In my early twenties I was a struggling musician working at M. Steinerts piano store in Boston. I lived in rent-control housing, biked to work, and ate a lot of “ten-for-a-dollar” Ramen noodles (the stereotypical ‘starving musician’).
One day, Elton John (THE Sir Elton!) and his band came into the piano store while on the Boston leg of their “The One” tour. Elton really loved the old Steinert building – especially the abandoned concert hall 35 feet underground (more on that later).
In the showrooms upstairs was a piano that had just been released – and Elton really wanted to try it out while on tour. So a deal was made to deliver the piano during their upcoming show at Madison Square Garden (New York City). A couple “comp” tickets were part of the deal…
Of course, I wouldn’t turn down a chance to see Elton at MSG, so I volunteered for the delivery crew. Even if the story ended here, it would be EPIC, but it gets better…
April 27th, 1993 – Madison Square Garden, New York City
We arrived about 5 hours before the concert to setup the piano through the MSG sound system… “Hey, anyone play?” one of the engineers asked. My heart quickened. “Um.. yeah, I do…” I offered. What happened next was magical. I sat down at that piano and improvised as the engineer tweaked the sound. I was playing piano in one of the biggest and baddest stage -settings in the world – and loving it!
After my impromptu performance, we were invited to dinner with the band and crew. Great guys, all. It was hard not to feel like “one of the band”. I can remember sitting there in the backstage “musicians only” area and just feeling comfortable. I had seen behind the curtain of “the show”. I wasn’t just a delivery guy, but I was a piano guy who knew what it was to load gear, hang out backstage…and play piano in Madison Square Garden. Now I realize this might sound so absolutely small-time in the grand scheme of things, but I was floored. I absolutely loved it.
Needless to say, I was the last person to play before Elton took the stage. It may be a little stretch on the truth, but it sure felt like I had just opened for Elton John…
From Elton to The Naked Piano
Fast forward, and I took my passion for piano and turned it into a series called “The Naked Piano” – a tribute to this timeless instrument – and a fulfillment of my desire to provide calm and inspiration in a crazy world. And here’s the part of the story which gets real interesting: Where do you think I recorded those first “Naked Piano” albums? In the abandoned Steinert concert hall which had so impressed Elton John and his band!
Steinert Hall recently made wordwide news – as it is currently being renovated by it’s new owners. You can find a complete video story here, and a bunch of great photos here. Over and over, people comment about the “special acoustics” and “magical, almost ghostlike character” of the abandoned space – frozen in time. I was fortunate to have supportive bosses who allowed me to record my albums in Steinert hall – even when the space had been closed to the public for decades. In fact, to my knowledge, I’m the only person who has recorded a solo piano album in this magical setting.
And to show you the special sound quality of that old hall which had so impressed Elton John and is now all over the news, I’d like to offer you one of my favorite tracks called “The Thinker” (recorded in Steinert Hall) FREE – no strings attached.
If you like the track you might also consider checking out “Platinum”. It’s my latest album and it’s full of my top-selling piano singles (including FIVE recorded in Steinert Hall) I’d like to think would make Sir Elton and his band proud 🙂