Hour 2: Boyd Lee Dunlop and The O'Briens


Piano Man: Eighty-five-year old jazz pianist Boyd Lee Dunlop got his big break playing a rundown piano in a nursing home.

Railway man: Joe O'Brien is a mysterious, self-made railway magnate and the central character in The O'Briens, author Peter Behrens's sprawling follow-up to his award-winning debut novel, The Law of Dreams.

For a Boyd Lee Dunlop photo gallery, more information and music used in this hour ...

That's Me Playin', Man!

He gave two concerts every day ... to an audience of no one ... in an empty nursing-home dining room. 

The piano was out of tune. But Boyd Lee Dunlop's long, nimble fingers just couldn't stop playing.  And then one day, somebody listened.

Photojournalist Brendan Bannon walked into that Buffalo, New York nursing home to talk about a job taking pictures of the residents. The first person he encountered was Boyd.

"I'm a piano player," Boyd said. Those few words began a conversation that has developed into a remarkable friendship .... and collaboration.

In his heyday, decades ago, Boyd Lee Dunlop played regular gigs in Buffalo's raucous jazz scene. His younger brother, Frankie Dunlop, was a famous drummer, who performed with the likes of Thelonius Monk and Charles Mingus.

Boyd's career never soared like that. He never recorded an album of his own. He was pretty much forgotten. 

Last year, Brendan Bannon became executive producer of 85-year-old Boyd Lee Dunlop's debut album. Boyd's Blues was a runaway success.

Last month, work on act two began.

The O'Briens

behrens1.jpgPeter Behrens's latest novel, The O'Briens, is the saga of a family, but it is also a portrait of a man.

Joe O'Brien is a mysterious, self-made railway magnate, whom we meet as a boy in Pontiac County, Quebec in 1887, and follow into his old age in the 1960's.

The O'Briens is a sequel to Behrens's first, award-winning, novel, The Law of Dreams - although it picks up two generations later.

TheO'Brienscover.jpgJoe O'Brien comes of age under difficult circumstances - his father and mother die, his step-father is a lecherous cruel man, and Joe is left responsible for his siblings.  He is a man who keeps his emotions to himself, but dominates his family and the world around him.  He is a pragmatic dreamer with a "restless instinct" and "an appetite for geography and change".

The novel spans two world wars and a depression, and the building of the Canadian railroad.

Peter Behrens is a Canadian novelist, screenwriter and short story writer. The Law of Dreams won the 2006 Governor General's Award for English fiction. 

Music in Hour Two:

Sophisticated Lady by Jordan Officer and Bill Gossage

Boyd's Mellow Blues, and Boyd's Epic Journey, by Boyd Lee Dunlop (in our documentary, That's Me Playin', Man!)

Ah! Vous Dirais-je Maman (Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star), performed by James Gelfand, Jean-Pierre Zanella, and Michel Donato.

Brahms Lullaby, performed by Clark Terry, Red Mitchell and Horace Parlan

Summertime, music by Ira Gershwin, performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong with the Russ Garcia Orchestra

Little Sara, by Rawlins Cross

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