Outrageous Concerts and Regrettable Gigs

This page is the retelling of bizarre stories ranging from throwing obnoxious kids out of concerts to being lassoed on stage by a loveable bunch in a small Missouri town. 

There is no end to the Regrettable Gigs section. Stay tuned. It will be updated periodically when I can bring myself to do it.  

The Night the Kid Wouldn't Shut Up

The house was packed at the historic Ramsdell Theatre in Manistee, Michigan, where the gentle aroma coming off Lake Michigan wafts the town day and night. I walked out onto the stage, greeted the audience, and began playing an up-tempo tune "to get their attention." (It's an old trick). The 9' Yamaha Grand was at full blast as I ramped up the technique little by little, and I never felt better in my life about my confidence to make this an outstanding night. 

But as I was ending the 2nd to the last chorus I thought I heard someone talking.

"What?" I thought. "Impossible! No one can talk over the waves of sound coming out of this piano!"

But the talking continued and I knew that if I could hear it, EVERYONE could hear it! I finished the tune and stood up. And there in the balcony, up there to my right, was a five-year old little girl just standing there talking about her dolls or something. I spoke to her politely:

"Little girl," I said, "you're voice is louder than you think. I can hear you all the way down here on the stage, and if I can hear you, everyone in the place can hear you. Can you be quiet, please?"

The audience applauded nicely, so I introduced the next tune and began. And...

the little girl was talking again.

This time when finished I stood up and addressed her again. Except for one difference:

"Little girl, you obviously didn't hear me, so this time I'm talking to your mother! Hey, mother of little girl: she is very distracting to both myself and to the audience. Can you keep her quiet for us, please? Thank you!"

I introduced and began the next selection. This was a beautiful, slow melodic tune, and now ...

the little girl was talking again. 

From all my previous 30 years of playing in night clubs and saloons I knew that when obnoxious people were present, the audience all hoped that someone would deal with the situation. I'd also learned years ago that that person had to be me. So I'd done it many times in the past and now I was about to do it again. Here goes:

When I finished the tune I jumped up and started yelling at the people:

"Will you shut up?? What the devil is wrong with you up there? Don't you know that all these people in here tonight paid money to hear a piano player? They didn't pay to hear your kid who can't keep her mouth shut! Some of these people, unlike you, actually paid for baby sitters to stay home with their kids in order to avoid a stupid mess like this! Please get up and leave this place!! (Wild applause, hooting and hollering from the audience. I continued.) "Ron (the theatre director) will hand you your money back on the way out ! Now get up and get out!"

The audience was cheering wildly as they grabbed their purses, toys and dolls and exited the balcony. Linda was standing in the lobby when they came through in a huff. The woman snapped at Linda:

"Well, I guess he's one of those who just doesn't like children."

Linda retaliated:

"You're wrong, lady. He loves children, but a concert hall isn't the romper room. Learn the difference!"

Peace returned to the concert hall once they were gone, and the performance returned to being fun again. But there's an more:


Twenty years later I finished a concert in San Francisco. At the conclusion I was standing out front talking with people when a man walked up to me:

"Mr. Milne," he said, "I've wanted to tell you something for twenty years but didn't know how to reach you. I was at the Ramsdell Theatre the night you threw that obnoxious kid and her troupe out of the place, and I've always wanted to tell you how much I, and everyone else, appreciated what you did. The entire audience was on your side. I wish more people had the chutzpah to do that like you did."

He thanked me again and departed. I was extremely pleased to hear that people remembered and appreciated what I had done the night the kid wouldn't shut up.  

Weird Stuff

Overheard in a small diner in the southern Missouri Ozarks:

"Hey, did you hear about Jake's new thumping truck?"

"Yeah, I heard a little bit."

"Did you hear he drove it right into the river and up over that waterfall last Sunday?"

"Doesn't surprise me. Can you pass the hot sauce?"

The Romper Room Idiot

The public concert at an unnamed college was off to a rocky start. When I walked on stage there was a woman sitting in the front row with a cartoonish looking grin plastered on her face, and she was rocking a baby in her arms. The people sitting nearby cast nervous glances, for they all knew it was only a matter of time before the baby started screaming, crying, and wrecking the performance. And the woman just looked up at me, grinning and rocking. 

I said a nervous "hello" to the packed house, then played the first number. All was well so far: the baby wasn't screaming yet but she still had this stupid grin on her face and was rocking the baby annoyingly. 

Tunes two & three were also without event. I began tune four, and halfway through it I heard giggling and voices coming from the audience: "what the hell..." I finished the tune and stood up, but the people pointing to something on the stage that had been behind me. I turned to see the stupid looking woman changing the baby's diaper ON the stage. At the moment I looked down, the dirty diaper (filled) was spread out on the stage and she was holding the child's feet up in the air while wiping its butt. 

I began screaming at her to "Get the hell out of the place, NOW!!" She seemed surprised and continued wiping butt. I have no idea what I said at this point, other than to impress on this idiot that she was leaving immediately. Finally she threw everything into a baby bag, full diaper and all, and stormed off down the center aisleway for the door. The audience broke into wild cheering and applause. The woman, however, had bought several of my recordings on the way in, and now I could see Linda standing in the back holding her money out for her as she passed by. The woman slammed the recordings down on the table, took the money, and exited the hall with the unfortunate baby quite confused I'm sure. 

After I had calmed down, as did the audience, I began to introduce the next tune. The only problem was that now the stage reeked of stinking diaper, and the stench never left for the remainder of the night. 

