My grandfather had a kind of speakeasy in his basement. This was around 1967 or so. It consisted of a small bamboo bar, easy chairs tightly packed together, completed with rifles on the wall framing an oil painting of an elk. Grandpa was in his 70s, and me at 7 or 8 years old. It didn’t seem that anyone had relaxed in that musty cellar any of my short lifetime, but I sat there whenever I could.
Under the stairs was a dusty upright piano next to a framed black and white portrait of grandpa Leroy at the keys. We kids used to bang around on this piano, making a horrible racket. Leroy never yelled at us for that. Kind of surprises me now.
One day I came into the house and heard this wonderful, musical thumping pulse from the cellar. For the first and last time ever, I witnessed Leroy laying down a fat, fast boogie-woogie on that scruffy keyed instrument. I was so excited to see and hear him play I bounded up the stairs and ran back and forth through the neighborhood announcing the epic event.
Speeding back to his bar, I watched, entranced. To me, the music was blistering and melodical. The rhythm was hot and tricky. Great range between the thumping bass notes, and the twitter-tweaking high keys. After a while, and all-together too soon, he was done, grinning. Back up the stairs he thumped, lit a cigar and eased down into his favorite green leather recliner.
I’ve thought about that day for 50 years or so. Wanted to be as cool as Leroy was down in the basement. A month ago I started learning the piano. First piece I’m learning is a jumpin’ boogie.
Well Grandpa, inspiration can take its time. Hope I make you grin again.