Pianist Roger Williams Is Still In Top Form At Age 84
I was very fortunate to get to hear a Roger Williams piano concert in Gulf Shores Alabama last night. He played three nights to a sold out crowd each night. This is the fifth season that he has performed in Gulf Shores and he does at least three concerts each time. He performs with a very accomplished five piece band.
Pianist Roger Williams has played during the lives of three generations. He has played for nine presidents and is scheduled to play for two more. He was asked if he got nervous while playing for the presidents. He said, “no because most of them were not good pianists”.
Williams became popular in 1955 when he recorded “Autumn Leaves”, which has become the best selling piano recording of all times. He made a statement at the concert that he was still raking in leaves off that song. Some of his recordings include Born Free, Evergreen, Love is a Many Splendored Thing, Sound of Music, Days of Wine and Roses, and many others.
He takes about 20 minutes after a concert before he comes out to meet the crowd and sign autographs. It was well worth the wait. I took two of my Roger Williams piano solo books that I have had for about 35 years and got him to autograph them. I was also able to talk to him for a little while. He was a very kind and considerate person.
Two guys from Canada, who looked to be in their early twenties, flew down for the Roger Williams piano concert. The grandparents of one of the guys is a Canadian snowbird who resides in Gulf Shores during the winter. These guys were very anxious to get to meet Roger Williams. The band manager was telling them the fingering for some of the runs that Roger uses in order to play the runs so fast. They were overjoyed to get his autograph and get their picture made with him.
Steinway created a Limited Edition piano for Roger Williams to honor his 80th birthday. The piano has a stunning gold metallic finish, the signature notes from Mr. Williams’ “Autumn Leaves”, and inside the piano has a masterful custom painted autumn landscape. Mr. Williams brought the piano to Gulf Shores last year, but he was having something done to it and could not get it back in time to bring to the concert this year. Maybe, he can bring it next year.
Roger Williams has had an illustrious career. He is referred to as “Mr. Piano”, “King of the keyboards”, and the “Icon of the Ivories”. Some of his accomplishments are:
- he recorded 118 albums, of which 18 went Gold and Platinum, making him the most popular pianist in history
- he has played with nearly every major symphony and orchestra
- he was the first pianist to receive a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
- he is the only artist to receive the Steinway Lifetime Achievement Award
He travels across the country doing fund raisers for schools with his Pop Goes The Ivories concerts. He can also be seen on Dr. Robert Schuller’s Hour of Power from the Crystal Cathedral. He has logged over 100 appearances on this weekly television series which is seen by over 30 million viewers.
Roger celebrated his 83rd birthday by playing a 14.5 hour marathon at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum to raise awareness for the importance of music in schools. He is now 84 years of age.
I was extremely impressed to get to hear him play the piano and to get to meet him after the concert. Roger Williams is a very special person and definitely a good role model for our family.