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GERSHWIN’S LOST TUNE
(A Piano Tuner’s Confession)

I once had the occasion to tune the Steinway grand piano at the home of George Gershwin's brother Ira Gershwin, who had recently passed away, and where I met his widow, Mrs. Lenore Gershwin. The home was located at 1021 No. Roxbury Dr. in Beverly Hills. The Steinway that I worked on was considered historic because it had been the same piano on which George Gershwin had composed his Rhapsody In Blue. The piano was being prepared to be shipped to the Library of Congress. 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. Inside, I found a small pencil, a paper clip, and a piece of paper crumpled up into a tiny ball. I took my tweezers and got these items out of there and, absent-mindedly, dropped them into the side pocket of my jacket.

Many years elapsed. I was never called back to tune that piano because Mrs. Gershwin had passed away and it was now at the Library of Congress. Then, one day, while I was going through some old clothes in my closet, I discovered a crumpled piece of paper in the pocket of that jacket. I opened it up and found that it was a piece of manuscript paper on which were scrawled 15 notes. I went to my piano and played these notes and found that they formed a melodic pattern that was appealing to me.

I presumed this must have been a tune I had jotted down while I was out walking my dog and then had forgotten about. I set about making it into a song.

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, and about the uproar this was causing in the L.A. musical community. 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 tunes! However, I had no knowledge of any tune by Gershwin that was identical to this one, and it occurred to me that this might have been some tune he had discarded. (He was known to have thrown away about 3 tunes per day!)

I have written letters to a good number of Gershwin aficionados, but no one has ever cared to answer me. I've even tried bringing this to the attention of Brian Wilson whose piano I used to tune. He once recorded an album of unknown Gershwin tunes he had been given permission to rewrite by the Gershwin family.

I named the song that I had composed using these 15 notes "Some Time To Get To Know You."

But, to myself, I'll always refer to it as GERSHWIN'S LOST TUNE !

 

 
©2021 Bruce Lloyd Kates