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Ovation: The Restoration Of Fats Domino’s Steinway.


Fats_piano_2Many, many years ago I was given the opportunity to acquire an old upright piano that my grandfather had played in the 1960s.  It was a big, ugly, and extremely heavy, old piece with many of the old, yellowed keys having been lost over the years.  I hauled that piano halfway across the country, up and down dozens of flights of stairs, and even onto the back of a flatbed truck to perform in a parade.  Fortunately, my grandfather had taught me how to tune the old piano so I was able to give it quick tune-ups and adjustments each time that it was moved.  It never sounded like a concert grand but it sounded like a fine old piano … and it made me think of my grandfather every time that I sat down in front of it.

Salvaging and restoring an old piano is a tedious task.  There are so many moving parts and the actual structure of the furniture has a profound effect on the quality of the sound that is produced by the musician seated before it.  A white Steinway grand piano that was salvaged from musician Fats Domino’s home after Hurricane Katrina has been partially restored and  will now be the centerpiece of an exhibit in the old U.S. Mint, is now a museum in New Orleans’ French Quarter.

Domino was born in New Orleans, in 1928, and as a pianist, singer and songwriter sold more than sixty-five million records between 1950 and 1963.  Sadly, during the August 29, 2005 storm, water poured through a broken levee, flooding Domino’s home in the Lower 9th Ward as well as an estimated eighty percent of the city of New Orleans.

The restoration was possible due to $30,000 donated to the Louisiana Museum Foundation by several donors including a retired music producer in Miami, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Sir Paul McCartney.

“It was in really bad shape.  It had been submerged in water for weeks.” – Greg Lambousy, Director of Collections for the Louisiana State Museum

A second Steinway piano belonging to Domino is already on permanent display at the Presbytere museum in their “Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond” exhibit.  Unfortunately, neither of the Domino pianos is playable.

“His beautiful grand piano … will serve as the perfect symbol for Louisiana’s resilient nature and ever-evolving musical heritage.” – Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, Overseer of the Louisiana State Museum

With a heavy heart, I eventually had to part with my grandfather’s old piano when I learned that its weight was doing damage to the old house that I owned and had decided to sell.  It was such a giant piece of furniture that I almost had to give it away to find it a new home.  I often wish that I still had that old piano so I could refinish it and hear it played again.

Have you ever restored a piece of cherished family heirloom furniture?


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From → Ovations

  1. Sunny permalink

    Diatribes – I’ve been missing your writings. I love this one piece you wrote about the piano your grandfather left you. I’m also happy that Fats Domino’s piano was salvaged and restored. It is part of history. I have a lot of his music.
    Reminds me of the time my Dad asked me to pick up a piano for his restaurant.
    It was a small baby grand, but it had a great sound. Eventually, I don’t know what happened to it.
    I think someone walked away with it.
    I have one in my living room that is a Wurlitzer. It is an upright that needs to be tuned but has a wonderful sound to it. Lately I’ve had to listen to the guy next door to me play his.
    You should tell us more about the parades that you played in.
    Where have you been lately? Not on RR?


    • Hi, Sunny! Thanks for reading. A home with a piano is a home with the potential for music at any time. I’d really like to have one again.

      I’ve stopped sharing my blog posts at for a bit due to “technical difficulties”. I hope to be back soon. Until then, I hope you’ve subscribed via email, Twitter or Facebook and told all your friends to do the same!

      Have a great day!


  2. Sunny permalink

    You didn’t mention who taught you to play piano. You said you performed in parades.


  3. My grandfather played the fiddle, unfortunately I don’t know what happened to it after his death. I have very fond memories of watching him play though.


  4. Very cool article! I would have loved to rebuild that piano!


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