By FRANK LEWIS
PDT Staff Writer
When John Baker tickles the ivories on Friday evenings at the Fork and Finger Restaurant, on Jackson Street in Portsmouth, it’s usually to a packed house. Baker is celebrating his eighth year of being the piano man, in a day and age when such acts are seldom seen in smaller communities.
“It’s fun for me to watch diners tapping their feet, bobbing their heads, mouthing the words and playing Name That Tune,” Baker said. “Some bring a song list. Others try to stump me. Some succeed. But I do pretty well.”
Baker began in 2004 after he retired from teaching. At that time, Fork and Finger was located on Chillicothe Street smack dab in the middle of downtown Portsmouth.
“I’m not a show,” Baker said. “I just try to fill the room with pretty music. I play a lot of requests.”
Baker said “Unchained Melodey,” “Stardust,” “Satin Doll,” “Unforgettable,” “It Had To Be You,” and “Deep Purple,” are among the most preferred tunes he performs. But he’s also likely to throw in a country tune such as “Stand By Your Man” or even a gospel classic like “Peace in the Valley.”
When Baker’s keyboard warms up, it gives the impression of a full orchestra, or maybe an intimate combo. And sometimes it’s just a piano. Baker says he plays most any style as long as it has a melody and words people can understand. Whatever the sound, people fill the tip jar to show their appreciation.
“The atmosphere in the restaurant is happy and friendly. What I do is not really work for me,” Baker said. “I enjoy knowing that my music has made someone’s evening a happy event.”
Baker said he is grateful to Fork and Finger owners Bill and Connie Harmon for making the opportunity available to him.
“I can’t count the number of good friends I’ve made over these years,” Baker said. “This could not have happened without them.”
Baker perfoms on Fridays from 5 to 8 p.m.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at email@example.com.