Blues In Thirds Medley

Earl Hines

1979 footage

Earl “Fatha” Hines performs a solo piano medley during a concert in Antibes, France on July 20th 1979.

Earl Hines was born December 28th 1903 in Duquesne, Pennsylvania, 12 miles from the center of Pittsburgh. His father, Joseph Hines, played cornet and was leader of Pittsburgh’s Eureka Brass Band, his stepmother a church organist. Hines intended to follow his father on cornet but “blowing” hurt him behind the ears, while the piano didn’t. The young Hines took classical piano lessons; at eleven he was playing the organ in his local Baptist church – but he also had a “good ear and a good memory” and could re-play songs and numbers he heard in theaters and park ‘concerts’: “I’d be playing songs from these shows months before the song copies came out. That astonished a lot of people and they’d ask where I heard these numbers and I’d tell them at the theatre where my parents had taken me.” Later Hines was to say that he was playing piano around Pittsburgh “before the word ‘jazz’ was even invented.”

At the age of 17, and with his father’s approval, Hines moved away from home to take a job playing piano with Lois Deppe & his “Symphonian Serenaders” in the Liederhaus, a Pittsburgh nightclub. He got his board, two meals a day and $15 a week. Deppe was a well-known baritone who sang both classical and popular numbers. Deppe used the young Hines as his accompanist for both and took Hines on his concert-trips to New York. Hines’ first recordings were accompanying Deppe — four sides recorded with Gennett Records in 1923. Only two of these were issued, and only one, a Hines composition, “Congaine”, “a keen snappy foxtrot,” featured any solo work by Hines. Hines entered the studio again with Deppe a month later to record spirituals and popular songs.

Later while in his seventies and after a flood of recent solo recordings, Hines said, “I’m an explorer if I might us that expression. I’m looking for something all the time. And oft-times I get lost. And people that are around me a lot know that when they see me smiling, they know I’m lost and I’m trying to get back. But it makes it much more interesting because then you do things that surprise yourself. And after you hear the recording, it makes you a little bit happy too because you say, “Oh, I didn’t know I could do THAT!”

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