is talented and his version of "Whole Lotta Shakin' has made so many ripples, from YouTube to American Idol to Las Vegas, I've transcribed his entire Hardware Store performance.

If you haven't seen/heard it, click here to watch it on YouTube.

Here is my new "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" transcription plus other Jerry Lee Lewis' songs:

Jacob Tolliver - "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" - Entire Piano Part -
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Crazy Arms (1956)"
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Drinkin' Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee (1957)"
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Great Balls of Fire (1957)"
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Great Balls of Fire (1989)"
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Real Wild Child (Wild One)"
Jerry Lee Lewis - "She Was My Baby (He Was My Friend)"
Jerry Lee Lewis - "That Lucky Old Sun"
Jerry Lee Lewis - "What's Made Milwaukee Famous"
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On"

Happy August 2016!

Lynyrd Skynyrd started out as a guitar-oriented Southern rock band, but when Ronnie Van Zant discovered that one of their roadies could play their songs on piano - and play them very well - things took a different turn.

After two years of schlepping gear as one of their roadies, Billy Powell sat down at a piano during a break at a 1972 show at a Jacksonville, Florida prom and played his piano-based version of "Free Bird" for Van Zant.

Astonished at his roadie's pianistic talent, Van Zant said, "You mean to tell me you've been playing the piano like that and you've been workin' for us for a year (as a roadie)?" Billy replied, "Well, you know, I've been classically trained most of my life." He was then told that the band was looking for a keyboardist and was offered that position.

In April of the following year, 1973, they recorded "Free Bird", which became their signature song, used as a finale at their live concerts. Powell's cross-handed piano Intro became a classic, although few could pick it out and play it accurately.

Two months later, in June 1973, they recorded "Sweet Home Alabama". Released a year later in June 1974, it became the band's highest-charting hit. Propelled by Powell's catchy up-tempo piano riffs and ending with one of rock's greatest piano solos, "Sweet Home Alabama" became the song that every pianist tried to play but few came close to Powell's high-energy original version.

After Billy Powell's passing in 2009, Lynyrd Skynyrd asked pianist Peter Keys to be Powell's successor.

In 1996 Keys had replaced Bernie Worrell in the original P-Funk line-up and did a lot of work with George Clinton.

In his role as Lynyrd Skynyrd's keyboardist, Keys generally sticks pretty closely to Billy Powell's original piano parts. However, his versions of "Free Bird" and "Sweet Home Alabama" vary enough from Powell's to make them valuable when studying these rock piano classics.

My Lynyrd Skynyrd transcriptions:

Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Sweet Home Alabama" - complete Billy Powell piano part (including Solo) -
Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Sweet Home Alabama" - Solo by Peter Keys -
Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Free Bird" - Intro by Peter Keys -
Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Free Bird" - Solo by Peter Keys -
Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Free Bird" - Solo by Billy Powell -
Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Call Me the Breeze" (Solo)
Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Call Me the Breeze" (Verses)
Lynyrd Skynyrd - "I Know a Little"
Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Poison Whiskey"
Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Simple Man"
Lynyrd Skynyrd - "T for Texas"
Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Tuesday's Gone"
Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Workin'"

Happy July 2016!

The 1960's were the era of the combo organ and electric piano, and nearly every band traveled and recorded with a keyboard by Farfisa, Vox, Hohner, Wurlitzer, Gibson or Lowrey. A Hammond B-3 was too heavy and too expensive to easily transport, so the lighter combo organs were the perfect substitute.

And none was more prestigious than the Vox Continental, played by The Animals, the Beatles, the Dave Clark Five, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Iron Butterfly, the Doors, and other leading bands of the day.

In 1966 a Bay City, Michigan garage band - the Mysterians - recorded one of their original songs, at first called "Too Many Teardrops", in their manager's basement studio. Written four years earlier by Rudy Martinez (Question Mark), the song was supposed to be the B-side, but Martinez insisted that "96 Tears" be the A-side, and aggressively promoted the single across Michigan, encouraging radio stations to play it.

Propelled by a catchy riff on the Vox Continental, the song became a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and an especially huge hit among U.S. troops in Viet Nam. There are three different sections in each Verse, each with its own organ part - the famous unison organ line is one of those three. Another of those sections - the legato chord part - is rarely played correctly. This transcription shows exactly how the Mysterians recorded it.


Another of the biggest retro classics from the mid-1960's is "Louie Louie" - the world's most recorded rock song, with over 1600 versions. It's similar to "96 Tears" in that a local garage band recorded it, and rode its fame to the top of the charts.

In 1963 a Portland, Oregon band split the $50 cost of recording "Louie Louie" in a local studio. Even though they had rehearsed it by performing a 90-minute version the night before in a local bar, they were still nervous enough to make two errors while recording it.

The singer came in two bars early after the guitar solo, throwing off the rhythm section; plus, the drummer dropped a stick at :53 into the song, and let slip an 'F-bomb' (it's on the recording but not very audible).

The keyboard player, who used a Hohner Pianet L electric piano, was Don Gallucci, who six years later would lead the prog rock band, Touch.

Even though "Louie Louie" is one of retro rock's greatest classics, you might wonder why I bothered to transcribe it. It's because there are two places in the electric piano part that keyboard players almost never get right. They are specifically addressed in the Performance Notes at the end of the transcription.

Also included in the transcription for comparison is how The Kingsmen performed "Louie Louie" after Don Galluci left - using a different rhythm pattern in the Verses.

My 1960's classic Retro-Rock transcriptions:

Question Mark & the Mysterians - "96 Tears" - Organ Part
The Kingsmen - "Louie Louie" - Electric Piano Part
The Animals - "The House of the Rising Sun"
The Animals - "Bring It on Home to Me"
The Alan Price Set - "I Put a Spell on You"
Booker T. & the M.G.'s - "Green Onions"
Floyd Cramer - "Last Date"
Percy Sledge - "When a Man Loves a Woman"
Ray Charles - "What'd I Say"
The Rolling Stones - "Cool, Calm and Collected"
The Rolling Stones - "She's a Rainbow"
Sopwith Camel - "Hello, Hello"
Steppenwolf - "Magic Carpet Ride"
Them (Van Morrison) - "Gloria"
The Zombies - "She's Not There"
The Beach Boys - "California Girls"
The Beach Boys - "Don't Talk" (demo)
The Beach Boys - "Don't Talk" (Pet Sounds)
The Beach Boys - "God Only Knows"
The Beach Boys - "Good Vibrations"
The Beach Boys - "Sail On, Sailor"

Other recent news... Brian Bell, guitarist for Weezer, has his own band on the side, The Relationship, and has almost finished his new CD. Brian asked me to arrange the orchestra for two of his new songs, "Hawthorne" and "This Year's Children".

This past Monday we recorded the orchestra at historic Valentine Studios in N. Hollywood, with Nic Jodoin producing and engineering.

First violinist Eric Gorfain led The Section, and I conducted. Eric and I originally met 20 years ago while I was touring Japan conducting Rod Stewart's 'Unplugged' orchestra; and I encouraged him to move back to California, which he did, with great success.

I also played piano on "Hawthorne", which uses some Brian Wilson-style chord changes and piano voicings.

The album by The Relationship is now being mixed in New York City, and will be released soon.


Happy June!

As early as age five Jerry Lee's natural talent on the piano was so obvious that his parents mortgaged their modest home to purchase him a piano, which he practiced diligently. He played both gospel and "the Devil's music", as his mother, a Pentecostal preacher, called it. When he was 14 she sent him to Southwest Bible Institute so that he could only play evangelical songs.

However, he performed a boogie-woogie version of "My God Is Real" at a church assembly one evening and was expelled from school the next morning. When he was 21, he believed that it was important for Sam Phillips to hear him, and his dad sold 30 dozen eggs to pay for a trip to Memphis.

Sam Phillips immediately recognized the powerful, primal talent of Jerry Lee and started using him as a session pianist for other Sun artists such as Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.

His very first single, "Crazy Arms", was released in 1956 - showing off his outstanding country/honky-tonk piano style complete with a rolling, tremolo-filled solo.

Then in 1957 Jerry Lee had the hit that would break his career open and catapult him to the top of the charts - "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" - complete with the most electrifying piano solo that had yet been recorded.

That same year he also released the biggest hit of his career, "Great Balls of Fire", and the old honky-tonk classic, "Drinkin' Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee", which contained not just one piano solo but two - both cleanly played with classic licks by "The Killer" - his playing was still at its best in 1957.

Here are my Jerry Lee Lewis transcriptions:

Jerry Lee Lewis - "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" - Entire Piano Part
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Crazy Arms" (1956)
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Drinkin' Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee" (1957)
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Great Balls of Fire" (1957)
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Great Balls of Fire" (1989)
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Real Wild Child (Wild One)"
Jerry Lee Lewis - "She Was My Baby (He Was My Friend)"
Jerry Lee Lewis - "That Lucky Old Sun" Jerry Lee Lewis (with Rod Stewart) - "What's Made Milwaukee Famous"

And here is an excellent new exercise for mastering a classic Jerry Lee Lewis piano riff:

Elmo Peeler - "Whole Lotta Shakin' Exercise (Jerry Lee Lewis Style)

If you're a fan of Carrie Underwood, you might be interested in the Electric Piano riff from one of her biggest hits, "Undo It". The guitar, bass, and electric piano kick off the song with a funky riff that underpins every Verse. The chord voicings are not the usual, and can be a little tricky to pick out.

Here is my new Carrie Underwood transcription:

Carrie Underwood - "Undo It" - Electric Piano Riff

Happy May!

In 1970 Ian Anderson, the leader of Jethro Tull, talked his friend, classically-educated pianist John Evan, into quitting school - King's College London - and joining his band.

Evan made it clear that he would only stay for one or two years at most.

During his first year with the band, Evan composed the classic piano introduction to "Locomotive Breath", having achieved this task in the studio while some of the other band members were out to lunch.

But he must have enjoyed the gig, as John Evan was the rock-solid keyboardist for Tull for the next ten years, until 1980.

Famous for his outfit in concerts - white suit, yellow shirt underneath and pink-and-yellow polka dot tie - Anderson would refer to him as "everyone's favorite ice cream salesman" during band introductions in concerts.

Evan would do lots of theatrics during concerts and he certainly had a lot of onstage presence, but apparently once he left his piano, he was an extremely introverted and shy man.

After leaving Jethro Tull in 1980, Evan gave up music professionally and started his own construction company. He is now retired and living in Australia.

Here is my new Jethro Tull transcription:

Jethro Tull - "Locomotive Breath" - Piano Intro

If you're a fan of Toby Keith, you might be interested in a very accurate and detailed chord chart for one of his songs, "American Soldier".

