Dave McKenna

Today is Dave McKenna’s 78th Birthday. He plays the piano.


Happy Birthday.

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  1. says

    I saw Dave McKenna in what I think was the last (or one of the last) live performance he had. (In talking to Dick Johnson last summer, I’m told Dave McKenna almost never leaves his home, even.)
    It was in December of 2000. It was in the basement of a church in Needham, MA. I’d seen him a few years earlier on Cape Cod, and he did almost 2 hours of solo piano. In 2000, he played maybe 15 total minutes solo. It was mostly with a quartet: Marshall Wood (b), Jim Gwin (d), and Donna Byrne (v). It was a fantastic show, despite the fact that I really wanted to see him play and not listen to Donna sing.
    Years earlier, when I’d seen him, he walked up with a cane on one side and a person on the other. He got up to the piano, and threw his cane across the stage. It looked like he was going to keel over and faint on the keyboard, but he stayed in that position for two nearly one-hour sets and played as well as ever.
    Truly one of the greats who was never known as well as he should have been — except in New England, where he was known for playing a hotel lobby while listening to baseball. Lou Columbo and Dick Johnson always have fantastic stories to tell if you ever get them both together and say the words, “How’s Dave McKenna doing?”

  2. says

    I featured Dave on my blog “My Favorite Things” several weeks ago and wondered aloud about what happened to him, A reader contacted me to report that Dave is in State College, PA in poor health. However, I have not been able to confirm the accuracy of this.
    Back in the 1980’s I produced several solo concerts by Dave. They were wonderful musical experiences.

  3. says

    Thanks, Doug, for this sweet gift of Dave’s lovely piano playing. Brought a tear to my eye, remembering all the wonderful times, both playing with him and just listening to him, that brought me so much joy.
    Bill Crow

  4. Jon Foley says

    Being a New Englander for most of my life, I got quite a few chances to hear Dave over the years (as well as to meet him and spend some time talking with him – what a nice, humble guy he is). He’s one of the few with a unique piano sound – as soon as you hear him, you know immediately who it is.
    He has often referred to himself as “just a saloon piano player.” After watching that clip, does anyone agree with that self-deprecating assessment?

  5. Bruce Tater says

    Thank you so much for the nice bit on Dave’s 78th and bringing even this little piece of his work to an audience who may not be familiar with him or his genius.
    I spoke with Dave(telephone) on Wednesday (May 29th) and his spirits are still quite up. We have been friends for many,many years. He is in very poor health and gets out rarely but on occasion he does. Talk is mainly of baseball–and the Red Sox.
    He is truly one of those ONE OF A KIND musicians and draws an audience of pianists and others in great numbers when he did perform–particularly in solo settings.
    His CDs and vinyls go on my Desert Island list no matter how many times I list and delist.