Sunday, September 14, 2008

Coke Corner - Main Street Pianist - Rod & Johnny

Dateline: Main Street, U.S.A. 1984-1985.

In the late afternoon, as twilight began to settle over a summer day at the Park, the white piano at Coke Corner would burst forth with a ragtime tune and guests would plant themselves on the red and white, wire-backed chairs nearby.

And listen.

Soon the fading sunlight would give way to the sparkling fancy of hundreds of electrical light bulbs along Coke Corner's facade and overhang. The hum of the crowd was a mixture of laughter, broken bits of conversation, distant crying children and orders for hot dogs and Cherry Coke. The clip clop of the horse drawn trolley disappeared as the horses were brought back to their stable and the Street readied itself for the Electrical Parade.

Strollers and pedestrians flowed back and forth past the Candy Palace, the Penny Arcade and the Sunkist Citrus House. On the curb, people began securing their spots for premium parade viewing. The gas lamps of Main Street flickered and the lights along all of the storefronts came up, bathing the area in a yellow electric glow. The area music bounced happily from unseen speakers.

Heat from the warm summer's day began rising up from the sidewalks and pavement that had earlier absorbed it. A soft evening breeze barely ruffled the trees and umbrellas in front of the Plaza Pavillion. Folks on the southern end of the Pavillion's porch leaned toward the distinct and rollicking sound of the piano.

On many days such as this, Rod Miller (pictured below on the cover of his CD) was the source of that fabulous sound. Also sharing keyboard duties back then was a cast member I knew as "Johnny" from his name tag---his full name is Johnny Hodges. He was a pleasant person who, like Rod, knew how to keep the small group of folks within earshot of the piano entertained and upbeat during his sets.

He is pictured here in a photograph from a 1988 special edition magazine entitled "Mickey Is Sixty," published by Time, Inc. and issued in honor of Mr. Mouse's birthday.

The boy's smile (and Johnny's, for that matter) tells you all you need to know.

If you never got to experience one of Rod or Johnny's performances, I am truly sorry.

Rod had played on Main Street since the late 1960s and was an institution. He has since retired and is doing well raising plumerias and visiting the Park now and then, as I understand it.

You can see plenty of videos of Rod over on YouTube and even a few of Johnny. I include one of Rod's here.

Here's one of Johnny's.

Here's another.

And another photograph of Johnny from 2005 (with thanks to "Big Brian").

Simply put, these gentlemen created countless positive experiences for Disneyland guests (and Cast Members) over the years.

I thank them for the many they gave to me.

Perhaps you have an encounter or two with the Coke Corner pianists that you recall?