This chord chart is perfect if you're in a cover band and would like to accurately perform the song. Not only does it contain all the correct chords (not the watered-down inaccuracies in lead sheets), but it also includes some of the more important instrumental lines, such as strings, chimes, guitar and piano.

My new Toby Keith chord chart:

Toby Keith - "American Soldier" - Chord Chart

Also new this month is my Arpeggio Exercise that will help reduce the amount of time spent practicing arpeggios:

Elmo Peeler - Arpeggio Exercise (All 3 Positions)

Happy April!

Richard Penniman - destined to become Little Richard - was born and raised in Macon, Georgia, one of twelve children in a very religious family. Always musical, Richard sang in church at an early age, and was very influenced by gospel performers, including Mahalia Jackson and his favorite, Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

When he was 14, Tharpe heard him sing and asked him to open for her at a Macon concert - his first paid public performance - and it was of all gospel songs.

In his mid-teens, Richard was ordered to move out of the family home by his father, a church deacon who owned a nightclub and bootlegged moonshine. Taken in by a white family who owned a club in Macon, Richard eventually began performing and honing his talent.

Although Richard had begun recording in 1951 at age 19, he had still not yet had a hit as of 1955. Lloyd Price, who had written and recorded the #1 R&B hit "Lawdy Miss Clawdy", suggested that Richard send a two-song demo to Price's label, Specialty Records.

Art Rupe, the owner of Specialty, teamed Richard with producer 'Bumps' Blackwell, and nine months later "Tutti-Frutti" was a smash hit - the first of many.

Richard's electrifying piano style used jackhammer-fast triplets - both octaves and chords - and often his Right Hand would descend the keyboard in clusters. As a piano-player, he was very much for real.

Years later, in 1994, Little Richard and Lloyd Price appeared together on the Sally Jesse Raphael TV Show, and performed "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" together - Price's song whose success had made both their careers possible.

Price's original recording used Fats Domino on piano, but Richard's more driving piano style brings a new level of energy to "Miss Clawdy".

Here are my Little Richard transcriptions:

Little Richard - "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" - entire song, complete piano part -

Little Richard - "Great Gosh A'Mighty" - entire song, complete piano part

If you're a fan of Horace Silver, the great hard-bop jazz pianist, you might be interested in a little snippet of one of his songs, "Señor Blues". Someone asked me to transcribe just the very first two-bar Left Hand phrase that starts the piece - 22 fun notes in all, in 12/8.

My new 'snippet' of Horace Silver:

Horace Silver - Señor Blues - Opening 2-bar Piano Riff -

And if you're intrigued by the difficult technique of fast repeated notes on the piano, check out my new exercise to teach you exactly how it's done.

My newest exercise:

Elmo Peeler - Repeated Note Exercise -

Happy March!

Although Peter Frampton had been in successful rock bands for ten years, including Humble Pie, he'd never had a hit on his own until 1976.

One reason that changed was a chance meeting with New York keyboardist/guitarist Bob Mayo in December 1975. Frampton asked Mayo to tour with him.

The tour began the following month - January 1976 - and was recorded, resulting in the release of Frampton's biggest hit ever, "Do You Feel Like We Do (Live)", from "Frampton Comes Alive", certified six times platinum.

The album version was 14 minutes long, and contained one of rock's most creative and best-played Fender-Rhodes electric piano solos ever. At the end of the solo Frampton introduced Mayo with the words, "Bob Mayo on the keyboards... Bob Mayo".

So who was this Bob Mayo? He'd been a child prodigy, starting lessons at age 5, and performed in formal classical recitals and competitions during his childhood.

He had aspirations of attending Juilliard, but a serious auto accident the summer before his senior year in high school forced a change of plans.

Earlier in his teens, influenced by the British musical invasion, he had begun playing with various rock bands, and while recuperating, he taught himself guitar.

After joining Frampton's band, at age 24, and experiencing the enormous success of "Do You Feel Like We Do (Live)", Mayo toured and recorded non-stop with Frampton for five years, including the "I'm in You" and "Where I Should Be" albums.

In 1980 Mayo took a break from touring with Frampton for some serious r & r, and recorded with Joe Walsh, Joe Vitale and Foreigner.

Subsequent years saw tours with Foreigner, Aerosmith, Robert Plant, Dan Fogelberg, and Hall and Oates.

In 1992 Bob re-teamed with Frampton, and recorded and toured with him until his untimely death from a heart attack during a Frampton world tour in Switzerland in 2004, at age 52.

His Fender-Rhodes electric piano solo in "Do You Feel Like We Do (Live)" is testament to his exceptional talent. It's a solo that contains three sections: a 5-bar Intro to the Solo, the 24-bar Solo itself, plus a 9-bar Coda at the end of the solo, as Frampton introduces him and resumes singing - almost a minute-and-a-half of an extraordinary jazz/rock extended improvisation that includes left-hand chords built in 4ths, alternating right-hand/left-hand conga-like rhythms, inverted left-hand voicings, and wonderful jazz scales and substitutions.

My Peter Frampton transcription:

Peter Frampton - "Do You Feel Like We Do (Live)" - Electric Piano Solo - Bob Mayo, Fender-Rhodes electric piano

Of all the musicians that Bruce Springsteen has played with, he played longest with Danny Federici - 40 years, from 1968 to 2008.

When Federici was seven, he started to play accordion, which he learned from watching The Lawrence Welk Show.

A prodigy, he won Ted Mack's "Original Amateur Hour", and as a teen began playing in bands, playing everything from polkas to rock-n-roll.

When he was 18, he met Bruce Springsteen, who was only four months older, and invited him to join his band.

"This skinny guy with long hair and a ratty T-shirt was an incredible guitar player and a good singer, so we asked him to join," Federici recalled.

They played in various bands together until Bruce's E Street Band was formed in 1972, and the rest is history.

Springsteen said, "Danny was the most intuitive player I've ever seen. His style was slippery and fluid, drawn to the spaces the other musicians in the E Street Band left... He brought with him the sound of the carnival, the amusements, the boardwalk, the beach, the geography of our youth and the heart and soul of the birthplace of the E Street Band."

"Hungry Heart" was Springsteen's first Top Ten single, in 1980, and was voted Best Single of the Year by various polls and critics. One of the song's highlights is Danny Federici's B-3 organ solo.

In the key of C, the song modulates up to E-flat for Danny's organ solo, and then modulates back to C right after the solo. During those 8 bars in E-flat Danny's solo soars above the track - a joyous and uplifting organ 'ride' that has become one of rock organ's classic solos. And it all started with Lawrence Welk.

Here are my Bruce Springsteen transcriptions:

Bruce Springsteen - "Hungry Heart" - Organ Solo - Danny Federici, organ
Bruce Springsteen - "Because the Night" - Roy Bittan, piano
Bruce Springsteen - "Born To Run" (Album version) - David Sancious, piano
Bruce Springsteen - "Born To Run" ('Live in NYC' version) - Roy Bittan, piano

Here are all of my Roy Bittan transcriptions:

Bob Seger - Roll Me Away - Roy Bittan, piano
Bruce Springsteen - Because the Night - Roy Bittan, piano
Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run ("Live in NYC" version) - Roy Bittan, piano

 

Stevie Wonder is, of course, one of the greatest talents of the last 60 years.

A multi-instrumentalist child prodigy with perfect pitch, he signed with Motown at age 11, had his first #1 hit on the Hot 100 chart at 13 (the youngest ever), and since then has recorded more than 30 Top Ten hits, won 25 Grammys, and has sold over 100 million records.

In 1973 Wonder recorded his "Innervisions" album, on which he plays most of the instruments, making the album essentially a one-man band.

One of the most successful tracks on it was "Living for the City", on which Wonder played all the instruments, including two electric piano tracks mixed together.

My Stevie Wonder arrangement:

Stevie Wonder - "Living for the City" - Stevie Wonder, electric piano

Happy February!

Eighty years ago Jerry Lee Lewis was born to a poor Louisiana couple, Elmo and Mamie Lewis, who clearly had music in their genes. Jerry Lee's first cousins also played piano - Mickey Gilley and Jimmy Swaggart.

Jerry Lee's natural talent on the piano was obvious as early as age five, and his parents mortgaged their modest home to purchase him a piano, which he practiced diligently.

He played both gospel and "the Devil's music", as his mother, a Pentecostal preacher, called it. When he was 14 she sent him to Southwest Bible Institute so that he could only play evangelical songs.

However, he performed a boogie-woogie version of "My God Is Real" at a church assembly one evening and was expelled from school the next morning.

At 21, he believed that it was important for Sam Phillips to hear him, and his dad sold 30 dozen eggs to pay for a trip to Memphis.

Although Sam Phillips was out of town, his assistant at Sun Records not only agreed to meet with Jerry Lee but also recorded a couple of songs to play for Phillips when he returned.

The rest, as they say, is history. Sam Phillips immediately recognized the powerful, primal talent of Jerry Lee and started using him as a session pianist for other Sun artists such as Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.

His very first single, "Crazy Arms", was released in 1956 - showing off his outstanding country/honky-tonk piano style complete with a rolling, tremolo-filled solo.

Then in 1957 Jerry Lee had the biggest hit of his career, "Great Balls of Fire", which sold a million copies in the first 10 days of release, and eventually almost 6 million.

That same year he recorded the old honky-tonk classic, "Drinkin' Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee", which contained not just one piano solo but two - both cleanly played with classic licks by "The Killer" - his playing was still at its best in 1957.

Here are all of my Jerry Lee Lewis transcriptions:

Jerry Lee Lewis - "Drinkin' Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee" (1957) - NEW!
Jerry Lee Lewis - Crazy Arms" (1956)
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Great Balls of Fire" (1957)
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Great Balls of Fire" (1989)
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Real Wild Child (Wild One)"
Jerry Lee Lewis - "She Was My Baby (He Was My Friend)"
Jerry Lee Lewis - "That Lucky Old Sun"
Jerry Lee Lewis - "What's Made Milwaukee Famous"

It has been said that of all the keyboard players who rose to fame in the 1970s, Max Middleton just might be the most important one you've never heard of.

Starting out with the Jeff Beck Group on 1971's Rough and Ready and peaking with Beck's seminal Blow By Blow album, Middleton gained the notoriety to play with a wide variety of artists, including the Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band movie soundtrack.

Born in the UK in 1946, Middleton only had a few lessons at age 14, but possessed a strong affinity for jazz, especially Thelonius Monk and Erroll Garner.

In the spring of 1971 he met Jeff Beck, who asked him to record on his "Rough and Ready" album. Middleton was the only member to make the jump from the second version of The Jeff Beck Group to the third.

