Sea Glass-Petites Pensees Pour Piano
Pianist Michael Slaughter was born in a small fishing village in central Indiana at 8:19 a.m. one sunny Saturday morning in October many years ago. Not suspecting his future path as a man comfortable in the public eye, his mother's first words about him were simply: "He looks embarrassed." Overall, considering the retarded state of medicine, the arts, the sciences, literature, music, politics, and haute cuisine in Indiana from that time to this, extant records indicate the birth and development of the little human being trainee were remarkably unremarkable. Young Master Slaughter began taking piano lessons on his seventh birthday at the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music, Butler University. Seven years later, he landed his first paying gig at a roller rink with a mostly pubescent rock band. By age sixteen, he was already performing Tom Lehrer's imaginative songs. He was also often caught attending to the records of assorted R&B artists (at about 110 dBA), distressing parents and neighbors alike. In high school, Mr. Slaughter's burgeoning musical activities and, even more pertinent, his refusal to join the Future Farmers of America aroused near universal enmity. It is said that in private he was roundly denounced as an anarchist and would-be subverter of pristine Hoosier Weltanschaaungen, although the specific verbiage employed has been lost to posterity. Sanguine and seemingly oblivious, Michael Slaughter continued his classical piano studies (with Jeanette Gardiner, Butler University)...and take private lessons in voice, Sousaphone (with Chester Littlejohn), string bass, guitar, organ (with Mallory Bransford, Butler University), and harmony and composition (Richard LaRue Metcalf). During his junior year, in collaboration with the high school music teacher, he composed an operetta. The work was eventually publicly performed by his peers, albeit with some reluctance on the part of the authorities, for this type of music in general was deemed dangerously avant garde for impressionable young Hoosier minds. Mr. Slaughter won an academic scholarship to nearby DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana. There he endured long enough to graduate. In this regard, he outlasted Margaret Mead, who having better sense, left DePauw after her first year. Though nominally in majoring psychology and philosophy, Mr. Slaughter was quite active in theatre at DePauw. As a freshman, he performed with the Monon Revue and sang on the cast album. He produced and directed the first Midwest production The Fantasticks. He portrayed "Riff" in West Side Story, "Jason" in Medea, and several smaller, less juicy, roles. During one the long summer breaks, he toiled as the musical director of the Old Brewery Theatre, Helena, Montana-a summer stock theatre very, very far indeed from Broadway. There he worked with actor-director Winifred Lynskey and actor-singer Kenny Marsolais, later with ACT in San Francisco. After emancipation from Universitatis Depauvensis, Greencastelli, Slaughter went to work as rehearsal pianist for Starlight Musicals, an Equity summer stock company in Indianapolis. There he played for Vivian Blaine, Ann Blyth, Jack Kelly, Margaret Whiting, and Julie Wilson. Following that Fall was an acting stint at Avondale Playhouse, also Indianoplace, with Hans Conreid. He also played piano bars, developing a wide repertoire of then-popular songs. Slaughter considered applying to the University of Michigan graduate school as a directing student, but chose instead a different field, at Purdue University. There Slaughter pursued the study of the emerging field of psycholinguistics, hoping somehow perhaps to follow in the footsteps of his hero (Avram Noam Chomsky, then an obscure MIT professor). While at Purdue, he also held forth on the piano in local saloons, acted on Radio WBAA, and wrote a weekly column in the campus newspaper as an attempt at consciousness raising, revolution - or preferably, both. He fell into political disfavor with the psychology department as a result. Then suddenly it was 1967. California and the Summer of Love called. He answered. Now, after decades of playing the piano at assorted saloons, gin mills, and hotels in the Bay Area and clubs around the country, Mr. Slaughter has successfully managed to accumulate almost no reputation at all. Since coming to the Bay Area, upon occasion, Slaughter has been bribed to leave the area, performing at some well-known places around the country, such as Michael's Pub, New York City; the Paradise Hotel, Las Vegas; and the venerable Harolds Club, Reno [now a parking lot]. Around town, he has been a pianistic fixture at several once-popular establishments. Aging locals still recall Mr. Slaughter's many years of work at the old Sea Witch, in Ghirardelli Square, at Barrett's Pub, and Miss Geraldine's, the Maltese Grill and the Washington Square Bar & Grill, and at The Baywinds, a 153-foot river steamer in Burlingame. He also spent eleven years as the house pianist at The University Club, on Nob Hill. Slaughter has also accompanied a number of West Coast vocalists, including Wesla Whitfield, (Downtown) Julie Brown, Lou Gottlieb, Michelle Hendricks, Ralph Mathis, and Denise Perrier. (He has also accompanied several hundred individual vocalists - and survived every encounter.) He has opened for Ramsay Lewis, the ever-popular Korla Pandit, and Mort Sahl. At one time or another, he has also appeared live on every TV station in the San Francisco Bay Area. As of 2011, he has performed at ten of the last eleven San Francisco Laborfests, missing one because he was out of the country. A multi-instrumentalist, Slaughter has studied tabla, drum set, fretless e-bass, and slack key guitar. He has composed hundreds of songs and instrumental pieces. He also occasionally works as an actor. For five years, he was on the executive board of American Federation of Musicians, Local 6, San Francisco. Slaughter's most recent recordings are these two... Sea Glass  - a thoughtful, almost wistful, compilation of twenty of his short original compositions for solo piano. ("I thought for once I would record my own stuff, instead of the Great American Songbook repertoire.") Leftover Dreams [2011, in production] - Mike Cook, (fabulous) vocalist; dreamy, evocative jazz standards, plus an impressionistic contemporary song, "The Ice Hotel." Michael Slaughter currently lives in Northern California, just up the hill from a surfing beach.