Every book has a story

Every book has a story.

Check in frequently to read the behind-the-scenes scoop on the Newberry’s popular Book Fair. The blog is maintained by “Uncle Blogsy,” otherwise known as Dan Crawford, Book Fair Manager.

Player Piano

The average Piano Bench Collection is fairly predictable. I have spoken of these donations before: the sheet music and music books which have been accumulating in the family piano bench since that Jesse French upright was purchased in, oh, 1903. There are the piano lesson books, with penciled notes and little gold stars in the margins of “Teaching Little Fingers To Play”, or whatever Schaum or Thompson books the teacher liked.

There are the collections of piano pieces for four hands, half of them missing one of the parts. There are the books of pop songs, often with the back cover missing and photocopies of that song an impromptu quartet decided to perform at the 1954 talent show. You find famous songs from long-forgotten movies, long-forgotten songs from famous movies, and well-worn copies of Because, Oh Promise Me, White Christmas, and Little Drummer Boy.

Some things are unique and still common: those manuscript pages of songs copied from somebody else’s book, or a song or two written by the musician in the family, on the way to an illustrious career as a bank teller. There are song parodies made by taking a piece of published sheet music and writing new words above the printed ones. (The best so far came from a convent’s music school, where “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” was turned into a Mother’s Day hymn to the Virgin Mary.)

There are even prize certificates for Superior Performance at some music contest, or photographs of young people in performance costumes they would pay not to let their grandchildren see. The Piano Bench Collection is always kind of fun, but also kind of predictable.

But once in a while, a piano bench will surprise you.

This bit of sheet music catches the eye right away: there’s Hugh Hefner in the center of a group of very sedate women in party dresses which would not have been out of place on the Lawrence Welk Show. Well, there was this Playboy television program, and it had a theme song. The sheet music for that featured this picture on the cover, and is a handy little collectible. That’s not what we have here.

What we have here is a special reprint of that sheet music with entirely new lyrics. Arnie Morton, an immortal name among Chicago nightclub and restaurant owners, was having a party in honor of Playboy’s twenty-fifth anniversary. It was held at Zorine’s, the club he named for his wife, whom he had met through Hugh Hefner years before. A souvenir from that party would be an even handier little collectible. That’s not what we have here.

Arnie Morton printed this sheet music as the invitation to the party: only people on the A List were sent this. The last line of his lyrics gives the name of his secretary who was taking RSVPs, and the phone number to call (it ends in zero, so it doesn’t rhyme with the line before it; neither does the footnote about the invitation being non-transferable.)

So what looked like an ordinary piece of sheet music, sitting between “Cain’t Say No” and “Moonlight Becomes You” is a rather exclusive tidbit. I have no estimate of value for this, but Playboy collectors are as crazy as any other type (let me tell you what someone paid me once for a Playboy memo with just the INITIALS of a luminary scribbled on it.) We’ll zee.

Have you checked your piano bench lately?

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