Beck has described the pianist as his most significant collaborator during the most commercially successful period of his career. Middleton's fluency in jazz chords forced the blues-rock guitar virtuoso to extend himself and his music in new and unexpected directions.

In 1972 The Jeff Beck Group recorded their final album, which contained "Going Down", destined to become a rock classic. The song starts with just a solo piano Intro, beginning free form and then riffing through several rhythmic sequences and changing keys, after which Middleton establishes the Right Hand tremolo figure supported by a powerhouse boogie-woogie Left Hand pattern rarely used since the 1930's (perhaps because of its difficulty).

Here are my Max Middleton transcriptions:

The Jeff Beck Group - "Going Down" - Piano Intro - NEW!
The Jeff Beck Group - "Going Down" - Left Hand Piano Part


Taz DiGregorio was born in Massachusetts in 1944, where as a teenager he taught himself piano, learning tunes by Fats Domino, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley.

At age 16 he was a member of "Paul Chaplain and his Emeralds", and had a regional hit, selling 250,000 albums in 1960. At age 18, he left home and began traveling with various bands.

In 1964 Charlie Daniels asked Taz to join his band, The Jaguars. After being drafted and serving time in the army, he resumed his career with Daniels.

By 1970 the band had changed their name to The Charlie Daniels Band, and in 1979 scored a #3 hit with "The Devil Went Down to Georgia", which Taz co-wrote. If you've ever heard Charlie Daniels, then you've heard Taz, who played with Daniels' band for 47 years until his passing in 2011.

My Taz DiGregorio transcription:

The Charlie Daniels Band - "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" - First Chorus - Piano Part - NEW!

 

Happy New Year 2016!

It would be hard to overstate the influence of Henry 'Roy' Byrd - Professor Longhair - not just in New Orleans-style piano but also pop music in general.

Longhair, born in 1918, was a key figure in bridging the 1930's world of boogie-woogie and the 'new' (1940's) style of rhythm-and-blues.

By the 1940's Longhair, then in his 20's, was playing with Caribbean musicians, listening to a lot of mambo records, and absorbing and experimenting with merging the genres.

Having begun recording in 1949 at the age of 31, he blended Afro-Cuban rhythms with rhythm-and-blues in his early recordings.

Longhair was revered among New Orleans musicians, and greatly influenced the next generation, including Dr. John and Allen Toussaint, who said that Longhair was his greatest influence.

Toussaint had begun teaching himself piano at age six, and first heard Longhair on the radio when he was eight, saying it "knocked my socks off".

In all the interviews he gave throughout his lifetime, Toussaint emphasized that Longhair originated about six 'inventions' - and would often illustrate at the piano the two most important to his own development. He called the Longhair riff that he'd heard at age eight "early Longhair" and then would play a second, slightly more evolved riff that he called "later Longhair".

1) In 1988 Toussaint was interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR, and he played both the 'early' and 'later' Longhair riffs.

2) Then in 2006 the BBC produced a video documentary called "The Allen Toussaint Touch", in which Toussaint again played both those two Longhair riffs.

3) Then again in 2012 Elvis Costello interviewed Toussaint on NPR's 'Piano Jazz' program, and once again Toussaint played the two important Longhair piano riffs.

When playing riff #1 - 'early' Longhair - Toussaint was quite consistent. However, when he played riff #2 - 'later' Longhair - he would play it with subtle variations.

To best understand that important Longhair riff #2, I've transcribed note-for-note the examples that Toussaint played in those three interviews. One was in the key of C, another in F, and the third in G.

Then I 'distilled' all three down into one complete 12-bar phrase, keeping all the important commonalities.

Here are my transcriptions of Professor Longhair piano styles:

Allen Toussaint - "Professor Longhair Piano Style - Riff #2" - 'Later Longhair' - NEW! - (Listen)
Allen Toussaint - "Professor Longhair Piano Style - Riff #1" - 'Early Longhair' - (Listen)

Here are my Allen Toussaint transcriptions:

    Ernie K-Doe - "Mother-in-Law" - Piano Solo by Allen Toussaint - (Listen)
    Ernie K-Doe - "Hello My Lover" - Piano Solo by Allen Toussaint - (Listen)
    Ernie K-Doe - "Popeye Joe" - Piano Solo by Allen Toussaint - (Listen)
    Ernie K-Doe - "She's Waiting" - Piano Solo by Allen Toussaint - (Listen)

Here is my Dr. John transcription:

    Dr. John - "Pine Top Boogie" - Piano Solo by Dr. John - (Listen)

 

Ernesto Lecuona was one of Cuba's leading composers, most famous for his composition "Malaguena", but composer of over 600 other works in his 68 years.

A child prodigy who composed his first song at eleven, Lecuona was a classically trained virtuoso pianist with a special talent for improvisation, graduating at sixteen with a gold medal from the National Conservatory of Havana.

He stands as a link between the virtuoso pianistic tradition of the late 19th-century and the widened musical expression of the modern era, incorporating jazz and Latin American dance rhythms.

A prolific composer of songs for stage and film, in 1942 his hit song, "Always in My Heart" was nominated for an Oscar for Best Song (it lost to "White Christmas").

Perhaps his most widely-known composition is "Malaguena", written for piano in 1928 at age 33. The Rolling Stones' guitarist Keith Richards said in his autobiography that it was his mother's favorite piece, and that he learned it early on to please her.

In 1954 Lecuona recorded an original piece that he never notated, a beautiful, impassioned Romantic ballad for solo piano, "Por Eso Te Quiero" ("That's Why I Love You"). I've carefully transcribed it note-for-note, exactly as Lecuona himself recorded it sixty-two years ago.

If you perform "Malaguena", a wonderful virtuoso piece, this beautiful Romantic ballad is a perfect compliment to it.

Ernesto Lecuona - "Por Eso Te Quiero" ("That's Why I Love You") - Piano Solo - NEW! (Listen)

 

January's New Exercise - The Ganz Double-note Boogie!
Increase Your Fingers' Strength & Independence


The Ganz double-note exercises are some of the best technical exercises available for finger independence and strengthening.

To make these important exercises a bit more fun to practice, I've incorporated a similar pattern into the Right Hand part of a boogie-woogie.

This isn't meant to be a replacement for the original Ganz exercises, but rather a supplement for the pop/rock/boogie pianist that would like to approach them from a different angle, i.e., with a boogie beat.

    The Ganz Boogie (Double-note Exercise) - Nothing but Double-notes in the Right Hand while the Left Hand plays a boogie-woogie pattern - Excellent for Finger Independence - NEW! (Listen)

Here are the original (non-boogie) versions of the Ganz exercises:

    Rudolph Ganz - Exercise No.1 (Double-notes: Diminished 7ths) - (Listen)
    Rudolph Ganz - Exercise No.2 (Double-notes: Dominant 7ths) - (Listen)
    Rudolph Ganz - Exercise No.3 (Double-notes: Diminished & Dominant 7ths) - (Listen)
    Rudolph Ganz - Exercise No.4 (Single-notes) - (Listen)

 

Happy December!

This month I want to honor the memory and achievements of Allen Toussaint, a true giant of New Orleans piano, with transcriptions of four of his very best piano solos, plus the classic 12-bar Professor Longhair riff that profoundly influenced Toussaint as a child.

"My background in New Orleans music started at the age of consciousness. A piano was brought to my house for my sister to take lessons. I walked over to it... I fell in love at first touch." Allen Toussaint has no memory of a time when music was not part of his life. When his sister got a piano for lessons, he started learning it by ear, picking out songs off the radio.

He began writing "very innocent pieces, duets, and limited lyrics. I quickly understood the way the piano was set up. because I was so much in love I spent all my waking hours on the piano." His mother arranged for young Allen to take piano lessons, but that didn't work out, because he greatly preferred playing boogie-woogie by ear.

Instead, Allen found his own teacher, professor Ernest Penn - a local blues/boogie pianist who always smelled of alcohol - who was very patient with him, slowing the boogie-woogies down and showing young Allen the notes one by one. When Allen would wake up in the morning he'd go over and sit on Penn's porch until he awakened, and then tell him, "Come on, let's go and show me something else today." As Toussaint said later in life, "He just had so much, and I just wanted it all."

Around the age of eight, he heard Professor Longhair for the first time and was profoundly influenced. Throughout his life he always remembered Longhair's 12-bar phrase that had so impressed him at such a young age. Toussaint always made clear that Professor Longhair was his greatest influence. And when asked what is the main characteristic of New Orleans music, he said, "syncopation."

Around this time in his youth, he thought that a piano player could play everything written for piano: blues, boogie, jazz, classical - literally everything. So when his family got a new phonograph that came with a free record of Grieg's Piano Concerto, Allen picked that out and learned it, too. Any song that he heard, he thought that he was the only one that didn't know it yet.

At age 13, Allen formed a band called The Flamingos, and started performing at high schools and bars out in the country where they "were too young to be." When he was 17 he began playing in New Orleans clubs, including the famous Dew Drop Inn, where Little Richard had gotten his start. At 19 he was the leading session pianist in town, could imitate very well other pianists' styles, and was asked to record a couple of Fats Domino piano parts, while Fats was on tour. He also recorded some Huey 'Piano' Smith tracks.

His first success as a producer also came that year, 1957, with Lee Allen's "Walking with Mr. Lee". The next year, 1958, at the age of twenty he was asked to record his first album, an album of instrumentals, which he wrote in a week. One of those would later become the smash hit "Java", recorded by trumpeter Al Hirt.

The years from 1960 to 1963 were extraordinarily successful for the young pianist-arranger-producer-songwriter. In 1962 he wrote and produced "Mother-in-Law", a #1 smash hit on both the pop and R&B charts for Ernie K-Doe. And he wrote songs that would be recorded by The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Hollies, Ringo Star, the O'Jays, Otis Redding, the Yardbirds, Warren Zevon, Alison Krauss, Robert Plant, Boz Scaggs, Bonnie Raitt, Glenn Campbell, and many others.

A remarkably humble individual, Toussaint helped spearhead the efforts at restoring New Orleans after Katrina struck, destroying his home, his Steinway, his studio (Sea-Saint), his manuscripts, his archives - everything.

Toussaint was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, and the Blues Hall of Fame. In 2013 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by the President. Not bad for a little boy who fell in love with his sister's piano and picked out songs off the radio.

Here are my brand-new Allen Toussaint transcriptions:

Ernie K-Doe - "Mother-in-Law" - Piano Solo - NEW!
Ernie K-Doe - "Hello My Lover" - Piano Solo - NEW!
Ernie K-Doe - "Popeye Joe" - Piano Solo - NEW!
Ernie K-Doe - "She's Waiting" - Piano Solo - NEW!
Allen Toussaint - "Professor Longhair Piano Style" Exercise - NEW!

