Carmel Magazine

Carmel Magazine Spring 2014

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Piano Tuner Leads a Grand Life A grand piano has around 230 strings under the lid. In our moist coastal climate, those metal wires expand and contract, meaning that they often go out of tune. That fact has sustained piano tuner Ellsworth Gregory for six decades…and counting. Over the years, he's found himself in some interesting places. Gregory has tuned at Mission Ranch for 50 years and Spanish Bay for 20; he was backstage at every Monterey Jazz Festival from 1958 to 1976, tuning for Brubeck, Basie, Hancock, Peterson, Ellington, Garner and many other greats; and every Thursday finds him at the Inn at Spanish Bay, tweaking the lobby grand for the weekend's jazz trio. He recalls a June evening in 1967 at the Monterey Fairgrounds: "This guy [ Jimi Hendrix] lit his guitar on fire. I said to myself, 'what the hell am I doing here?'" His list of private clients—both famous and not so—is long and faithful. Gregory was knocking around his native Massachusetts when his father- in-law suggested he take up his own trade: piano tuning. "I said, 'What the hell is a piano tuner?'" He learned quickly. Relocating to Monterey in 1954, he landed a job at Stan Newlin Music Store. There, he befriended Jimmy Lyons, a young KDON DJ who had a dream of bringing a world class jazz festival to Monterey. "That association opened a lot of doors for me," Gregory says. Though a master piano technician, Gregory doesn't play. He recalls an incident when he was plinking away while tuning a piano at a convalescent home. Two elderly women came in and sat down. "One said to the other, 'He doesn't play very well,'" Gregory laughs. "Her friend replied, 'I think it's that modern music.'" Now in his 80s, the energetic and gregarious Gregory has no thought of retiring. He still ventures out from his Carmel Valley home three days a week to tend to his flock of pianos. "Retire? I love working," he says. "If I retired it wouldn't last long." —Michael Chatfield SHORTCUTS NEIGHBORS Ellsworth Gregory has kept things in tune at the piano bar at Clint Eastwood's Mission Ranch Hotel and Restaurant for the past 50 years. The piano tuner worked the Monterey Jazz Festival, where he watched Jimi Hendrix set his guitar on fire. Photo: Kelli Uldall 66 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 0 1 4 044-70 Shortcuts_SU05 Carmel Magazine 4/21/14 7:28 AM Page 11

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