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Old 12-20-2006, 12:22 PM
Jazzou Jones Jazzou Jones is offline
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: near Bangor, Maine USA
Posts: 306

I hope we can add the Delta Queen, Mississippi Queen and American Queen pianos to the list of well-maintained steamboat instruments. In 1976, in the days when my piano playing had not yet expanded to steamboats (but did include night clubs and churches), my day job was as a staff piano tuner/technician with Wurlitzer/Steinway of Cincinnati. One day a special order arrived from Steinway and I uncrated and prepared a brand new Model M that I was told would be delivered to this brand new riverboat down in Louisville, the Mississippi Queen.

Two years later I would be tickling those ivories in the Grand Saloon. Part of my contract with DQSC has always included maintaining the pianos onboard whatever vessel I was performing, and in the times I didn’t actually work onboard, I continued as port piano technician whenever one of the steamers called at Cincinnati.

The DQSC Entertainment department has always been conscientious about maintaining their pianos in tiptop shape, and as policy, the pianos are tuned every week to ten days. This maintains the instruments at concert pitch and ensures the actions are kept in proper adjustment and regulation. With incredible amounts of playing, along with the constant fluctuation of air temperature and humidity levels, the pianos require at least this amount of attention to keep them always at peak performance readiness.

In 1979, Bob Waring, then Director of Hotel Operations for Delta Queen, allowed me to load my own upright piano onto the Mississippi Queen in Cincinnati. It was a wonderful old Baldwin studio upright from the 1950’s that I had bought at auction from the Cincinnati Public Schools and restored and refinished. It had just the right look for the Paddlewheel Lounge, and we moved the little Kimball spinet down to the movie theater (where, upon a couple of occasions I played it in accompaniment to silent movies).

My Baldwin upright served well in its tenure in the Paddlewheel Lounge, and one who really enjoyed playing it was Captain Gabe Chengery. During that time, Captain Gabe became engaged to the lovely and divine Miss Cindy Unrein, chanteuse extraordinaire, who had begun as an Entertainer on the Mississippi Queen about the same time I did. Their riverboat romance in part grew around that old piano as Captain Gabe would accompany Cindy’s singing upon occasion. So, as our wedding gift to the Chengery’s, ***** and I gave them the Baldwin, and Gabe made arrangements one day to offload the piano in Natchez and we transported it to their new home in the back of a pickup truck. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to entertain, I rode in the back of the pickup with the piano and played “Tailgate Ramble” as we drove through Natchez.

The Chengery’s still have the old Baldwin, now in their home in Colorado and their three children grew up taking lessons on a wonderful old steamboat piano that had provided joyful music for many a traveler on the western rivers.

And that 1976 Steinway from the Mississippi Queen? It is now in the Orleans Room on the Delta Queen, having followed me around my whole steamboating career!
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