Monday, March 17, 2008

The Passing of Uncle George

Finished tour in St. Cloud Minn. Bo Diddley's. Flew out as the snows were beginning again and again. Uncle George Malloy died yesterday in Ogden Utah. I doubt wether he knew where Ogden, Utah really was. 88 years old? We flew him out of New York City over a year ago and expected him to live a few weeks and pass on in the rest home....he survived for a year on Chocolate Milkshakes and the New York Times crossword puzzle. Uncle George was a pianist who lived on 72nd and Broadway in New York City for over fifty years. He drank speed-rack vodka tonics at Malachy's bar in between gigs.....we made a record with him six years ago called "In Between Films." You see he was in a few films in the 1950's and when asked about it said: "I'm in Between Films." Meaning he hadn't been in one for fifty years. Uncle George travelled all over the world backing up the stars of the classical music world: Roberta Peters, Todd Duncan and Camilla Williams. He brought back a camel saddle from Egypt. He played piano at the Martin Luther King "I Have a Dream" speech in D.C. right before Bob Dylan. On his milkshake bed in Utah he told me stories: said he saw Josephine Baker in Paris and his friend Todd Duncan bowed down to her. "I thought that was a bit much..." he said. Uncle George played in the Palaces of the world, and in basket houses and Opera bars in Greenwich Village. Played saloon piano in "Gunsmoke in Tucson."
You can find him somewhere on u-tube in a 1945 film backing up a jazz harmonica player named Larry Adler. That's my Uncle George and I was proud to be his nephew. That record we made with him: "In Between Films" is still availavble from
They're gonna bury his ashes near the Hudson river....might as well be the back of the bar at Malachy's. Man, could he play Chopin's Polanaise in A minor! Made my hair stand on end.
He smoked six cigarettes a day out on 72nd street, half a block away from where John Lennon was shot. I miss him.


Saddle Tramp said...

Tom . . . extending my condolences. The world is a little less then it was. I just placed an order yesterday (a birthday gift) for your two most recent cd's previous to receiving this "TR : Notes from the Borderland". I would have ordered the "In Between Films", but was not aware of it. Next order for sure. I am living the road myself , but in a somewhat different format. "Driving the line . . . looking for the line".
" if anything, you had only read Bukowski's titles . . . you would still be a little further along the path for it".
Thanks Tom for your insights on the trail. -ST

dynawebb said...

Sorry for your loss Tom - it's always hard whn you lose someone you get to thinking has been around forever and always will be. Sound like he had a great life.

Any visit to Village always end up costing - this time apart form Ucle George there's Zevon Jr (Jordan with a record out 15 April, same day as Tapestry (De Luxe) and a week before Otis Blue(deluxe)

Of course what wouyld make the trip complete would be Musem of Memories Volume 2....

Doug Lang said...

A full life, well-remembered.
Carry him on. I know you will.
It's the best we can do.


Saddle Tramp said...

I would like to second the motion requesting "MOM2 ".
"MOM1" remains as a favorite of mine. A nice dedication to
Uncle George. God rest his soul.


GransFlask said...

George Malloy was a terrific pianist and a character-and-a-half. I coached with him for many years, so I can tell you that for a fact.

As a pianist, George was from the old school: never let 'em see you sweat. There's a great documentary on Horowtiz from his later years, filmed in his home in Manhattan. In it, there's one shot of him playing something terribly difficult of course, taken from the tail of his concert grand. All you can see in the shot is Horowitz's upper body and face. But from all that tells you, he could just as easily be repairing a watch or slicing onions, instead of playing the hell out of some piece of music absolutely black on the page with notes. George was like that. When he played, his face told you nothing. But, oh, what his hands could say. Oddly enough, George wasn't all that big on Horowitz. His own Piano Man was that cheery showman Rubinstein. Opposite attraction for sure.

As a person, George was tall, handsome, and very, very reserved...until you got to know him. That is, if he'd let you get to know him. If he'd been an actor, he could have played any duke, earl, or very high-class butler you'd care to name. Like John Gieldgud in "Arthur." Except that George would have played that part much less fruitily. If George had done it, it would have been a very dried fruit. Saharan, actually.

George had a quirky, dry, wicked sense of humor. Tom has captured some of that in his "I'm in between films" and "I thought that was a but much" quotes. But here's another example.

George was an adventurous eater. He liked to roam the Upper West Side of New York, looking for different and interesting places to have a meal. Once, we walked up Broadway from 72nd Street and, at 93rd or 94th, found an Indian restaurant that had just opened. He went in and found the place almost deserted. Still, the host greeted him warmly and seated him at a table by the window. Many, many months later, George went back. There weren't any more customers there than there'd been the first time. But the same host greeted him and said, "Your usual table, sir?" That cracked George up.

Another time George and I were discussing cabaret shows. I asked him, somewhat facetiously I have to admit, if he'd ever thought about doing one himself. "Not really," he replied. But then he went on to say that, if he ever actually did one, he'd sing Sinatra's "My Way." He said he'd wear a feather boa and, instead of singing "Regrets, I've had a few," he'd sing "Egrets," turn and breathe on the feathers to ruffle them, then continue "I've had a few." Well, that cracked me up. I mean, first of all, George's deadpan delivery of the line, and then the very idea of sardonic, elegant George in a tux and boa! Plus, the neat reference to that avian crossword-puzzle staple. And the perfectly timed puff of air. It was all vintage George.

You say you were proud to be his nephew, Tom. I can tell you for sure he was proud to be your uncle. You know, personality-wise George never ever gave very much away. He was definitely a guy you wouldn't want to play poker with. But whenever you came to town, there was always a little light in his eyes and pride in his voice when he said he was going to go see you perform.

Mostly what I remember about George is what a superb musician he was. Somewhere in his belongings you might find an old cassette tape of him playing a concert with the great Eileen Farrell--who, as far as I'm concerned, had the most beautiful voice God ever gave a woman. (George used to say that her full-voiced high notes almost knocked his head off.) But somewhere between the taping of the performance and the copy of the tape George had, the speed had been increased, so that the pitches were a half-step too high and everything was, of course, too fast. So George hated the tape, even though he treasured it. But I can tell you now that, if that tape were found and restored, well, that would be something really, really worth listening to.

Like you, Tom, I'm not sure George would be totally crazy about having his ashes scattered on the Hudson. Malachy's is a much better idea. And even though he was a vodka man, I'd put him behind the bar in a bottle of some rare old whiskey that only gets better with age.

I wish I knew some funny old Irish toast that would perfectly encapsulate my feelings about George Malloy, but I don't. So I'll just say, "Cheers, George. To music and to you. Here's looking at you, kid."