How were these particular piano solos chosen? I personally chose these because I believe that they are simply Toussaint at his finest.

  

Since he was a very young child Allen Toussaint grew up playing Professor Longhair's music. As he said in a 1988 interview, "As simple as it might appear now, it was monumental at that time. For a kid eight years old, that is very exciting, I want you to know!... It knocked my socks off. "I don't leave home without Professor Longhair in my head or somewhere in my anatomy - head or heart or soul."

In an NPR interview with Elvis Costello in 2012, Toussaint played the entire 12-bar Professor Longhair piano riff that had so influenced him as a child. This is a note-for-note transcription of that riff. If you want to learn how to play like Professor Longhair, why not start where Allen Toussaint started, with this very same riff?

Allen Toussaint - Early Professor Longhair Piano Style Exercise - The exact Professor Longhair 12-bar piano riff that was so influential on Allen Toussaint as a child.

  

Happy November!

About 76 years ago, when Ramsey Lewis was only four, he started taking piano lessons, and at fifteen joined his first jazz band, a seven-piece combo.

Six years later, at age twenty-one Ramsey formed the Ramsey Lewis Trio with drummer "Redd" Holt and bassist Eldee Young. The trio became a fixture on the Chicago jazz scene, and recorded for Chess Records, usually selling between 5,000 and 7,000 copies of each album.

In 1965 they were set to record a live album in a leading Washington, DC nightclub over a 3-day period, Thursday through Saturday. Between performances in a coffee shop trying to think of one last, fun, 'up' song to add to their set list.

A waitress suggested they work up their own version of a contemporary hit, Dobie Gray's "The 'In' Crowd". Holt and Young had heard the recording and liked it. The waitress played it on the jukebox for Ramsey, and he liked it also. So the trio worked up their own more "snappy" arrangement of the song, but had not performed it until, at the end of their second show, Holt looked over at Ramsey and said, "What about that new song? What about that new song?" Over half of the crowd were staunch jazz fans that were skeptical when the new song kicked off, but by the middle of it everybody was up on their feet, going wild with enthusiasm, much of it caught on the recording, which was quickly released by Chess. Soon, Chess called Ramsey and told him that they had a real hit on their hands. Ramsey thought that maybe he meant 1000 more records than usual would be sold. Soon Chess called back to say that sales had reached 20,000, then 100,000, and then 500,000.

The success on Pop radio and record sales of Ramsey Lewis' "The 'In' Crowd" was historic. The DJ's were playing it directly from the album until singles could be pressed.

Here is my brand-new Ramsey Lewis transcription: The Ramsey Lewis Trio - "The 'In' Crowd" (1965) - Entire Piano Part - NEW!

 

By 1978 Bob Seger had sold lots of records but had never had a #1 album. So he decided to make a totally commercial album, hopefully with three hit singles on it. After two years in the making, the album was released and Seger did everything he could to push it. He told his manager to accept every engagement, that he would perform every night. His strategy worked. "Against the Wind" was the first and only Bob Seger album to hit #1.

Seger has said that the song itself came about from his days as a high-school cross country runner, and that the line "Let the cowboys ride!" towards the song's end is a reference to the closing lyrics of Van Morrison's song "Santa Fe/Beautiful Obsession". Bob Seger is himself a pianist - he played on "Still the Same", and has used some of rock's best session pianists on his recordings. For the "Against the Wind" piano part he used Paul Harris (whose credits include the great Wurlitzer electric piano part on B.B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone"). Harris' haunting, wistful piano part starts off the song, and includes a well-constructed piano solo that builds very nicely, starting with just single notes, then progressing to thirds, then to octaves, then to sixths, throwing in quarter note triplets and pianistic flourishes along the way - a beautiful piano solo - a real classic.

Here is my new Bob Seger transcription: Bob Seger - "Against the Wind" - Piano Intro & Solo - NEW!

 

Born with perfect pitch and blessed with a virtuoso keyboard technique, Billy Preston was probably the greatest keyboard genius in rock-and-roll history. A child prodigy, he started playing piano while sitting on his mother's lap and played organ in church. By age ten Billy was playing organ onstage backing gospel singers such as Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland and Andrae Crouch. The Beatles met 16-year-old Preston when he was touring Europe as part of Little Richard's band, and seven years later asked him to play on several of their songs, including "Get Back", "Something", "Let It Be", and "I Want You (She's So Heavy)", which led to him being called "the fifth Beatle". One of his trademark licks is the descending gospel chord riff at the very beginning of "Will It Go Round in Circles". It can be tricky to pick out accurately, and to play cleanly.

Billy Preston - "Will It Go Round in Circles" - Opening Piano Riff - NEW!

 

The composer for the Gothic horror/drama Penny Dreadful TV series, Abel Korzeniowski, creates some very atmospheric music for the TV show that "takes the macabre to new heights", as one reviewer described it. Born into a musical family in Poland, classically-educated Korzeniowski, whose instrument is cello, studied with legendary composer Penderecki. "I Was Never Going To Go to Africa" is included on the Penny Dreadful soundtrack CD. A little over three minutes long, this slow, beautiful composition is based around an acoustic guitar-like or lute-like instrument backed by a string section, brass choir (French horns) and percussion. This is a note-for-note arrangement for solo piano of this orchestral score.

I Was Never Going To Go to Africa (Penny Dreadful soundtrack) - Transcribed & Arranged for Piano by Elmo Peeler - Every note of the original orchestral composition was transcribed, and then all of those notes were 'translated' onto the piano keyboard.

If you'd like a recording of me playing my own piano arrangement of "I Was Never Going to Africa", click here.

Happy October!

Little Richard was born Richard Penniman and raised in Macon, Georgia, one of twelve children in a very religious family, despite the fact that his father was a church deacon who owned a nightclub and bootlegged moonshine.

Richard sang in church at an early age, and was very influenced by gospel performers, including Mahalia Jackson and his favorite, Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Richard's mother recalled that he was "always musical" and that when he was young, he would always "beat on the steps of the house, and on tin cans and pots and pans, or whatever, while singing." He was so quick at learning to play the saxophone that he was allowed to play with the high school's marching band immediately.

When Little Richard was 14, his favorite singer, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, heard him sing and asked him to open for her at a Macon concert - his first paid public performance. He sang gospel songs, as secular music, considered "the Devil's music", was forbidden in his home.

In his mid-teens, Richard was ordered to move out of the family home by his father, because of his early signs of homosexuality. He was taken in by a white family who owned a club in Macon, where Richard eventually began performing and honing his talent.

Richard Little Richard plays "Great Gosh A'Mighty" started recording in 1951 at age 19, but it was 1955 before he had his first major hit, "Tutti-Frutti". Over the next three years he churned out 18 hit singles, including "Slippin' and Slidin'", "Ready Teddy", "The Girl Can't Help It", "Lucille", "Jenny, Jenny", "Long Tall Sally", and "Good Golly Miss Molly".

However, by 1957 Richard quit rock-and-roll and began performing only gospel music. In 1964 he resumed playing rock until 1977, when he again retreated into gospel-only performances.

In 1985 Richard returned to rock performing and accepted a role in the film Down and Out in Beverly Hills. He and Billy Preston wrote the faith-based rock-and-roll song, "Great Gosh A'Mighty" for its soundtrack.

A high-energy rocker, "Great Gosh A'Mighty" contains many of the same elements of his earlier dynamic hits: a droning, pounding Left Hand, a driving, mid-register Right Hand, and occasionally using the high registers for pneumatic-hammer-fast octave triplets and runs.

Here is my brand-new Little Richard transcription:

Little Richard - "Great Gosh A'Mighty" - entire song, complete piano part - NEW!

Bobbie Nelson was born two years before her brother Willie. Both were raised from early childhood by their paternal grandparents, who had taught singing.

Bobbie's grandmother started teaching her to play keyboards at the age of five, on a pump organ. When she was six and performed for the first time before an audience of 1,000 at an outdoor gospel convention, her grandfather bought her a piano for $35.

Three years later she began playing pop and gospel songs with seven-year-old Willie on guitar. Soon the Nelsons were performing at school functions and the local Methodist church (which Willie bought in 2006 to prevent it from being torn down).

At age 14 Bobbie turned pro, playing piano for a preacher who traveled throughout Texas.

During her teens and twenties she played in honky-tonks, worked in a TV repair shop, and was employed by the Hammond Organ company in Ft. Worth demonstrating their organs.

At thirty-four Bobbie moved to Nashville, playing in restaurants and upscale nightspots for eight years.

Then, in 1973, Willie called and asked her to fly to New York to record with him, which led to her very first airplane flight, and performances on Willie's albums The Troublemaker, Shotgun Willie, Phases and Stages, and Red Headed Stranger.

She joined his band in the mid-1970's and has played and toured with him ever since.
Here is my new Bobbie Nelson transcription:

Willie Nelson - "Good Hearted Woman" - 8-bar piano solo, played by Bobbie Nelson - NEW!

Plus, here is an exercise to help you master "Hammered Fourths", a very common lick in Blues ad Rock piano:

Elmo Peeler - "Blues Exercise No.9 - "Hammered Fourths"" - Very fast repeated 4ths, 5ths, & octaves are used a lot in Golden Age Rock n' Roll. This specifically address 4ths. Fingering is included. - NEW!

Happy September!

The Animals were - along with The Rolling Stones and The Beatles - among the most important bands of the British invasion of the mid-1960's.
Like The Rolling Stones, The Animals began as a blues band inspired by American blues classics. In their first incarnation before singer Eric Burdon, they were known as the Alan Price Rhythm and Blues Combo.
Their leader, Alan Price, was a very talented and versatile keyboardist who played not only terrific blues and rock but also jazz and show tunes. When he invited Eric Burdon to become their singer, they changed their name to The Animals.
One of the most creative eras in modern music was the 1960's. Price and Burdon decided to take an old folk-song, "The House of the Rising Sun", and give it a bluesy spin, complete with a Vox Continental organ solo. The result was one of the biggest and most influential hits of the 1960's.
Price continued working his keyboard magic with subsequent hits by The Animals, including "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", "Boom Boom", and "Bring It on Home to Me". However, less than 18 months after their first hit, Price left the band, exhausted from, and tired of touring. He went to his mother's house and slept for 36 hours.

Apparently his recovery was speedy, as he soon formed the Alan Price Set and released "I Put a Spell on You", the old blues classic by Screaming Jay Hawkins. In an inspired moment he gave the old minor-key blues song a classical twist, starting with an organ Intro that Bach might have played, and then evolving over several verses into a full-blown rock powerhouse, including a terrific, virtuosic B-3 solo. At the very end the Baroque organ reappears for a brief Coda, ending with a Picardy third.
Although not as widely known to the general public as Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale", "I Put a Spell on You" is one of pop music's most creative mergers of classical and rock - a keyboard classic.
Alan Price is an amazing, eclectic musician whose recordings helped define the 1960's organ sound.

