Piano-tuner blues

Bud Fisher recounts the raccoon in the upright story and other tales

Tell us the one about the rifle wired up in the piano, Bud Fisher.
  • Tell us the one about the rifle wired up in the piano, Bud Fisher.
  • from video by the Snapshots Foundation

Bud Fisher has been tuning pianos on the professional level since 1984, when he made the transition from full-time musician to keyboard technician. “I still play, but not as well as when it was my only source of income,” says Fisher, who has serviced pianos for John Legend, although he had no idea who he was at the time.

“My kids clued me in when I got home. I’ve also tuned for Norah Jones, Tony Bennett, and Gustavo Romero.”

Much of Fisher’s work takes place in the homes of private clients, and over the years he’s found a variety of surprises in those instruments.

Bud Fisher on piano tuning

“Boy, you name it,” Fisher says. “One guy had an old upright he had stored in his garage for years. Finally he made room in the house and brought it in so his kids could learn. He called me to get it into shape. There was a strange, odd-shaped hole in the back and when I took off the kickboard, some animal, like a raccoon, had dragged in a bunch of steak bones from the garbage. The animal had chewed all the felt off so I had to tell him the instrument was hopeless.”

Another situation had a deadlier potential.

“This older lady wanted her piano tuned, but she said that the pedals were making a buzzing, knocking sound. I took it apart and found a rifle hanging from a wire. I was able to tell the lady, ‘I think I found the problem!’ She had inherited the instrument from her grandfather and she had no idea the rifle was there. She was really lucky the gun never went off.”

Even though he has made a good living tuning pianos over the years, Fisher has come upon hard times and dire circumstances, which led to the amputation of his left foot last month.

“I try to tell people I lost my foot in a harrowing motorcycle accident saving a busload of school kids — but the truth is I’m a diabetic, and about a year ago, I developed a small sore underneath my pinky that never healed. Wasn’t able to work enough to keep my insurance paid and things progressed to the point where I had to call 911, and by then there was no saving it.”

A benefit concert to raise funds for a prosthetic foot and to cover medical expenses will be held on July 22 at the Point Loma Presbyterian Church from 5 to 7 p.m. Donate at: budfishermyleftfootbenefit.bpt.me/

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