I've been asked to write a little bit about myself, so here goes:
I was born in Berkeley, CA in August of 1948. Until I was six, my family lived in El Cerrito, CA where I learned to ride a bike, catch butterflies and dig holes in the ground. I also enjoyed listening to my mother play her piano. When we moved to Daly City, CA, so my father could be closer to his place of work, Mom had to sell the grand and get a console. I later learned that for her, it was a sad day, but at least she had a piano. She played nearly every day. Well, that's the way I remember it....
Before long, I was, according to Mom, "banging" on the keys. Soon I learned songs like Heart and Soul and that song where you roll your fingers over the black keys... ;-) I took music in school as soon as it was offered, but at that time, playing the piano was done to impress and 'entertain' my female classmates. I have always enjoyed, and still enjoy the 'ladies'. I remember playing the clarinet for a year or two but it was an A-flat instrument. Everyone else in the band played a B-flat clarinet. So all of my music had to be transposed. I learned that word at the age 10 or 11. I think I was in the Seventh Grade at Benjamin Franklin Junior Highschool when I had to give up the clarinet because of my braces - which ultimately didn't work... ;-(
Having been a paperboy from the time I was eight, I had about $80.00 in the bank when I was eleven. I had an interest in boogie-woogie music and would practice playing the standard boogie bass line every day. My mother hated it! She says that at first it was cute, but it got boring in a big hurry, especially considering there were five Tuttle children. Well, she reached the end of her rope one day and said , "If you want to play piano like that, go get one of your own!" Her tuner, John Lundhome, had told her that my playing the same notes over and over would wear them out more than the others, and change the tonal character of those notes. I know now that that was pretty doubtful....
Anyhow, I started looking in the Classified Ads that week. Heck, I delivered the paper. I knew where to look, and I found an upright that was selling for $50.00. At dinner that evening, we talked about 'John getting a piano'. A deal was struck that if I could afford to buy a piano, my Dad would make sure it got home. That following weekend, my Dad drove me to the city (San Francisco) and we headed for the Filmore District. Having lived in Daly City, some 15 miles south of 'Frisco', I knew that the area had a rather scary reputation, but my father knew his way around and we arrived at the home of an elderly black couple without incident. Once inside, we were shown the piano, a painted white elephant upright with chipped ivories, notes that didn't play, flat hammers and a flatter tuning... I don't recall laboring long before I decided to buy the piano, so I looked at my Dad and probably smiled some goofy kid smile. The owners turned to my Dad, expecting him to reach in his pocket for the money. He said, "Oh, no. He's buying it." They turned to me and said, "In that case, the cost is $25.00 young man." I probably didn't contain my enthusiasm as I counted out the money, and don't have any recollection of driving back home.
It was probably the following weekend that the piano arrived and was put in our mostly-finished basement room. It had problems.... and once I got it opened so I could see the piano action, it looked awfully complicated. So, with the money I had saved on the purchase, I set about trying to find a tuner. I didn't have much luck... I mean, what piano tuner is going to do business with an eleven year old kid? Well, sometime later my mother's tuner arrived to tune her piano. While he was there, he looked at the upright. "It's a piece of junk! Not worth spending any money on", were words that left his lips. It might have been a few days later when I finally got to the public library and checked out every book they had about pianos. Which one I finally used the most to unravel the mysteries of the piano isn't important because it was more the pictures than the words that educated me. Once I learned how the parts were suppose to look and function, figuring out why certain notes didn't work wasn't that difficult. Finding the replacement parts was nearly impossible. Even though I knew the names of the parts I needed, no one would sell them to me. "You have to be in the trade", they all said. So, I learned how to swap parts from one part of the action and put them where they were required; in the center part of the keyboard. One by one I began to sacrifice notes on the extreme ends of the scale. For reasons that cover too much ground to explain at this time, it took me about 1-1/2 years to get the piano "playable", and sort of tuned. (That's a whole story in itself.)
