For many years, I was a piano tuner, and I had occasion to tune the Steinway grand at the home of Ira Gershwin, where I met his widow, Mrs. Gershwin, who was blind at the time. The Steinway that I worked on was the same piano on which George Gerswhin had composed Rhapsody In Blue. Needless to say, I was a little nervous about handling it!
While tuning the piano, I noticed that several keys were not functioning very well. So, I opened up the casing and pulled out the mechanism to see what might be causing this. I found a small pencil, a paper clip, and a piece of paper crumpled up into a small ball. I took my tweezers and got them out of there and, absent-mindedly, dropped them into the side pocket of my jacket.
Many years elapsed, and I was never called back to tune that piano because Mrs. Gershwin passed away and it was donated to the Library of Congress. Then, one day, while I was going through my old clothes in my closet, I discovered that piece of paper in the pocket of that jacket. However, I had absolutely no recollection as to where this piece of paper had come from. I opened it up and found that it was a piece of manuscript paper on which were written some notes. I went to my piano and played these notes and found that they formed a melodic pattern that was quite pleasant to my ear.
Being that songwriting is one of my main activities, I presumed that this must have been something I had hurriedly jotted down on one of my walks a long time ago and had forgotten about. So, I worked on the melody to make it into a 32-bar song, and I also put lyrics to it, since I write lyrics as well. I added an introductory verse, made a piano arrangement for the accompaniment and went to a recording studio to record it with me singing and playing the piano. I'm not much of a singer, but I work cheap!
Some time afterward, I was reading in the L. A. Times about the plans to tear down the Gershwin home at 1021 N. Roxbury Drive. It was only then that I began recollecting the incident with the crumpled piece of manuscript paper I had found in Gershwin’s piano! The realization dawned on me that, unwittingly, I may have plagiarized one of Gershwin’s own songs. However, I had no knowledge of any tune by Gershwin that was identical to this. So, it occurred to me that this might have been some tune he had written and then discarded for some reason.
I have written letters to Warner-Chappell, ASCAP, the Library of Congress, the Gershwin family, as well as to a good number of Gershwin aficionados, but no one has ever cared to answer me. I’m hoping this might be brought to the attention of Brian Wilson who, I’m sure, will remember me, for I used to be his piano tuner! If you or anyone should wish to hear this song, you can do so by simply going to my website www.brucelloydkates.com, clicking on Music Samples, and scrolling down to Music Sample 18. The song is called “Some Time To Get To Know You.” I copyrighted it back in 2002, but would relinquish the copyright if the Gerswhin family wishes to claim it. However, I will keep the copyright for the lyrics. They are most definitely my own!
©2005 Bruce Lloyd Kates