Doing research for my new book -- maybe its more like fact checking -- in any case, the research is turning up some interesting stuff for me.
I love rock and roll piano, and I got an email from a friend who asked if I knew Larry Knechtel. I did. He played on Wichita Train Whistle.
Most notably however he played on Johnny Rivers version of Rockin Pneumonia and Boogie Woogie Flu. When I started fact checking it took me several times around the Google block to find Larry's credit for that remarkable piano work.
Huey Piano Smith had the original hit and if you heard that one then the River's record pales a bit --even with out Boone-ing it. (If you don't know what Boone-ing is you'll have to go way back on these FB posts. Too long to explain for this.)
For those of you who heard River's version of the song first you have the full power of the record and especially of Knechtal's rock and roll piano playing. Just his intro alone on that record is something I can listen to a dozen times in a row.
Rock and Roll piano is hard to play. Most keyboard guys have trouble with the rhythm aspect and tend to play triplets and trills for solos. Knechtel had a session man's touch and a rock and roll heart. Listen to the opening of the River's boogie Woogie flu -- and then the piano solo and you will see what I mean.
Session guys are arguably the greatest musicians and players in the world. They play almost everyday all day, so they are sharp. They are different than classical players, different touch and different approach, and session guys have to play on everything from pop jingles and commercial cues to cinema scores and knock off classical album packages like "1000 most relaxing Classical melodies" -- so they have to stay loose and flexible.
I worked for years with John Hobbs as many of you know who followed those works. John is hands down one of the great musical guys I knew. I took inspiration from him for the character Buni Rumble in America Gene. Life was never more fun than playing in a band with John. His musical sense is the real thing and his playing impeccable and inspired.
Leon Russell is of course one of our national treasures -- not only did he play well, what he played was deeply emotional and to the point. Leon almost invented the great rock and roll left hand -- of course he came from the mold of Fats Domino like a lot of the best piano guys.
Great Rock piano didn't really come about until the fifties -- before that there was some of the greatest -- Ellington and Basie playing big band music -- the list goes on of great famous piano players.
But we have all heard of those guys. We almost never hear of guys like John Hobbs and Larry Knechtal. Guys like this mean more to us than we know.