Friday, July 31, 2015

In the days before iPods

There is a part of our little town that was once a bustling hub of commerce.  Mostly alcohol.  It dates back to the lumberjack era and was practically speaking several solid blocks of saloons.

Now days it is less frisky.  There are still a few taverns.  And most of the businesses have the look of former drinking establishments.  Long narrow buildings, dimly lit.

It is not a prosperous part of town.  Walking down the street we passed a chiropractor, a law office, a small insurance agency, two massage parlors.  On the other side of the street was a nice bike shop, a Martial Arts school, a tattoo parlor.

Then we came to a storefront that made us stop in our tracks.  It was dusty and did not look to be currently occupied.  And the windows were filled with stacks of these:

These are the "rolls" for player pianos.

I'm not sure what they were doing there.  Of course you would think that player pianos would belong in a saloon, along with billiard tables and cigars.  But this little building has been other things over the years, I seem to recall a "Nail Salon" there a few years ago.  Now it looks abandoned.  Perhaps somebody is paying a pittance of rent to use it as a storage space for their odd collection.  Lets review the play list..

The older stacks were from a company called AMPICO.  The American Piano Company went out of business in 1941, so the titles tend to be either classical or Ragtime.  Some good stuff in these.

The newer, more garish specimens are from QRS, which appears to be the last existing maker of player piano music.  Still in business and in their 115th year.  Music has gone down hill a bit in recent years.  Note below where we have "Barry Manilow Hits, Vol. 3" and "Chopsticks".

"Scrub me Mama with a Boogie Beat" is probably lively.  But note the insidious presence of Hollywood dreck.  James Bond Movie themes...

Duke Ellington takes the A Train.  Right next to the Batman Theme.  Probably the TV show version. Shudder.

I have actually run across a few player pianos in recent years.  There seems to still be a tiny niche market.  Some upscale places of waiting, hospitals for instance, will station a grand piano in a corner. Sometimes there is a sign encouraging people to play.  Sometimes volunteers come in to do so.  Other times the piano just eerily plays itself.

1 comment:

wynne said...

Jo Ann Castle playing chopsticks? I can even do that! Great find Tim.