Here are my Alan Price transcriptions:

The Alan Price Set - "I Put a Spell on You" - Intro, Solo, Coda, chord chart - Alan Price, organ - NEW!
The Animals - "Bring It on Home to Me" - Complete song - Alan Price, piano - NEW!
The Animals - "The House of the Rising Sun" - Complete song - Alan Price, organ

The Atlanta Rhythm Section started out as session musicians in Georgia, who in 1971 started their own band, and had hits with "Spooky", "Imaginary Lover", and "So Into You", their biggest hit.
Released in 1976, "So Into You", is built around a Wurlitzer electric piano, played by Dean Daughtry, a founding member who still tours with the band. "So Into You" begins with a haunting, atmospheric 4-bar Intro played on a Wurlitzer electric piano, slightly detuned using a Lexicon Harmonizer H910. Although it's not a difficult part to play, the Intro can be a little tricky to pick out, as it uses some unusual chord voicings. Very rarely do cover bands get the Intro just right.

Happy August!

One of the most creative eras in modern music was the 1960's. And when many of the hits of that decade are analyzed, they have something in common - Booker T. & the MG's - either the MG's played on them, co-wrote them, or influenced them.

From the piano arpeggios in Otis Redding's first hit, "For Your Precious Love", to the building drama of "I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)", to the rhythmic suspended piano chords in his last hit, "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay" - in fact, all of Redding's recordings - that's Booker T. you're hearing.

When he was a child, Booker T. learned to play a garage-full of instruments, including string bass, oboe, sax, trombone, piano and organ. His first professional recording gig, at age 16, was playing bari sax on Rufus & Carla Thomas' "Cause I Love You". 

While hanging around a Memphis record shop, Booker met a record clerk named Steve Cropper, who played guitar. Within a year they were session musicians at Stax, where owner Jim Stewart heard them jamming on an instrumental organ riff. He hit the 'Record' button, and released it as "Green Onions", giving 17-year-old Booker T. a #1 hit on the Billboard R&B chart and selling a million records.

Although Booker T. became known as the quintessential B3 player, "Green Onions" and "Soul Dressing" were recorded on a Hammond M3, as were all of their hits until 1967's "Hip Hug-Her", which used a B-3.

Here are my Booker T. Jones transcriptions:

Booker T. & the MG's - "Green Onions" - Complete Song - NEW!
Albert King - "Crosscut Saw" - Booker T., piano

Almost a decade before Booker T. came along, Jerry Lee Lewis was pounding the piano into  submission. Born to a poor Louisiana couple, Jerry Lee's natural talent on the piano was obvious as early as age five.

Last month I published transcriptions of two early Jerry Lee recordings: "Crazy Arms" (1956) and his piano solo in "Great Balls of Fire" (1957), plus a piano solo from his 1989 re-recording of "Great Balls of Fire".

This month I've transcribed a more recent recording by The Killer - his 2006 duet with Rod Stewart, "What's Made Milwaukee Famous" - a sawdust-on-the-floor honky-tonk piano as only Jerry Lee could play it.

 Also new this month is my transcription of the second Piano Solo in the 1989 re-recording of "Great Balls of Fire" that comprises the Out Section. This second solo has been combined with my transcription of the first solo.

Here are all of my Jerry Lee Lewis transcriptions:  
 
What is the next best thing to a note-perfect transcription? A precisely accurate chord chart, of course. 

I've never before offered chord charts but thought that these two charts should prove helpful.

Chord charts usually contain just the chord symbols, plus the bass notes if the chords are not in root position, e.g., A/E, meaning an A chord with an E in the bass.

If you've tried to pick out the chords for either "Still Crazy After All These Years" or"Makin' Whoopee", you know that they can be a little tricky. These chord charts are just what you need to play the chords exactly as recorded. 

Happy July!

Almost 80 years ago Jerry Lee Lewis was born to a poor Louisiana couple, Elmo and Mamie Lewis, who clearly had music in their genes. Jerry Lee's first cousins also played piano - Mickey Gilley and Jimmy Swaggart.

Jerry Lee's natural talent on the piano was obvious as early as age five, and his parents mortgaged their modest home to purchase him a piano, which he practiced diligently.

He played both gospel and "the Devil's music", as his mother, a Pentecostal preacher, called it. When he was 14 she sent him to Southwest Bible Institute so that he could only play evangelical songs.

However, he performed a boogie-woogie version of "My God Is Real" at a church assembly one evening and was expelled from school the next morning.

When he was 21, he believed that it was important for Sam Phillips to hear him, and his dad sold 30 dozen eggs to pay for a trip to Memphis.

Although Sam Phillips was out of town, his assistant at Sun Records not only agreed to meet with Jerry Lee but also recorded a couple of songs to play for Phillips when he returned.

 

The rest, as they say, is history. Sam Phillips immediately recognized the powerful, primal talent of Jerry Lee and started using him as a session pianist for other Sun artists such as Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.

His very first single, "Crazy Arms", was released in 1956 - just his vocal lead and outstanding country/honky-tonk piano complete with a rolling, tremolo-filled solo.

Then in 1957 Jerry Lee had the biggest hit of his career, "Great Balls of Fire", which sold a million copies in the first 10 days of release, and eventually almost 6 million.

 

"Great Balls of Fire"contained a high-energy rolling, driving solo with plenty of the repeated, pounding Right Hand chords that 'The Killer' is now known for, along with, of course, his trade-mark glissandi.

Thirty-two years later, in 1989, he re-recorded "Great Balls of Fire" for the Dennis Quaid movie of the same name. In it, he played a similar but different piano solo, opting for less 'rolling' and more high-energy pounding.

In fact, the 1989 version is 14 BPM faster than the 1957 version, as if 'The Killer' is saying, "Watch this. I may be 32 years older, but I can still ramp it up a notch."

Although Lewis' playing did deteriorate as he got older, we have his early recordings to remind us that in his prime Jerry Lee Lewis was the baddest, most rockin' virtuoso of the 88's not only of early rock, but until Elton came along, himself heavily influenced by JLL.

 

Here are all of my Jerry Lee Lewis transcriptions:

Jerry Lee Lewis - Crazy Arms 
Jerry Lee Lewis - Great Balls of Fire (1957) 
Jerry Lee Lewis - Great Balls of Fire (1989) 
Jerry Lee Lewis - Real Wild Child (Wild One)
Jerry Lee Lewis - She Was My Baby (He Was My Friend) 
Jerry Lee Lewis - That Lucky Old Sun

 

Plus, here is an exercise to help you master one of Jerry Lee Lewis' most common Left Hand patterns:

Left Hand Rock Pattern No.1 - Jerry Lee Lewis Style

Happy June!

Almost 90 years ago a baby was born in a small shack out in the country between two small Mississippi towns. As he grew up, B.B. "Blues Boy" King" taught himself to play blues guitar so well that the greatest rock guitarists studied his style, his famous 'vibrato', his unique phrasing, and paid homage to B.B. as one of The Greats.

In the wonderful BBC documentary, "The Life of Riley", B.B. said that in his youth he had plowed fields behind a mule enough to have plowed a furrow literally around the world.

But it was a guitar, not a plow, that would take B.B. around the world many times, often performing 350 days a year, year after year for almost 70 years.

During those decades B.B. left behind a large and extraordinary recorded legacy, some with classic piano tracks.
 

King first started recording singles in 1949, with his first album in 1956. Shortly thereafter, he began recording for Kent Records some his finest work, including "Rock Me Baby", his first Top 40 hit.

That same group of recordings for Kent Records also yielded "Blue Shadows", which, like "Rock Me Baby", has a truly classic blues acoustic piano track. No one remembers with certainty who the pianist (or pianists) was. Interestingly, both piano parts, although quite different, are built upon blues riffs in 6th's.

The piano tracks in these B.B. King recordings are like a seminar in ultimately tasteful and creative blues piano-playing.

Here are my B.B. King transcriptions:

B.B. King - "Rock Me Baby" - piano
B.B. King - "Blue Shadows" - piano
B.B. King - "The Worst Thing in My Life" - piano

Leon Russell, simply put, is the God of rock-n-roll piano-playing. Even the amazing Elton John has called Leon his hero.

When Leon began working with Joe Cocker in 1969, he was already a veteran of the L.A. studio scene, a member of 'The Wrecking Crew', playing on many of Phil Spector's 'wall-of-sound' hits, plus hits by The Byrds, Gary Lewis & The Playboys, Bobby 'Boris' Picket, Herb Alpert, Glen Campbell and many others.

In early 1970 Cocker needed to put together a band quickly for a U.S. tour and hired Russell to recruit the musicians. Russell hired members of The Wrecking Crew, the Delaney and Bonnie band, and Cocker's Grease Band, and began rehearsals.

Those rehearsals led to the live Fillmore East concert that was recorded and released as the MadDogs & Englishmen album, with "The Letter" hitting the Top 10. Few knew that a studio version of "The Letter" had been recorded during those rehearsals in 1970, until it was released on the Deluxe Edition of the 35th Anniversary released of Mad Dogs & Englishmen

Here are my Leon Russell & Joe Cocker transcriptions:

Joe Cocker - "The Letter" - Leon Russell, piano
Leon Russell - "A Song for You" - Leon Russell, piano
Leon Russell - "I Put a Spell on You" - Leon Russell, piano
Leon Russell - "Tryin' To Stay 'Live" - Leon Russell, piano
Joe Cocker - "Delta Lady"- Leon Russell, piano
Joe Cocker - "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" - Tommy Eyre, organ
Joe Cocker - "Feelin' Alright" (Studio) - Artie Butler, piano
Joe Cocker - "Feelin' Alright" (Live) - Chris Stainton, piano
Joe Cocker - "That's Your Business Now" - Chris Stainton, piano
Bobby 'Boris' Pickett - "Monster Mash" - Leon Russell, piano

When Ravi Shankar wowed the world with his virtuoso sitar playing back in the Beatles' era, no one could've foreseen his other major contribution to music literally a generation later - his daughter, Norah Jones.

At the age of 23 she released her first album, "Come Away with Me". which sold 26 million copies.

The following year Norah formed an "alternative country" band, The Little Willies, who have released two albums. The most recent, in 2012, featured a Lefty Frizell classic, "If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time", on which Norah plays a very tasty 10-bar piano solo.

Norah Jones (The Little Willies) - If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time 

 

 

 

The Tractors is a country-rock band formed in 1994 whose first album went double-platinum. The  single from it was "Baby Likes To Rock It", which hit #11 on Hot Country Songs.

