Grand piano getting new life at Stax after noted history at WREG

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Call this a final performance at the station.

A white Baldwin grand piano that presided majestically in the basement of the Peabody Hotel in the days when WREG was radio station WREC is headed to a new home at a storied Memphis music institution.

A fixture at WREG, the piano comes with a noted history. Luminaries such as Elvis Presley, Isaac Hayes, Sam Phillips and Kay Laverne Starks — better known as Kay Starr — gave life to it.

Tuesday, it was having its ivories tickled one last time by WREG technical director and musician Michael Gates.

“Man, you can definitely feel the spirit of those who’ve touched this,” Gates said. “Just to feel the keys. It’s just something melodious about it.”

The piano’s legacy continued when WREC, now WREG TV, began broadcasting in 1956.

“It is very distinguished,” WREG General Manager Ron Walter said. “If this piano were a human being, it would be part of the blue bloods of television, and it really is.”

But because it was not being used, and with renovations happening at the studio, WREG decided to donate it, he said.

“I thought very carefully what group would benefit the most from having a piano of this type in its midst, and I thought of the Stax Academy,” Walter said.

Students at Stax needed another piano because theirs had been damaged.

“Not only do you get another piano, it’s like cherries on top,” said Pat Mitchell Worley, executive director at Stax Music Academy. “It has so many people that they’re learning about and listening to music from, and emulating those artists who’ve played this piano.”

To make sure this precious cargo arrived safely, Ewing Moving transported it to Soulsville USA.

“Being one of the founding board members of Stax museum and getting the opportunity to handle Isaac Hayes’ personal thing and knowing he’s played this piano, is intriguing to me to have this opportunity,” Charles Ewing said.

Now at WREG, this Baldwin grand piano takes a final bow, as it makes new history and music at STAX.

“This piano is legendary and what better place to be than a legendary place like Stax,” Gates said.

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