For the next 5-1/2 years, music was a central part of my life. I had a band when I was 14, played guitar, piano, a little clarinet. I never really had piano lessons or guitar lessons. I learned by watching, listening and playing. I had a good ear and had no problem learning songs I heard on the radio. When I was 17, I got my first shot at a record contract. It's a long story, but my folks, on the advice of a lawyer, decided not to sign the contract. Well, one thing led to another over the next six months, and I ended up running away to get married in Reno, NV. It's a long story, but four days later I was on my way to Boot Camp in San Diego, CA. I was in the Navy!
Although I had decided to learn electronics while in the service, music continued to be an integral part of my life. After schooling in Memphis, TN and again in San Diego, I left for Japan to become an airborne radar operator on an EC-121 Super Connie. After settling in to my new home, I started looking for guys who played rock and roll. Within about two years, I had a band that got recognized by a talent scout from RCA Nippon, and they paid us to cut an LP. Shortly afterwards, our bass player was killed when the plane he was on was shot down by the North Koreans. As you might guess, the band sort of fell apart and plans for a second LP of all original material was scrubbed. Some months later, another band was formed and we started polishing old tunes and creating new ones but two key members of the group ended up getting medical discharges before we could get to the studio again. It's a long story....
Why I ended up in Rota, Spain in 1969 after a three-year tour in Japan/Viet Nam is involved, but I was married, had money in my pocket and I had nice instruments and a great stereo system. Life was good, but finding musicians who wanted to dedicate time to making good music seemed impossible. So, when I wasn't working or composing music, I raced cars and motorcycles for fun. During those years, I composed dozens of tunes that hold some great memories of a time when I explored life. Bouncing back and forth for between Rota and Key West, Florida for the three years I was stationed in Spain, I felt like I was on top of the world. The only thing I really missed was making music in a band....
Having made plans with two of the guys I worked with in Japan, I decided to spend the next few years in Lakehurst, NJ. It's also fair to say that the events leading up to my arrival could fill a whole chapter. However, it wasn't long before I started finding musicians, and within a year the band started playing at clubs in Ocean and Monmouth Counties. It's a shame that sex, drugs and alcohol ruined a lot of rock bands in those years, but being in the military didn't help. Finally, in 1973, I decided to leave the Navy and start a business. With the band scene going nowhere fast, I had about 1-1/2 years before my discharge date so I took a part time job working for a piano store fixing player pianos. Now you might wonder how I got involved with player pianos. As you might imagine, it's a long story. What I will say is that I fixed the very first player piano I ever saw in less than two weeks while on vacation in York, Nebraska. I was on a months leave between duty stations (Atsugi, Japan and Rota, Spain).
The business did well for the first six months after leaving the Navy, but I didn't have an established reputation or certified training in piano work, so I took a job at Tusting Piano Co., in Asbury Park, NJ. I worked there for 1-1/2 years, learning the trade, and I advanced rapidly to shop manager. I finally decided to go back to running my business fulltime and it started to grow. Over the seven years that followed, I had as many as four fulltime and two part time employees, but being a "boss" wasn't to be my forte. So, I started downsizing. Within five years, I was back to working basically on my own. Occasionally I would hire someone part time to do repetitious work, and that's how I ended up meeting Pandora, my second wife. Though she didn't share my knowledge of music, she shared my love for doing fine work, and she was a quick learner.
Well, I've been actively working on player pianos for 42 years now. I started this website back in 1996 because my daughter said it would be the first site about player pianos. She was right. Having discovered years ago that I enjoy educating people, it was only natural that I start writing webpages about how player pianos work. The site has become nearly a full time business, and I recently started downsizing my service business as I look forward to growing "Player-Care.com".
So, now you know how I got here. I have lived in Brick, NJ for 40 years. It's been one heck of an interesting journey and I hope to write it all down before I get too old to remember the details.
John A. Tuttle
407 19th Ave, Brick, NJ, 08724
Phone Number 732-840-8787