“Here's one of the best piano players you'll ever get to hear!"

Kind words from the late, great Don Walser

 

 

 "In Texas, where the guitar is the official instrument, pianist Floyd Domino regularly manages to cause jaws to drop when he ruffles the keys."

San Antonio Express-News

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was on the road again in February 2009 with my buddies Asleep at the Wheel and Willie Nelson to promote the new CD, Willie and the Wheel. It's an old-time hot Western Swing album and captures the edge and excitement that often does not make the trip from the stage to the studio. We shot the album cover in Luck, Texas, Willie's Western town. As Willie says, "If you're not here, you're shit out of Luck.". The Wheel arrived by tour bus, Willie arrived by horse. Willie and the Wheel, guess that says it all.

Every musician turns the monthly calendar (I am still using paper, and not metaphorically) and says, "Now what?" I'll turn mine back first, and tell you about some fun stuff. At Justin Trevino's studio, I recorded with Hank Thompson, Floyd Tillman, Darrell McCall and Frenchie Burke. At Bismeaux with Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel for a hot Western Swing album. At Eagle Studio in Ft Worth, with Red Stegall and Tommy Hooker. Overdubs at Layton DePenning's, working with Bill Browder of Denim fame and the Sugar Bayou Band with April Rapier, and with my friend, Freddy Krc. Rick DeLellis's great studio, Figment, with Johnny Edson, Eric Hungate, and Bob Hink. Keith Harter's beautiful studio, and at Bob Stewart's, Eastside Flash and at Allen Crider's, working on Cornell Hurd's Moon Mullican Tribute. Tommy Detamore's, with Reid Wells, and James Talley, and Ron Flynt's Jumping Dog with Mike Runnels. Hit-and-run: they don't call back, and I move on to the next. Bill Green's, BGM, with Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition, on his Tommy Duncan Tribute. And let's not forget my buddy Dave Terry and his mobile studio! Very exciting stuff. All the other piano players were booked-- I'm the fourth call--- the mop-up guy.

I was off to Koszencin, Poland, August 21, 2008 with Billy Mata to play three concerts and a festival. We went over well in Sacramento, California and Poland was fine.

On February 21, 2008 after the Clinton-Obama debate in Austin, I played with Asleep at the Wheel at the Obama rally at the Austin Music Hall. Here is a clip of me and Barack (the Wheel and Obama). It was a lot of fun. http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/politics/2008/02/22/obama.texas.boogie.cnn

On December 23, 2007 we lost Oscar Peterson. Oscar was the greatest jazz pianist. No one swung more, and listening to him play was pure joy. It could also send you careening between inspiration and despair. Even in Oscar's final years, after a stroke devastated the use of his left hand, it was almost as if he could still beat everyone with one hand tied behind his back! I bought my first Oscar LP when I was 13 and have enjoyed thousands of hours soaking up any thing I could from his playing.

I was fortunate enough to meet Oscar several times, and he was always gracious and kind. He could walk into a crowded room and spot the piano player. He must have seen the jaw dropping and heard the knees knocking. Or maybe it was the gunslinger's instinct. Not that he was challenged by anyone.

Oscar was in awe of Art Tatum and had deep respect for Bill Evans, Nat King Cole, Count Basie, Hank Jones, Teddy Wilson and many others. The greatest compliment is to be asked if I have been influenced by Oscar Peterson. Maybe by osmosis.

 

A live concert DVD was released from the Last of the Breed Tour, with Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Ray Price and Asleep at the Wheel. It was the best tour. Go see these guys as a group or individually when you can. I was fortunate enough to see Ray Charles in 1999, and when you think about it, how could you ever pass up a chance to see anyone like that? Anyway, check out the DVD.

This month's question comes from Brook B. in Oakland, CA. "I always felt that I could have been a professional musician. I mean I have played for money, but not full-time, well, what's 'full-time' mean anyway? So.. what's your secret?"

F: Well, Brook, piano is a good instrument for being able to work a lot, and also, I have no other skills, so I have no choice. Don't tell anybody.

This month's question comes from JW in Seguin, TX: "Floyd, I saw you played on the tour with Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Ray Price and Asleep at the Wheel called Last of the Breed. What was that like? Are they planning another?"

F: JW- It was a blast, kind of like going to Fantasy Camp. I had recorded with Merle and played a concert with him in Las Vegas in 1999, but there is always more to learn from him and the shows were incredible each night. I have recorded here and there with Willie for years, but it was the first real live shows that I've been able to play with him. That's one brilliant, unique guy with a great sense of humor. Ray Price is the Golden Throat. The three would close the show with songs from Lefty Frizzell to Bob Wills to Willie. Each has a different sense of dynamics, phrasing, and intensity. And Asleep at the Wheel is where my musical heart calls home. We played fifteen dates, from Las Vegas to Radio City in New York City, including Austin, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, Denver, Colorado Springs, Nashville and others. They are tentatively plannng another tour, and, JW, you should not miss this one.

This month's question comes from Erik Metzger in San Francisco, CA: "How many batteries does it take to learn to play off-beat chords in the left hand? Thanks, Erik."

F: You are asking a question that has been asked throughout history. Socrates asked it between the hemlock and the long nap- but everything was a question to him. It takes 2 D Cells when you are young, preferably Energizers or Duracells. As you, ah, mature, it takes only one AAA, because it is so ingrained in your playing. (You'd think it would be the other way around.) If you are a high-tech guy, working at Intel or Apple or Google, etc., you might be interested to know that there is a pending lawsuit to separate it from the operating system. If you are not a high-tech guy, you may not care. Maybe that's why Socrates drank the hemlock.

