How are YOU celebrating May Aufderheide's 135th birthday? Perhaps you are wearing a big hat as May was wont to do (see above). As for me personally, I'm playing her "Dusty" rag from 1908 (see below).
"Dusty" is a wonderful piece of ragtime. I particularly adore the second section that has "tailgate trombone" notes, propelling "Dusty" straight into the upper reaches of the rag-o-sphere.
I always assumed that the title of the rag was a play on words. Dusty Rag. Get it? But it turns out that "Dusty" was May Aufderheide's fiancé's nickname. It says so in the newspaper. Here's the scoop, from the Richmond Palladium (Richmond, IN), April 17, 1908:
So May Aufderheide's fiancé, Thomas Kaufman was also known as "Dusty Tim." He'd spend the night out with his friends, miss the last streetcar home, and would get home all "dusty" from the long walk. That explains "Dusty" but it does not explain why they called him "Tim." I suppose if Robert can be "Bob" and William can be "Bill," then Thomas can be "Tim?"
Back in 2006 I quit my day job and started hustling around town, playing piano wherever there was a piano to be played. One of my main gigs was at the Charlotte-Douglas Airport, where there was (and still is) a piano in the food court.
One of the more recent Charlotte airport pianists.
My airport repertoire was mostly loud and fast stuff because that got people's attention and brought in the tips. But from time to time I'd slow it down to relax the wary travelers who rocked themselves in the rocking chairs.
Everybody Loves the Airport Rocking Chairs
One of the songs I'd play for the rocking chair people was, of course, "Rockin' Chair" by Hoagy Carmichael. It set a peaceful mood, which was often appreciated.
The airport gig had many enjoyable moments. People who liked the music would say hello to me, and interesting conversations often ensued. I had the pleasure of meeting the composer Richard Maltz who wrote an opera about Babe Ruth. I also met a professional Frank Sinatra imitator on his way to Vegas. And one person I met at the airport has remained a friend and I later played piano for his wedding.
I don't play piano at the airport anymore, but I imagine it is a more difficult gig now than 15 years ago. Today, just about everyone has earbuds or headphones on, and folks who plop down on rocking chairs are usually engrossed in their screen. In 2006, the technology was a lot clunkier and people were still bored at the airport, so a piano player was a very welcome distraction. In 2023, our devices keep us endlessly preoccupied. A rhinoceros could stampede across the concourse and you'd miss it because you were watching Seinfeld on your iPad (with noice canceling earbuds on).
But I suppose there are some advantages to playing airport piano in the iPhone era. If someone likes your music they can easily film it and share it. That could be a really good thing. It worked out well for this piano player at the Atlanta airport who got $60,000 in tips after a well-known motivational speaker posted a video of him on Instagram!
Last summer I played Hoagy Carmichael's "Rockin' Chair" at the Lancaster Cultural Arts Center, which is a historic church converted into a concert venue. They have pews, not rocking chairs, but I think it worked out just fine: