1/17/06 Terry Manning "Piano in the Field" story

Story and Photograph ©2006 by Terry Manning

Well, it was just another typical day in the recording world here at Compass Point. We like to call this sort of day "A Björk Moment."

I'm slaving away here on a new Widespread Panic album, and we'd recorded a track that sounds eerily like an old blues recording...small wonder, because we actually used my 30's National wood body resonator guitar, which was one of the very few guitars played by Robert Johnson. I have VERY rarely recorded this instrument, and in fact it doesn't even come out of the case often.

Now it was time for a piano overdub. We started with the Studio A Yamaha, and it sounded great, as usual; but it really wasn't "old-timey special," like I wanted. I was looking for an old-juke-joint-almost-out-of-tune-barrelhouse-upright sound. The Yamaha could have been recording a Bach Prelude just as easily as this track. I mentioned that it sure would be nice to have an upright in the studio (which we don't).

Then it came to me...just flew right into my brain, literally from out of the blue.


The whole month of November was especially trying for us here. The large vacant lot next door had suddenly been turned into a circus. No, not a circus with animals and trapeze artists. Not a Circus with Lenny Kravitz performing. Neither Barnum nor Bailey. This "circus" was a Tent Revival.

Yes, a real tent.

The Big Kind.

It seems that a certain party trying to establish ownership of the property had offered it to a local congregation for their outdoor Revival services.

Now I have nothing at all against any Church. Or any Religion. I applaud those who try to "do right" and help the World, however they may choose to do it. But this large, LOUD (very LOUD) setup was happening just a few feet from the back door of our Studio A.

Toilets. Loudspeakers. PA. Band. Singers. Shouters. Food. Drink.

Much People.

EVERY EVENING in November, starting at 6 PM, and going until 10. And hey, 9 to 3 on Saturdays! This all made it a little hard to do a vocal overdub!

So we complained to the Authorities on legal grounds. But nobody wanted to mess with a Church. So on they went, all month. But we got through it, finally.


December dawned. That Golden Morning, the Tent left. The chairs were packed up. Toilet torn down. Bandstand disassembled. People gone home. Noise abated. Excellent! Back to normal work!

But they left a thing or two abandoned in the Field. One strange object stood right in the middle, covered by old carpet pieces, standing like a monument to mediocrity and Dalton Georgia remnants. Somebody had walked over there back in early December to see what it was, and said they thought it might be a...


This popped into my head today, more than a month later. We went to look, and sure enough, it was an upright piano! Barely in and out of tune...with itself.

The group's able crew, assisted by Osie, carried it about 45 feet so that it was positioned just outside our back door, right on the other side of the chain link fence. I extended the two piano mic cables, and Osie brought out the extra long headphone box cable. Then out came the cheapy Behringer sdc pencil mics that I had recently bought just to get the stereo mic holder bar (as mentioned in another PSW post somewhere). Never thought I'd actually use the mics, but here was a great opportunity!

Perfect sound.

And right there, sitting in the open air and sun, gazing at the blue ocean, blue sky, enjoying the 74 degree F weather, Jojo sat down on the relocated Yamaha piano bench and did the upright piano overdub.

Ask, and Ye shall receive.

Tomorrow I want to find a Ferrari.


July 2006 - Side note:
In a recent Panic radio interview the boys mentioned that someone went back to the field to look at the piano. However they found the upright was no longer there.
They say that it's possible some fan heard about the story and went quietly through the night, taking the piano with them.
Whatever happened to the instrument may remain as mysterious as "the piano in the field".