Ft. Lauderdale, Fl USA
I wound up in that little town just by pure chance that night,
A tiny spot down Dixie way where folks still treat you right.
I emptied out the camper of the products that I sell
Then settled for a night's sleep in a nondescript motel.
While finishing my toiletries, I thought I would, instead
Go down to have a nice cold beer before I went to bed.
I got directions from the clerk to find the local bar,
Deciding I would walk there since it wasn't very far.
When I was still a block away, I heard a wonderous sound
That sent my spirits skyward and then gently brought them down.
Piano chords, the likes of which I hadn't heard in years
Were flowing from that tavern with its buck-a-bottle beers.
Piano was my passion. I had studied with the best
But, in the end, I lacked the skills to pass the final test.
My passions did not dwindle, though. I still smiled with delight
Whenever I heard sounds produced such as the ones that night.
I entered through the side door and I mingled with the crowd.
Inside the music seemed to be ridiculously loud.
As I had passed the doorway, there had been a small marquee,
THE HONKY TONK PIANO MAN FROM MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE.
Two guitar pickers were on stage - a fiddle player, too,
A drummer so darned small he almost disappeared from view,
And, right up front at center stage, for all the crowd to see...
The honky tonk piano man from Memphis, Tennessee.
His fingers flew like lightning, gliding up and down the keys.
The toughest hand manipulations he performed with ease
And, all the while, a big smile grew and shot from ear to ear.
He waved out to the rowdy crowd and chuckled at their cheer.
I sat, in abject fascination, watching as he played,
My senses overloaded at the talent he displayed.
Yet he performed as though it were a simple thing to do.
My head was getting dizzy at the way his fingers flew.
Then, as I watched, it hit me. I had seen those hands before!
Performing off in London - Copenhagen - Singapore!
This man had been the great pianist Johnathon LeGree,
This honky tonk piano man from Memphis, Tennessee.
LeGree had been the best there was, receiving great acclaim.
His destiny had been assured, as had his wealth and fame.
But then, one day, he walked away and disappeared from sight
To show up in this tavern playing honky tonk at night.
The evening show now ended and I saw him in the crowd.
They clapped his back and mussed his hair and called his name out loud.
A waitress handed him a box of chicken - southern fried.
I hurried to catch up to him and followed him outside.
He sauntered to a pick-up truck. I called, "Mr. Legree!"
He smiled and said, "I see my past is catching up with me.
You wonder what I'm doing here - why I am not the rage
Of Europe and America, up there on center stage."
"Well, yes", I stammered nervously. "I mean, you had it all.
Your star rose like a meteor and then you let it fall.
How could you let it slip away is what I can't digest.
Of all the masters of the keys, you were considered best."
"I had it all? I still do, son." He smiled quite happily.
"I've got my truck. I've got my friends and got my family.
I've got my music every night to keep me nice and warm.
I love to play piano. I just don't like to perform."
"So tell the tails and bluehairs that old Johnny says hello.
I'd like to keep on talking but I really have to go.
The chicken's getting cold. My wife is waiting up, you see,
But, friend," he smiled, "I thank you much for recognizing me."
With those last words he smiled and climbed up in his pick-up truck
And, as he pulled away, I heard him say he wished me luck.
I watched the best pianist in the world drive round the bend
And, as the headlights disappeared, I said, "You, too, my friend."
I do get asked quite frequently who I think is the best
Of all the great pianists, who is better than the rest.
They always think I'm joking when I answer, smilingly,
A honky tonk piano man in Memphis, Tennessee.