A Jazz Pianist Gets His Big Break — At Age 85 | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

A Jazz Pianist Gets His Big Break — At Age 85

Back in the 1930s, Boyd Lee Dunlop taught himself to play music on a broken piano left out on the streets of Buffalo, N.Y. Only half the keys worked.

He also taught his little brother Frank to play the drums while they were growing up. Frankie Dunlop went on to record with Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus, among other jazz greats. Boyd Lee Dunlop went to work in the steel mills and rail yards of Buffalo, occasionally playing piano at local clubs.

Another chance encounter with a busted piano has now led Boyd Lee Dunlop to record and release his first album, at the age of 85. Brendon Bannon, a documentary photographer by trade, is the album's producer.

"We met when I went into the nursing home where Boyd's living, in Buffalo, to talk to the doctors there about doing a photo project. Boyd was sitting down in the waiting area also, and we struck up a conversation really quickly," Bannon says. "He told me about his piano playing and invited me down to the cafeteria to listen to him play. I looked at the piano, and there were keys broken off of it ... It didn't look well. But Boyd was wrestling some beautiful sounds out of it."

Here, Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon speaks with Bannon and Dunlop about Dunlop's debut album, Boyd's Blues.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Wounded Bull-Runner: 'If You Run Long Enough, You Get Gored'

Bill Hillmann, a writer from Chicago, contributed to the book Fiesta: How to Survive the Bulls of Pamplona. He was gored at this year's running of the bulls in that city, but says he plans to return.
NPR

What If The World Cup Were Awarded For Saving Trees And Drinking Soda?

We thought you'd get a kick out of seeing how the four teams in the final World Cup matches stack up in global health and development.
NPR

What Could $100 Million Buy You — Besides Campaign Ads In Kentucky?

Spending on the Kentucky Senate race might reach $100 million. So what else could that get you in the Bluegrass State? NPR's Tamara Keith finds out when she calls up some local business owners.
NPR

Looking For Free Sperm, Women May Turn To Online Forums

Bypassing commercial sperm banks, thousands are logging on to websites where women can connect with men at no cost. Anecdotes abound, but the scope of the unregulated activity is unclear.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.