 

The keyboardist in the band is Walt Richmond, whose rocking piano Intro sets the tone for his later honky-tonk piano solo that smokes with "yodeling 6ths", octaves, and a boogie-woogie Left Hand.

 

The Tractors - Baby Likes To Rock It 

 

 

 

 

* * * Happy May & First Anniversary of the Newsletter! * * *
 
Ian Stewart, the Stu in "Boogie with Stu"
 
To celebrate the one-year anniversary of this newsletter, I wanted to offer a very special transcription - one that really needed to be done, for posterity.

There are few rock pianists who have contributed more than Ian Stewart, so early last month I set out to find his most impressive piano track and to see if it could be transcribed.

That track turned out to be "Boogie with Stu", recorded with Led Zeppelin in 1971. And fortunately I was able to hear past all the other instruments/vocals and lay bare Stu's classic boogie-woogie that began as a jam with Jimmy Page. 

Led Zeppelin was recording their fourth album in a run-down but popular rehearsal facility, using the Rolling Stones' mobile studio. A dilapidated, out-of-tune, ancient piano was present but was in such a state of disrepair that Jimmy Page thought it "was totally unplayable".

Stu sat down at the 88's, found which of the old stained and broken keys would work and which wouldn't, figured out which key he could play in that wouldn't need the unusable notes, and started laying down a classic boogie-woogie improvisation.
The Original Rolling Stones, including Ian Stewart (far left)

Jimmy Page tuned his mandolin down to try to match the out-of-tune piano, John Bonham improvised the drums, and fortunately for posterity the tape was rolling.

That jam, which started as a solo piano boogie straight out of the imagination of Ian Stewart, ended up four years later, with overdubs and a lead vocal, on Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti album.

This transcription reverse-engineers "Boogie with Stu" so that once again it is only Stu, by himself, making an 'unplayable' piano sound like no one else could. And now you can make your piano sound like Ian Stewart is playing it.

Here are my Ian Stewart transcriptions:

Led Zeppelin - "Boogie with Stu" - Ian Stewart, piano -
The Rolling Stones  - "Key to the Highway" - Ian Stewart, piano
The Rolling Stones - "2120 South Michigan Avenue" - Ian Stewart, organ

 
 

Steely Dan is primarily two musicians - Donald Fagen (keyboards) & Walter Becker (bass) - that surround themselves with other excellent players/singers, often merging rock, pop, and jazz.  
Donald Fagen & Walter Becker
 

In 1973 on their second studio album, Countdown to Ecstasy, "My Old School" included elements of both jazz and rock - not to mention a terrific guitar solo by Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter.

In the verses Fagen takes a very common chord progression (I-vi-IV-V), and transforms it with some very creative not-so-common chords and rhythms.

And unusually, Fagen's left hand in the verses is not the same as Becker's bass line - there's a type of counterpoint going on between them. Both the piano and bass during the verse have been transcribed.

 

 

 

Spooner Oldham
 
When 25-year-old Percy Sledge entered a recording studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama in 1966 he had no idea that he was about to make history. With a couple of bandmates, he had written a song about a broken relationship, originally called "Why Did You Leave Me Baby".

That recording would reach #1 on both the Hot 100 and the R&B Singles charts, and become one of the most widely-performed love songs ever, re-titled as "When a Man Loves a Woman".en a Man Loves a Woman".   
Percy Sledge

The recording starts with an 8-chord Intro played on a Farfisa organ by Spooner Oldham, the legendary sideman who also played on Wilson Pickett's "Mustang Sally", Aretha's "I Never Loved a Man", and Neil Young's Harvest Moon album.

With his writing partner Dan Penn, Spooner is half of one of R&B's most legendary writing teams, having written "I'm Your Puppet", "Cry Like a Baby", "Sweet Inspiration", and many others.

Even though the Intro in "When a Man Loves a Woman" sounds very simple, it has some notes that are never played correctly - in both the organ and the bass. See if you can guess where mistakes are most commonly made during those important 15-seconds in R&B history.    

Happy April!

This month I'm happy to offer a transcription of one of rock's greatest piano classics - "Layla"" by Derek and the Dominos. And the story behind this legendary recording is almost as remarkable as the song itself. When L.A. studio drummer Jim Gordon dated Rita Coolidge, she wrote a song called "Time" (later recorded by Booker T. and his wife Priscilla).

Eric Clapton heard Gordon (drummer in Derek & the Dominos) play the instrumental of "Time" on piano, didn't know it was Rita's song, liked it, recorded it with his band (with Gordon on piano and drums) and spliced it onto his already-recorded "Layla", which needed an ending.

Writing credit went to Clapton and Gordon with no mention of Coolidge, who didn't press for credit perhaps because she'd been given a black eye by Gordon, was afraid of his violent side, and wanted nothing further to do with him.  

She was wise, considering that a few years later Gordon would become schizophrenic, murder his mother and be sent to prison, where he is now and probably will be for the rest of his life. 

Here are my Eric Clapton transcriptions:

Derek & the Dominos - "Layla" - Jim Gordon, piano -

Eric Clapton - "Cocaine" - Chris Stainton, piano
Eric Clapton - "Lay Down Sally" - Chris Stainton, piano
Eric Clapton - "San Francisco Bay Blues" - Chuck Leavell, piano

And here is Leon Russell's song he wrote for Rita Coolidge:
Joe Cocker - "Delta Lady" - Leon Russell, piano

Jackson Browne plays both guitar and piano, but on his classic "Rock Me on the Water" he chose to use Craig Doerge, a first-call L.A. session player, as the pianist. Doerge's studio band was The Section, and included drummer Russ Kunkel and the great-bearded bass genius, Leland Sklar. The track was unusual in that there was no guitar on it, only piano, bass and drums. Doerge emulated Browne's own piano style and added his own polish to it, recording one of rock's outstanding gospel/rock piano tracks.

Here are my Jackson Browne transcriptions:

Jackson Browne - "I Thought I Was a Child" - Jackson Browne, piano
Jackson Browne - "Rock Me on the Water" - Craig Doerge, piano -

 

 

Everyone knows that Aretha Franklin is one of the most talented singers ever, but many are not aware that she is also an outstanding pianist, bringing a wonderful gospel flavor to some of her early recordings.
 
As the daughter of one of the leading preachers of the day, she had the opportunity to meet and watch Rev. James Cleveland  play piano.

When she expressed a desire to learn, Cleveland showed her a few things, and she went on to develop her own buoyant gospel style.

"Don't Play That Song" was a hit by Ben E. King but Aretha covered it eight years later with her own version where she accompanies herself on piano. Her solo piano Intro sets the tone for the entire track. 

 

When Dennis DeYoung, a founding member of Styx, recorded "Fooling Yourself" in 1977, it contained not one but two extraordinary synthesizer solos, both showing Keith Emerson's influence.

The second solo is longer and even more virtuosic than the first solo, using 32nd- and 64th-notes to blaze away all the way into the fade out.
 

Here are my three synthesizer solo transcriptions:

Styx - "Fooling Yourself" - Synth Solo No.1
Styx - "Fooling Yourself" - Synth Solo No.2 -

The Cars - "Bye Bye Love" - Synth Solo

Happy March!

It always surprises me that so few know who British blues singer 'Long John' Baldry was, even though he was respected enough by Reggie Dwight to use his first name as Reggie's last, when Reggie changed his name to Elton John. Indeed, in 1966 Elton (as Reg Dwight) had been keyboard player in Baldry's band, Bluesology.

Elton's song "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" was written after Elton attempted suicide in 1969 because of relationship problems with a woman. Baldry and Bernie Taupin found him, and talked him out of marrying the woman.

'Long John' Baldry had a history of performing with rock's best keyboard players, starting in 1963 with Nicky Hopkins (the Cyril Davis R&B All Stars).

In 1964 Rod Stewart and Baldry were the singers in Baldry's band, Hoochie Coochie Men, which became Steampacket in 1965, with Brian Auger on organ and Julie Driscoll as the female singer.

In 1964 fantastic Scottish pianist Ian Armitt joined Baldry's Hoochie Coochie Men and stayed with Baldry as his right-hand manIan Armitt until at least the early 1970's.

 

During that time Rod Stewart and Elton John produced two of Baldry's albums, including his 1971 "It Ain't Easy", where Rod produced the 'A' side and Elton produced the 'B' side, himself playing on many of the tracks.

Rod chose to use Baldry's pianist, Ian Armitt, and produced as the first two tracks on the album a pianistically amazing 3:15-long "Intro: Conditional Discharge", that is only piano and a (very humorous) spoken vocal that serves as a lead-in, without any pause, to "Don't Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie on the King of Rock & Roll".

"Intro: Conditional Discharge" is one of rock's most outstanding piano tracks. If you haven't heard it, click here to hear it on YouTube. Your ears will be glad you did. 

Here are my Elton John & Rod Stewart transcriptions:

Elton John - "Levon"
Rod Stewart - "Handbags and Gladrags"

Happy February!

Fifty-nine years ago, in 1956, a 12-year-old Joe Cocker sang in public for the first time. By the time his legendary voice was stilled a little over a month ago, he had recorded twenty-two studio albums and played in thousands of concerts - he and his voice were loved around the world.

When Denny Cordell produced Cocker's very first album in 1968, he and Joe met with Artie Butler, a 26-year-old session pianist from Brooklyn, and asked him to lead the rhythm section in "Feelin' Alright", a Dave Mason song. Over several days of thought Artie evolved a unique Latin-influenced piano part where his hands played the piano keyboard like conga drums, rarely hitting both hands together at the same time.

Artie assembled a killer rhythm section of Carole Kaye on bass guitar - who looked like an ordinary housewife but was a bass genius - and Paul Humphrey on drums, a first-call jazz-influenced drummer who later played on Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" album. What they recorded became one of rock's true classics - and one of the hottest rhythm tracks ever recorded.

 

 

 

 

Over the years Cocker would use some of the best rock keyboardists in the business. When Leon Russell began working with him in 1969 they recorded some of rock's most classic tracks, including Leon's own song, "Delta Lady", which had been inspired by Rita Coolidge.

 

Cocker's soulful voice is underpinned by Leon's rock-solid, driving gospel piano, straight out of the church.

 

Rita must have been pleased.

 

 

 

 

 

That same album, Cocker's second, contained "That's Your Business Now", which he had co-written with Chris Stainton, his longtime right-hand man, who plays a wonderful honky-tonk tack piano solo on it.  

 

Stainton began working with Cocker in 1966, three years before the release of Cocker's first album.  And when Joe Cocker and Rod Stewart shared the same bill on large outdoor European concerts in the 1990's (I was Musical Director for Rod's 'Unplugged' orchestra), Stainton was still playing piano for Joe. 

