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Disneyland’s Ragtime Pianist: Michael Pollock

For many years the words “Ragtime at Disneyland” were synonymous with Rod Miller. But before Rod there were other pianists and after Rod there is a new group of talented performers. One of those performers is Michael Pollock. He’s developing his own following and is known for his humor.

If you can’t make it to Main St. USA in Disneyland where Michael Pollock, aka “Ragtime Michael,” is a featured piano soloist you can purchase his new album titled “Ragtime Michael: Tickles the Ivories“. It was created to help guests remember their visit to the original Magic Kingdom and the experience of hearing Michael play in person, but it’s a wonderful collection of Ragtime music (including a few Disneyland songs) either way.

The tracks are carefully selected, most-requested songs, and each is guaranteed to make you smile. Kids like the “rinky-tink” energy, and adults will further appreciate the musical accuracy at warp speed, and infectious grooves on the easier going tunes. The selections will amaze you with how detailed his riffs get and yet you still hear every note distinctly.

If you can’t get to Disneyland and hear this kind of expert ivory tickling live, get this CD and enjoy it anywhere you happen to be.

The track list and a short interview with Michael is below the cut:

Music! Music! Music!
The Old Piano Roll Blues
Twelfth St. Rag
Carolina In The Morning
The Entertainer
Yes Sir, That’s My Baby
That’s A Plenty
Alexander’s Ragtime Band
Ain’t Misbehavin’
You’ve Got To See Mama Ev’ry Night
Jolly Holiday
It’s A Small World / Mickey Mouse March
When You Wish Upon A Star

Q: How long have you played the piano?

A: I’ve played for about 46 years. I don’t tell little kids and teenagers that anymore when they ask. It freaks them out. I just say “Quite awhile, quite awhile.”

Q: When did you decide to study Ragtime?

A: I can’t say that I ever did. I just liked it when I first heard it, and began to try some pieces. When I started playing in situations that required me to take requests, I found out that people at large are familiar with certain ragtime classics and will bring them up, so I learned them as a matter of necessity.

Q: How many Ragtime/Stride/Old time/etc. songs do you have in your repertoire?

A: I know around five hundred of those kinds of songs by heart; perhaps a whole lot more. I can play a tune if I recall a melodic and harmonic impression of it – people request songs all the time that I forgot I knew, but there they are in my memory. Taking requests reminds me of the game, Trivial Pursuit, wherein you’re always discovering knowledge that you didn’t realize you had. “Can I play ‘Barney Google’? Sure, now that you mention it.”

Q: Do you play any other instruments?

A: I also play harmonica – I’m no virtuoso but I do simple old songs like “Oh Susanna” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” It comes in handy at a campfire. On occasion I’ve played harmonica and piano together on gigs, using one of those one-man-band headpieces. I like to play a harmonica melody and accompany it on piano…”Edelweiss, Danny Boy, Mister Bojangles, City of New Orleans.”

Q: Who are your musical influences?

A: When I was about 8 years old my mom bought me a Joe “Fingers” Carr album. It hooked me forever on the joyous sound of “rinky tink” piano, and was my introduction to ragtime and its companion repertoire of songs from the Gay Nineties to the Roaring Twenties.

Another enormous musical influence was the first movie I ever saw in a theater, “Mary Poppins”. Those songs became my best childhood friends. I’m still in love with them, along with a treasure chest of other compositions from the Sherman brothers. In addition to that, the whole world of brilliant Disney music continually influences my playing.

Eventually I discovered recordings of Fats Waller and Doctor John; later, Joshua Rifkin. I admired them and tried to imitate their playing. Simultaneously I was listening to and learning a great many tunes by Rodgers and Hammerstein, George Gershwin and Irving Berlin. In my teens I loved The Beatles and James Taylor. Today my favorite artist is a British singer/pianist, Jamie Cullum, and I’m learning a lot from his work.

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