Galvestonians love music, especially live music and even more when it comes from a piano! Chances are, if you have sat in the Tremont House sipping the famous chocolate martinis and listening to beautiful piano music, you were being entertained by islander musician and bundle of talent, Kirk Hale.
Over the years, Hale has developed quite a following and as he appears at various venues on and off the island, he is often the reason for a special trip or visit to hear him tickle those ivories.
Taking up the piano at age 13 and without reading music, Hale listened to his favorites, over and over, often running from the record player to the piano in order to perfectly reproduce the notes he was hearing. Coming from a musical family, with his mother being classically trained on the piano and a sister already playing, young Hale listened to his idols like Carol King and Neil Young.
“Oh my God! I played Carol’s album Tapestry over and over a thousand times. That album changed my life. I knew I had to learn this music and play it for people,” says Hale.
The first song young Hale mastered was Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold”.
“That song and Neil Young are still so very special to me, it was a magical beginning.” After hours and years of practicing, the young man from Dallas and Greenville was as skilled and versatile as any Juilliard-trained pianist.
There were certainly other talents that the budding musician studied, note for note, in order to perfect his skills. With his love of both classic and light rock that he delivers beautifully, folks like Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and “any female that could sing, play the piano and write music” became Hale’s teachers. He studied them and their music until he had it down.
“I genuinely enjoyed them and learning their styles gave me tremendous pleasure and my own sense of accomplishment,” he says.
Hale says he wanted his songs to sound exactly like the records and tapes that he filled days and nights listening to.
“I didn’t want the songs to sound like some hacked version of a famous musician,” he says. “I wanted my work to make their sound and make it exact.”
As Hale grew older, his musical talent was recognized and brought him great opportunities to perform all over. Over the years he has developed quite a following and a repertoire of songs and has very comfortably added humor and storytelling along the way.
Growing up in the 1960s and addicted to television, shows such as Bewitched, The Munsters and many more shaped his comedic sense of humor and supplied him with ample material to highlight his songs and keep his audience entertained. From highbrow to no-brow, Hale played them all. He drew crowds at Nordstrom’s, thrilled the well-heeled folks at the famous Driskill Hotel in Austin, charmed the “Hale” out of ’em at The Mansion on Turtle Creek and proudly displayed his abilities at the Wendy Krispin Dallas Design Center.
One of Hale’s favorite moments in his career came one night in 1976 while playing the Driskill. “The house was packed. I was playing songs from the Jeff Beck album Blow by Blow and when I finished Diamond Dust, a patron brought over Jeff Beck himself to meet me,” he said. “I was flabbergasted as Beck said rather than give me his autograph, I should be giving him mine! He loved it.”
From fine dining to quiet clubs and cabarets, Hale has played them all and, in each, joyously entertaining and leaving the crowd with a smile.
“There is a fine line between talent and no integrity,” he says.
Hale certainly brings integrity to his performances. When asked why he continues to perform and entertain, he says he wants to see people listen and enjoy the music. It gives him pleasure to have them engaged.
As for the tips and money, Hale laughs, “Honey, you can’t put a price on it, it is a one of a kind experience.”
“People really enjoy live music, seeing it created and being played to them and for them,” Hale continues. “Rap and Hip-Hop came along and the some live music styled and treatments faded a bit, but it is coming back strong, now more than ever-real music is back!”
Along the way, while visiting Galveston club Robert’s Lafitte, Hale met his life partner (of 28 years now), Carl Samuels, a very handsome communications specialist. Island Diva Misty Valdez was performing that night and Hale’s Steely Dan music was all it took for true love to blossom. Samuels walked over to Hale and said, “I love your music.” The rest as they say, is history — romantic history.
The couple moved to Galveston for a second time eight years ago, and it remains their home. In their comfortable duplex, (“We both need our space,” Hale says), they enjoy their pets and sunsets on the terrace with good music flowing from their Bose speakers. Hale is busy performing at various places on the island and the mainland. Aside from performing, Kirk is also sought out for his piano tuning skills and stays busy keeping the instruments tuned and ready to go. He is a hit in both gay and straight (stray) clubs. He performs at the Galveston Country Club now and then and can be heard and experienced at the island’s 23rd Street Station Piano Bar where piano music and real Happy Hours have come back.
Catching one of Hale’s shows is a fun and uplifting experience. He has incorporated voices and movie lines in his performances. One of his favorite characters is the “mommy-loving” Edwin Flagg from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. With his amazing resemblance to actor Victor Buono and his big Teddy Bear hands, Hale IS Edwin Flagg, telling Jane Hudson she “…sings beautifully. Now how much are you going to pay?”
If you have not seen him perform, watch the magazines and articles to catch his magical music and wit. It is worth a drive — just ask Jeff Beck!
For bookings and information, contact Kirk Hale at 512-922-6920 or www.LoneStarPianos.com