The Piano Man

Earl "Fatha" Hines

Earl Kenneth Hines. more known as Earl “Fatha” Hines was born on December 28th 1903 in Duquesne, Pennsylvania. Music was in his blood. His father played the cornet and was the leader of Pittsburgh’s Eureka Brass Band and Earl’s mother was a church organist. Earl began taking classical piano lessons and was playing the organ at his local Baptist church at the age of eleven. At the age of seventeen, Hines received permission to join Lois Deppe on his concert trips across the United States where in 1921, Deppe and Hines became the first African Americans to perform on radio. Hines continued through a turbulent twenty years moving from New York to Chicago and finally finding “home” in Oakland, California, all while playing with notable musicians, such as Louis Armstrong, Zutty Singleton, Jimmie Noone and Charlie Parker. In the 1960s, after settling in Oakland, he opened a tobacconist’s and nearly gave up music. However, Hines’ friend Stanley Dance encouraged him to perform and Hine’s was “rediscovered.” Hines thus steadily recorded for the next twenty years. His performances are described as having “individualistic quirks” such as “grunts” and he sometimes sang as he played. His final performance occurred in San Francisco. He passed away on April 22nd 1983 in Oakland, California and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland.

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Yesenia Checa, “The Piano Man,” Street Stories: Oakland, accessed October 16, 2018,
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