Playing Through Sheets, Lassoed on Stage, and More

From the Outrageous Concerts files:

At the Franke Center for the Arts, Marshall, Michigan, we used to put on various theme  shows. In this one we recreated the Rosebud Bar, famous (infamous) ragtime joint in St. Louis early 1900s. It included 24 hour gambling, pool shooting, cards, floozies, and a piano player who stood up while playing because drunks would bust whiskey bottles over his head when he was sitting down. The local actors group agreed to be all the lowlifes for this event, and you'll notice the upright piano on the right side of the stage. Every now and then I'd go over there and play it standing up. Also notice the grand piano is covered in a sheet with a sign that reads, "Do Not Remove by Order of the Fire Marshall." I would come out at the beginning, say hello to the audience, look puzzled over the sign, then start playing the concert through the sheet. After a tune of two a couple guys would come running over, screaming and waving their arms, and say, "Bob! You can take that sheet off now!" Then they'd whip it off the piano while I was playing and toss it ignominiously into some dark corner.

We did a similar thing in Florida one time, but we hid other piano players and a stage hand under the sheet.  The stage hand had a little dog, and when the ripped the sheet off to expose this gaggle of piano players underneath, the dog walked out to center stage and stood there looking at the audience for a minute or so. All the while I was roaring away on the piano while everyone underneath hastily crawled off the stage in different directions. Bill Edwards was one of them, so I'm tagging him with this post.

I'll be posting more Outrageous Concert stories periodically.

Blackwater, Missouri, is probably the smallest town in the state. I performed there twice a year for over 20 years. 

The town is industrious, sincere, and playful. Every time I played there, some bizarre thing would explode on me partway through the performance. 

We would fill their little West End Theatre every time, and many people came to hear not only the concert but to see the weirdness put on by the mayor, either Bobby Danner or Shelby D depending on the year.

It appears I've been invaded by aliens in this picture. They've brought one of those cut-out people with them and are going to make some sort of proclamation I assume. 

In previous years I've been lassoed on stage, presented with a badge and designated the town marshal, interrupted by Santa and a sleigh roaring across the stage, and 20 years of wild happenings on stage when no one expected it. I'll be posting more from Blackwater as we go along. 

Playing in a Dump

A dumpy street somewhere, similar to

Larry Kekoa’s Hawaiian Bar.

Certain information in this story has been changed or disguised, but the facts in the story are true to the last word. 

Larry Kekoa’s Hawaiian Bar


         In the 1980s, with the invention of the Moog Synthesizer, 90% of the piano players in the Detroit area lost their jobs. Pianos went out to the alleys and dining tables replaced them. Now music was created on weekend nights with some guy walking in with a keyboard under his arm. He’d set it up on a table, put the canned drum box on the floor, and Wow everyone with “Oh, now let’s bring in the strings…” Electronic beeps and crappy replications of orchestral violin sections now replaced quality pianos and those who could play them. It was “business” to the owners, but it was also the end of a music tradition in public places that went back 100 years. Pianos, the musical center of the universe for over a century, were gone.

         I lost my job of over 20 years due to both this and some bad business decisions my employer had made, and now found myself on the streets looking for a piano job of any kind. The first thing I learned was there was no money in it anymore. Piano players couldn’t “bring in the strings.” My quest for a job took me to a bar/lounge in Flint, Michigan, named Larry Kekoa’s Hawaiian Bar.

         Larry was from Hawaii. He was short, about 5’6”. I believe he was rounder than he was tall but he was a nice enough guy. He needed a piano bar player for Wednesday nights so offered the job to me at gas money prices. But it was better than nothing.

         The piano bar quickly filled up with bar patron regulars that went back twenty years. They ran the place and I was the newcomer. They didn’t want the Maple Leaf Rag or Boogie-woogie, they wanted run-of-the-mill sing-a-long songs - the same ones over and over. During the old song Pretty Baby they’d take a magnum whiskey bottle and rock it back and forth like a newborn baby whilst singing to the Jim Beam or Hiram Walker bottle. Whiskey-breath crooners would resonate into my face with smell, and dirty jokes were the giggles of the night. I used an old trick of mine called “Think Pizza” to get me through these four-hour sessions: I’d dream of treating myself to a pizza when I got out of there, and imagine how much pepperoni or sausage I was going to have on it. But now someone was singing Danny Boy and murdering the high note as the others were still caressing the Jim Beam bottle.

         Every Wednesday I forced myself to go to this gig and watch people slurp it up night after night. But I wasn’t their kind. I don’t drink. I never told a dirty joke and only pretended to be amused at theirs. A voice would sometimes come from somewhere and yell at me if I quit playing a song “too soon” because they were hugging and dancing somewhere around the corner. It was what I used to call a “father and daughter” place, complete with dimly lit atmosphere and probably someone else’s wife.

         I’d been there about a month now, so at one point took a break and went to the mens room. There were 2 urinals in an area wide enough for 1 ½, compressed between two walls towards the back of the john. I noticed stench but actually went to one of them. Within seconds, Larry Kekoa squeezed his substantial girth up to the urinal next to my right, compacting me up against the wall to the left. I heard him unzip. Then, with both of us standing there urinating, he looked at me and said,

         “Bob, we’re not going to need you anymore after tonight.”


         I exited the mens room, walked past all the drunks at the piano bar, went through the doors to outside, got into my car, and drove to a local pool hall. That night, having just been fired in the bathroom, I made more money than the previous month in Larry Kekoa’s.  

         And the mens room had substantially more spacing where needed.