Well hi, how are you? My name’s Daniel Ellison, although if you ask anyone around here they’ll call me Danny Keys. I’m not real tall or broad, but I can hold my own pretty alright. I’m a pianist, the finest – but maybe not the best – in my good town Heatherton in the lovely state of Nebraska. I’ve played in saloons for years now, I think about ten or twelve. Due to the nature of my work I’m not well known but certainly well heard. In Snake Brush Saloon you’ll hear me play just about anything you can come up with.
I admit I’m not home bred and baked in the hot plains of this great frontier, but I certainly wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. You see, I’m from the northeast, classically trained in what they call up there “art” and what you might know better as “background noise”. ‘Bout twelve years ago, somewhere in Carolina, I left my concert group to explore what real music sounds like. On that soul-searching journey I wound up on a train headed Nowhere and eventually found myself here, playing for those who wouldn’t give you more than a handful of change to hear you play. Somehow I prefer that, though. Ask me, music should be freely heard, not glorified like it is back east. And besides, working in a saloon means no one gives a damn about you missing a chord or getting a little off key, or trying something new now and then.
My boss is a man who looks like he was born to get others drunk, rough-faced but good-natured. He’ll give you the shirt off his back and take not a favor in return, but once he’s serving booze you’ll bet he keeps track of your tab until the day you die. Won’t heckle you for the money, of course, but if you ask him how much you owe him he’ll tell you down to the penny. So long as you’re not leaving town, you can pay him any time. He keeps business like that, even takes favors sometimes to cover the bill. Lord knows how this place is still open.
This isn’t my first bar, saloon, whatever you call it, but it’s certainly my favorite. I worked here and there for a couple of years before wandering into this place. My first time playing this here piano was when I was a customer myself. The old performer had stepped out for a break and I was drunk and cocky enough to slide right on the bench the moment the music stopped. Wasted as I was, I couldn’t distinguish a black key from a white one, but the bartender liked my tune anyhow. So did my drinking mates – they got a kick out of my performance, called me Danny Keys ever since. I woke up the next morning with my tab paid for and a note saying I was now employed at the saloon I could hardly remember leaving.
The old pianist and I took shifts every other day until he wound up in some fight and got himself shot. The owner was shaken up by the poor guy’s death, but not enough to stop this piano from singing for his customers. Since then I’ve been full-time pianist and part-time patron for this dusty old place. Haven’t quite shaken off my Northern side – glad I don’t need to talk much while playing – but I’ve settled in pretty damn well. I certainly plan on sticking around awhile.