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Pianos on Steamboats

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Old 12-20-2006, 09:01 AM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 841
Default Pianos on Steamboats

When I went to the Belle of Louisville as mate, I resolved that the piano would be well-maintained. This was no easy job, for piano men are a suspicious lot who find rotten pianos everywhere they go. Some carry tuning forks and wrenches, with which they tune up the middle third of the range (where they played the most). Immediately upon walking into a night club or church or steamboat their first move was to play an arpeggio, then grab their tools and go to work on that middle third.
So the boat got an old, but good, upright piano (I do not remember the brand). I called in a Louisville piano mechanic and tuner and placed him on a monthly retainer. The piano had sliding doors in the front so I removed them and installed a heavy steel mesh panel to keep the piano men out of the works. Then I got some number 14 wood screws four inches long and screwed down the lid.
The first piano man who came aboard didn't start with the arpeggio. He grabbed the lid and tried to raise it. We heard the grunt throughout the boat. I went up and told the guy the piano was o.k. and to put away his forks. He sat down, played a handful of notes and grinned. For three years that piano stayed in good shape, probably the only one to do so in the entire history of steamboating. The only one to notice, other than visiting pianists, was C. W. Stoll.
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