 

 

 

Another outstanding keyboard player of Cocker's was Tommy Eyre, who was the keyboard player for Cocker's original Grease Band (Stainton played bass until Eyre left). The terrific organ solo on the Intro of "With a Little Help from My Friends" was played by Eyre.

 

Also on Cocker's first album was "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", which The Animals had recorded four years earlier, in 1965. Cocker's version featured a highly-creative, jazz-influenced 24-bar organ solo - a full minute of inspired soloing, choosing many notes outside of the standard 'blues scale'.

 

Eyre would later record the piano part on Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" and most of George Michael's Wham! hits. 

 

Here are my Joe Cocker transcriptions:

 

Joe Cocker - "Delta Lady" - Leon Russell, piano 
Joe Cocker - "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" - Tommy Eyre, organ 
Joe Cocker - "Feelin' Alright" (Live) - Chris Stainton, piano
Joe Cocker - "Feelin' Alright" (Studio) - Artie Butler, piano 
Joe Cocker - "That's Your Business Now" - Chris Stainton, piano 


Here are all of my Leon Russell transcriptions:

Bobby 'Boris' Pickett - "Monster Mash" - Leon Russell, piano
Joe Cocker - "Delta Lady" - Leon Russell, piano 
Leon Russell - "A Song for You" - Leon Russell, piano
Leon Russell - "I Put a Spell on You" - Leon Russell, piano
Leon Russell - "Tryin' To Stay 'Live" - Leon Russell, piano

Here are all of my Chris Stainton transcriptions:

 

Eric Clapton - "Cocaine" - Chris Stainton, piano
Eric Clapton - "Lay Down Sally" - Chris Stainton, piano

Joe Cocker - "Feelin' Alright" (Live) - Chris Stainton, piano

Joe Cocker - "That's Your Business Now" - Chris Stainton, piano 

 

In 1977 Dennis DeYoung, a founding member of Styx, recorded a synth solo in "Fooling Yourself" using a most unusual meter, 7/4, showing Keith Emerson's influence.

Created in three sections, each with its own guitar rhythmic pattern, the synth solo builds dramatically using 16-note arpeggios, and is one of the iconic synth solos from the 70's.

Here are my two synthesizer solo transcriptions:

Styx - Fooling Yourself 
The Cars - Bye Bye Love 
 

Happy New Year 2015!

Fifty years ago, in July 1964, an 18-year-old Van Morrison and his band, Them, recorded "Gloria". He had written it himself, and it was his first hit of many to come.

Originally released as a B-side, it went on to become a garage-band staple, covered by The Doors, AC/DC, Patti Smith, Jimi Hendrix, and Rick Springfield.  

 

The keyboard player for Them was Patrick John McCauley, but the producer considered him too inexperienced and brought in 41-year-old session keyboardist Arthur Greenslade. Older than most rock musicians at the time, he had a background as pianist/arranger with big bands going back to the 1940's.  

 

Some of the chord voicings he used on "Gloria" - more than simple triads, surprisingly -  seem to reflect his knowledge of arranging.

 

 

 

 

Three years later, Van Morrison - without Them - went into a New York studio with producer Bert Berns and some studio musicians, and recorded a rock classic - "Brown Eyed Girl", widely considered to be one of the best songs ever written.  

 

The keyboard player hired for that 1967 session was the late, great Paul Griffin, who recorded some of rock's finest keyboard tracks including the piano tracks on Don McLean's "American Pie", and Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone", "Positively Fourth Street", and "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35".

Here are my transcriptions of recordings by Van Morrison:

Them (Van Morrison) - Gloria - Arthur Greenslade, organ   

Van Morrison - Brown Eyed Girl - Paul Griffin, organ 

Van Morrison - Moondance - Piano Solo - Jeff Labes, piano

 

In 1992 Mary Chapin Carpenter asked Jon Carroll to play piano on her next single, "I Feel Lucky", which reached #4 on the charts.

Carroll's solo, which ends the song, is a Country/Pop knucklebuster that uses octaves, country cliches, and Rockin'-Pneumonia flips to make "I Feel Lucky" go out with a bang.
 

Mary Chapin Carpenter - I Feel Lucky - Piano Solo  

 

 

 

Paul Brandt is a Canadian country music artist who had a hit in 2011 with "The Highway Patrol". His co-producer, Steve Rosen, happens to be a crack pianist who laid down a virtuosic piano solo on the track. 

 

After leaving Berklee College of Music in 1991 and moving to Nashville, Rosen worked as a music producer, songwriter, and keyboardist for over fifteen years with three CCMA Album of The Year Awards, two number one singles, two top five singles and four top ten singles. He has worked with Reba McEntire, Neil Diamond, Keith Urban, Johnny Cash, Dave Matthews, Debbie Gibson, and Martina McBride. 

 

His solo on "The Highway Patrol" is blazing. Give a listen to it here:

 

Paul Brandt - The Highway Patrol - Piano Solo 

 

Happy December! Merry Christmas & Happy Hanukkah!

Thirty-six years ago, in November 1978, the Eagles released a holiday single that was to become a Christmas-time classic: "Please Come Home for Christmas," with the main instrument being the wonderful gospel-influenced piano part by Glenn Frey.

 

Although it had been released in 1960 by its writer, Charles Brown, the Eagles changed one important chord that ends every section - they changed the V7 chord to a V augmented. The rest, as they say, is rock history.

 

Although he's primarily known for his singing and guitar playing, Glenn Frey has contributed some important piano parts, including "Desperado." 

 

Learn some classic Glenn Frey piano licks and voicings by asking Santa to bring you this brand-new note-for-note transcription of the entire piano part for one of rock piano's holiday classics, "Please Come Home for Christmas."


Here are my transcriptions of recordings by the Eagles:

"Please Come Home for Christmas" - Glenn Frey, piano
"Desperado" - Glenn Frey, piano

And don't forget Dan Fogelberg's timeless Christmas classic, "Same Old Lang Syne" - five-and-a-half minutes of holiday heartbreak. BTW, Fogelberg never revealed the true identity of the woman in the song. However, after his death she came forward. Play this beautifully romantic Christmas gem yourself, exactly as Fogelberg wrote and recorded it. 

Happy November!

Forty-five years ago this week, in November 1969, The Allman Brothers Band released their first album, with a heavy emphasis on the blues/gospel-tinged Hammond organ sound of Gregg Allman.

 

That album ended with a song of Gregg's about the frustrations he'd felt in the music industry, "Whipping Post."

 

Over the years he'd record many other classic rock songs, including "Midnight Rider", "Please Call Home", "Not My Cross To Bear", "Stormy Monday", and many others.

 

Learn some classic Gregg Allman organ licks and voicings by feasting on a brand-new note-for-note transcription of the entire organ part for one of blues/rock organ's true classics.Whipping Post".

Here are my transcriptions of recordings by The Allman Brothers Band:

 The Allman Brothers Band - Jessica
The Allman Brothers Band - Jessica Solo from Tutorial Video
The Allman Brothers Band - Southbound 
The Allman Brothers Band - Stormy Monday 
The Allman Brothers Band - Whipping Post 

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* * * Happy Halloween! * * *

Enjoy these new note-for-note transcriptions of some of Halloween's 'Monster' hits:

Bobby 'Boris' Pickett - Monster Mash (Leon Russell, piano)
Warren Zevon - Werewolves of London
The Zombies - She's Not There (new 1998 Rod Argent solo)
The Beatles - Come Together

In May 1962 Leon Russell wasn't Leon Russell yet. He was still Russell Bridges, a first-call Los Angeles session player from Oklahoma. He'd just turned twenty the month before, and showed up late for a recording session produced by the singer/co-producer of the novelty hit "Alley Oop". He more than made up for it by laying down one of the catchiest piano tracks in pop/rock music - the classic "Monster Mash" piano riff - often imitated but never played exactly right. When it was released three months later by Bobby 'Boris' Pickett, it climbed to the #1 spot on the Hot 100 chart, just before Halloween 1962.

Learn some classic Leon Russell piano 'Tricks' by 'Treating' yourself to a brand-new note-for-note transcription of the entire piano part for Halloween's most fun pop song ever recorded, "Monster Mash".

And since one of everyone's favorite monsters is the werewolf, Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London" is in the house. With a brand-new transcription of "Werewolves of London" you can play Zevon's piano part note-for-note while baying at the October moon.

And no Halloween could be complete without Zombies, so Rod Argent has brought back to life his immortal 1962 classic "She's Not There" in a 1998 Dutch documentary. In his home studio Argent sits at his Hammond B3-type organ and plays an instrumental version of the entire song, including a brand-new keyboard solo halfway through it! So now we can all marvel at not only the original 1962 solo - one of the finest in rock history - but also his newer solo, 36 years later. Breathe a little life into your performances of this timeless classic and incorporate both of Rod Argent's solos, 1962 and 1998!

The Beatles also make an appearance this Halloween with their minor-key, atmospheric "Come Together". Back in the day when Paul-Is-Dead rumors were swirling, some read into the lyrics, "Come together over me," as referring to the surviving Beatles' coming together at Paul's grave. Fortunately Paul was very much alive and composed the Electric Piano part on "Come Together." John Lennon wrote the song and is often credited with having played the electric piano part, which he supposedly learned from Paul. However, in December 1984 Paul told a Playboy magazine interviewer that he himself had played the part. Put this tasty morsel into your Bag of Goodies and learn to play one of The Beatles' most-recognized Electric Piano solos.

And to keep your Halloween rockin', Billy Powell's piano part for "Call Me the Breeze" is now available. His piano solo was already available but now the non-solo piano part, i.e., the rhythmic comping during the Verses/Choruses, is also available. He uses a Left Hand/Right Hand technique similar to playing paradiddles on a conga drum - rarely do his hands strike the keys at the same time. Once mastered, this rhythmic, swinging, driving style can be used in many other songs and jams.

Until I read Keith Richards' autobiography, "Life", I had not realized just who Ian Stewart was. Seeing his name on albums by The Rolling Stones didn't give a hint as to his importance to the history of one of rock's greatest bands. Not only was Stewart a very talented keyboard player, his organizational skills, selfless attitude, and inspirational drive were essential to The Stones' success.
 
Although he played piano on many Stones' tracks - including "Honky Tonk Women", "Let It Bleed", "Brown Sugar", "It's Only Rock'n Roll (But I Like It)" - Ian Stewart had a special passion for boogie-woogie, and revered its giants: Pete Johnson, Albert Ammons, and Meade 'Lux' Lewis. When he passed away unexpectedly in 1985 shortly after the end of recording the ten-track "Dirty Work" album, a hidden, untitled, uncredited eleventh track was included: Ian's solo piano boogie-woogie version of the old classic, "Key to the Highway", which he'd recorded in 1964 at Chess Studios in Chicago. 