In September we lost a great friend and talent, an original, Don Walser. I was fortunate to have gigged and recorded with Don and his Pure Texas Band. Over the years we played places as diverse as the Grand Ole Opry, the Kennedy and Lincoln Centers,the Atlanta Olympics, and the Washington Monument on July 4th. Don brought us along for the ride when he was honored as a Heritage Fellow in 2000 by the National Endowment of the Arts. Don lit up any room he was in and illuminated a stage without need of any spotlight. We''ll never see another quite like him. Happy Trails.

This month's question comes from L Oceans from Fremantle, West Australia: "My son is a promising young musician. Can you give him any advice?"

F: Certainly. It is a good thing to not only excel at his instrument, but to hang out with musicians his own age, and older ones, too. Remember that following in the older ones' footsteps cuts both ways. There is a lot to learn about what to do and what NOT to do. If he can find a Western former Asleep at the Wheel piano player in Austin, TX, he might want to disregard any and all advice given.

This month's question comes from J Menudo of Buda, TX. "Floyd, what have you been up to lately?"

F: Thanks J Menudo for a chance to drop some Googly names. Lately I have been in the studio working on projects with my musical friends, Johnny Edson, Seth Walker, and Bruce Robison, Lynda Jones and Elizabeth McQueen. Also, Damian Green, a young prodigy with an old soul. If I have not mentioned Tracie Lynn, now's the time. A singer's singer and writer's writer. A great talent. Monte Warden and I threaten to play music together but we get too caught up in talking football and collecting what his wife Brandy calls, " Dixie Cups that Elvis drank out of." Or Art Tatum. I am trying to drop more names here. Let's see, some gigs with Redd Volkaert, any chance to work with my pal Bill Kirchen, a little 'Ride With Bob' Bob Wills musical with Asleep at the Wheel and their lead singer (there go my phantom sessions!), my compadre Ray Bismeaux Benson. Next month I will be in the studio with some great producers--Rich O'Brien, guitarist extraordinaire, and Mark Kaz Kazanoff, the monster tenor sax player. And let's not leave out the new Johnny Nicholas CD. Johnny is a pain, but if he can stand me, he's got my vote--- uh, friendship.

PS Check out Chip Dolan's stellar CD with production by Marvin Dykhuis.

This month's question comes from my eye doctor. "What kind of music do you play?"

F: A funny thing happens when people who don't know me ask what kind of music I play. I can't think of a good answer. Western Swing, Boogie-Woogie, a little Stride, Country, everything but Classical (not quite true.) It's a good question with no good answer. Have you ever walked in to a record store (remember those?) and looked in the wrong area for an artist? "Nat King Cole, Easy Listening," says a smug clerk. Little does he know that Nat King Cole has a lode of great jazz recording. How about Ray Charles? Forget about it! Enough ranting. There is a lot of information in this world. Plenty of it is distorted before it is fed to us. Again and again. I like my info pre-distortion. I sort and distort it myself. Waterloo Records in Austin, Texas, is an unusual place to buy CDs. Artists are sorted in alphabetical order. Next month's question. "Have you ever played with anyone I might have heard of?" Did I say enough ranting? Happy Thanksgigging.

"What famous piano players have you met?" John Foley Lancaster, PA

F: John, I've been lucky to meet several of them. Most of them were extremely friendly and helpful. Among them were Count Basie, Oscar Peterson, Bob Wills' Texas Playboy Al Stricklin, who was my mentor, Lloyd Glenn, Teddy Wilson, Ray Charles, Earl Fatha Hines and Duke Ellington. It boggles my mind when I look at the list.

"What country singers have you worked with? Who was nice? Who wasn't?" JN Doss, TX

F: Here comes a long answer: I have recorded with and/or played with Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, George Strait, Vince Gill, Freddy Powers, Dolly Parton, Connie Smith, Ray Benson, Trace Adkins, Dale Watson, Lyle Lovett, Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, and others. Ray Benson is my longtime compadre. Merle Haggard and Freddy Powers are great guys to hang out with. Merle is a true patriot, very thoughtful, and not the kneejerk kind we see so often nowadays. Read his website and you will see someone who truly values the individual. Willie is incredible in every way. George Strait was a pleasure to work with. Vince Gill is a sideman's best friend. Dolly Parton radiates friendliness. Trace Adkins is a huge talent. You don't get Texan any better than Dale Watson and Lyle Lovett. Jessi Colter taught me her style of Pentecostal piano. Connie Smith is as gracious as she is talented. "Nuff said.

"What piano players do you listen to?" Tom Paradise, CA

F: For starters-- Al Stricklin, Oscar Peterson, Count Basie, Art Tatum, Moon Mullican, Floyd Cramer, Teddy Wilson, Ray Charles, Pete Johnson. More later.

Ray Charles passed away in early June. Words can only lessen the meaning of his music, soul, and impact on the world of music and every musician- unless those words are from people like Willie Nelson or Jesse Jackson at the memorial service. One piano lick from Ray Charles said everything and implied even more. One cry in a Ray Charles vocal was the whole world before you. Now that I've gone ahead and started on the words, I'll tell you about meeting Brother Ray at the CMA Awards in Nashville in 1983. I was playing with Waylon Jennings and there I was walking right towards the great Ray Charles! Had he been sighted, Ray may have been able to avoid me. There is a photo of me gushing to Ray and saying how much his music has meant to me. Ray is smiling and listening and his bodyguard is ready to spring Ray from me at a moment's notice. It's right up there on my wall.

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