I've been wanting to transcribe "Key to the Highway" for years, and finally, this month, have done so. Here are my Rolling Stone transcriptions:

The Rolling Stones - Key to the Highway - Ian Stewart, piano - Instrumental
The Rolling Stones - 2120 South Michigan Avenue - Ian Stewart, organ - Instrumental
The Rolling Stones - Cool, Calm and Collected - Jack Nitzsche, piano
The Rolling Stones - She's a Rainbow - Nicky Hopkins, piano
 

Note that the two instrumentals are particularly helpful in studying Ian Stewart's style.  

 

 
 

Jerry Lee Lewis on the Steve Allen Show (1957) 

The summer of 1957 was an important one for rock-and-roll, as Jerry Lee Lewis was introduced on TV to America for the first time by Steve Allen, himself a pianist and awed by Jerry Lee's primal virtuosity.

 

Last month I posted a transcription of his "Real Wild Child", and this month I'm making available an Exercise for learning one of Jerry Lee's most frequently-used Left-Hand patterns. Here are my Jerry Lee Lewis transcriptions:

 

     

 

The customer who commissioned "Real Wild Child" wrote: "You are (almost) as big a genius as Jerry Lee Lewis was. Thank you so much!"
 

The Wilshire Ebell Theatre, built in 1927, is one of Los Angeles' most beautiful and most historic musical venues. It is where Glenn Gould abruptly ended his live performing career at the age of 32 in 1964. It's where Judy Garland was discovered as a child performing with her two sisters and mother.

When a former student of mine was elected to be the Ebell Club's new president, she asked me to play for the induction ceremony.

To set an appropriately 'classy' tone, Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C-sharp minor had everything needed to kick off the proceedings - a large dynamic range, from the soft opening section to the triple-forte two-fisted chords of the finale, and intricate finger work in the middle section.


George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" followed - beautiful melody, soaring chords, some cool Cuban rhythms thrown in for good measure.

Then it was time for something more relaxing and elegant. Duke Ellington's favorite piece by Billy Strayhorn was "Lotus Blossom". My arrangement is based upon Ellington's solo piano recording.

The pianistic proceedings concluded with "Josie's Boogie", my own minor-key boogie-woogie that is the Mephisto Waltz of boogie-woogie - devilishly difficult and very dramatic, ending in an ascending alternating double-octave run.

Later that day the club's new president wrote me "You were phenomenal!"

Thanks, Marjorie, for the opportunity to perform at the Ebell.

 

In other news, I recently spent a few hours with an old friend in the publishing biz, Bo Goldsen, head of Criterion Music Corporation, that was acquired last year by Universal.

Larger-than-life photos of Elton John, Jimi Hendrix, and others line the walls at Universal Music Publishing Group in Santa Monica.



Many Gold and Platinum Records also line the walls, such as "Green Onions", "Soul Man", "Hold On I'm Coming" and "Who's Making Love".

Bo publishes songwriters including Jackson Browne, Lyle Lovett, Roseanne Cash, Rodney Crowell, Charlie 'Bird' Parker, and many others.

The Blüthner PH Grand Piano

 

 

 

 

 

I recently paid a visit to Kasimoff Pianos in Los Angeles, after getting word that they had a Blüthner PH Grand Piano on display in the window.

 

The PH Grand Piano was designed in 1931 by Poul Henningsen - over 80 years ago - and yet still looks as if it belongs to the future.  This piano is a wonderful combination of German quality and Scandinavian design.

 

I met the owner Helga Kasimoff and her son Kyril, who could not have been friendlier.

 

Here's the link to their website: http://www.kasimoffpianoslosangeles.com/ http://www.kasimoffpianoslosangeles.com/

Helga Kasimoff was the subject of a newspaper article that recounts her truly inspiring story on "how she kept the Blüthner pianoforte legend alive, through tumultuous times."

 

Read it here: The Warmest Sound in the City of the Angels The Warmest Sound in the City of Angels 

 

Jason Schwartzman has been a long time Piano Student of mine. When he got the news that he had been cast as Richard Sherman in "Saving Mr. Banks", he gave me all of Sherman's original 1959-1960 demos to transcribe all of the music exactly as Sherman himself played these now-classic songs during Walt Disney's production of Mary Poppins in 1961.

 

Here's an excerpt from Jason's interview in Collider:

 

Jason Schwartzman Talks SAVING MR. BANKS, Learning to Play MARY POPPINS Songs, and What He Learned Musically from the Composer He Plays

by  Steve 'Frosty' Weintraub

Jason Schwartzman:

I want to be able to play these songs to the best of my abilities for real...  I went and got a Mary Poppins songbook - I just ordered it - and when you look at it you realize it says "For piano, guitar, vocals."  It's sort of what a novelization is to a movie, someone has listened to the final product of Mary Poppins and kind of generalized it so that anybody can play it.  But I wanted to play the songs in the way that Richard would have in the room because those songs have strings and all that stuff but when Richard's demonstrating a song, it's a different style of playing.  So, he gave me all of his early demos from 1959-1960 where he's literally saying, "Jolly Holiday Take 1."  It's just him with one microphone and his brother.  I got those and the P.L. Travers, the hours and hours of - and he's playing [5:48?] sing your songs and I gave those demos to my piano teacher - he's this guy Elmo Peeler, he's the greatest.   

 

He sat down for days and days and days and listened to some very crude recordings - at times - and transcribed all of the music as it would've been played in 1961 as opposed to '66 or '65.  I learned all the songs in that style, so they're a bit more raw and they're voiced differently.  My feeling was, if Tom Hanks is going to learn how to talk like Walt Disney, this is Richard's equivalent of talking.  So I have to talk like Richard and I'm gonna do the accent, which in this case is the way he plays piano and that's what I focused on the most.  That was a great way into the thing because when he said to me, "Just love music," what I got from that was, "Focus on the music."  


Read the rest of Jason's interview here on Collider.

 

Here is the link to that very Sheet Music from Saving Mr. Banks (all exactly as played by Richard Sherman, their composer):
 

ManyMIDI Products started in 1986 and quickly grew to become one of the leading synth patch developers in the world. Our web site began in 1996. And now we offer the very best in:

  • Sheet Music - note-for-note accurate transcriptions of some of rock's greatest keyboard classics, and classic boogie-woogies

  • Musical Services - need an arranger? a pianist? piano lessons? songwriting lessons?

  • Synthesizer patches - large, highly-organized sound libraries for most classic synthesizers

Having been in the business of "combining music and computers" for 28 years as of 2014, the Summer of 1996 marked our entrance onto the WWW stage. Let us know how we can better help you to have the very best sounds in your synthesizer that it's capable of producing.

We've completely revised our Yamaha TX81Z/DX11 sound library. Version 2.0 contains AfterTouch, which supposedly isn't available on the TX81Z - we found a way! As with all our sound libraries, we guarantee that this is, by far, the best TX81Z patch library available anywhere!

Our Korg M1 Set #1 (Rhythm Section, Percussion, Special Effects) is now available in SysEx format!

If you have a Korg M3r, ManyMIDI should absolutely blow your mind with our two new M3r sound libraries. Check out the Korg M3r page for complete information.

Here are some music - or MIDI-related links that may be of some help to you (in alphabetical order):

Cipoo.net - free public domain choral/piano and voice music
Dave Benson's DX7 Page
M-Project
M1LibEd Home Page
M3rLibEd Home Page
Mark Lanoszka's synthesizer editors! For Korg Wavestation and O1/W
The MIDI Farm
MIDI Space
Music Instruction, Software & Lessons
Musica Viva: free sheet music
Sound Quest Inc.
Synth Zone
Terzoid Software (NoiZe Editor/Librarian)
UBIK MUSIC Productions
The Yamaha TX81Z Homepage - excellent support page for the TX81Z synthesizer
 

Other (non-MIDI) Links:

Woodstock Products - Large (3' x 2'), high-quality, Full-Color prints of NASA's most beautiful outer-space photography, ideal for display in the studio, home, office, dorm room and classroom!


The Beach Boys & Elmo Peeler Unfortunately, there's very sad news in the world of rock-and-roll. Carl Wilson, founding member of the Beach Boys, passed away February 6, 1998, from cancer at the age of 51.
Pictured above are, from left to right, Mike Love, Dennis Wilson, Carl Wilson, Billy Hinsche, and Elmo Peeler.

Blessed with an angelic voice, Carl sang lead on their biggest hit, "Good Vibrations", on "God Only Knows", "Darlin'", "Long Promised Road", "Feel Flows", "I Can Hear Music", "Good Timin'", "Trader", "Girl Don't Tell Me", "This Whole World", "All This Is That", and others. Moreover, as the most emotionally stable member of the group, Carl was their chosen leader.

In the 1970's, Carl invited me to his Malibu beach house for the afternoon. After a day of jogging on the beach, discussing music, and channel-surfing with his family around the TV, Carl asked me if I had anything planned for the next couple of months; he was inviting me to join the Beach Boys' rhythm section as keyboardist! For the next few years I was to have the pleasure of working and traveling with one of the world's most talented rock bands.

When Carl produced an album on his close friend, Ricci Martin (Dean Martin's son and whose sister was to become Carl's next wife), he asked me to arrange the orchestra (strings, woodwinds, French horns). During our discussion of the arrangement, he mentioned several specific things he wanted, including a Gershwin-influenced 4-bar break. However, we had diametrically opposed opinions on whether the orchestra on one song should soar up during the Chorus, or go down into the midrange. To give us the most flexibility, I wrote two arrangements: his way (down) and mine (up). At the recording session, I asked Carl which version he'd like to hear first; he asked for mine. After the assembled orchestra (so large that the French horns and the woodwinds had to be put into other rooms, including a broom closet!) played through my version, soaring high through the Chorus, Carl loved what he heard and did not even want to hear the other version, his own! Rarely have I known a creative artist who was so able to overcome his own ego in his pursuit of art.

Carl's contribution to America's Greatest Rock-and-Roll Band was enormous, second only to his brother Brian. Although he couldn't read music, he left a rich musical legacy that will be remembered as long as mankind celebrates its musical culture. Carl was that rarest of human beings: irreplaceable. Thank you, Carl, for having lived and loved.

Carl Wilson, Elmo Peeler & Brian Wilson
Carl Wilson introducing Elmo Peeler to Brian Wilson.


ManyMIDI Products
Beverly Hills, CA
323-650-6602
info@manymidi.com

Last modified: November 1, 2017