Living with William J Cedzich, my father, was like living in a house with a human bulldozer, whose fingers could play those moving minor key Slavic dirges on a Steinway grand piano that could make you weep.
Somehow this man as a kid from Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, learned how to play the piano like a savant maniac in a walkup flat on an out of tune up-right piano living with his mother, nine brothers and sisters and his dad who ran a pool hall .
This was a tough family of Immigrant stock from Poland, the boys, Jack, Genie, and Bill (my dad) were consummate hustlers and street brawlers who did what they had to do to bring money and food into the house. Sisters, Francine, Amelia, Dorothy, Mary, Florence, and Sylvia were equally as tough as the boys.
If a suitor of one of the girls got out of hand and rough with any of them, together they’d pick the guy up and throw him out of the window from the third floor..William, the baby, was blessed with a prodigious musical talent that somehow was realized in-between stealing, street fighting, hustling, and of course chasing girls.
By 13, bill could play all the Concerto’s, Waltz’s, Sonata’s, Fugues, Adagio’s, of the classical masters. His earliest teacher was the great pianist, Paderewski, who heard my dad play at a recital somewhere in Brooklyn and decided to teach him style to read musical notation. At 16, Bill had a studio and was teaching pupils and having affairs with his female students, living the dream in 1925-26.
Fast forward to the early forties in Jamaica Queens; Bill is married to my mother, Alva Roussel, a looker with a Gina Lollobrigida vibe, sexy, smart and a talent to soothe the tantrums of ape boy Bill, who at 35 was big,muscular, and a force to be feared if you were on the down side of his nature and was unwittingly sent into a rage by some poor soul who happened to rub him the wrong way,
Bill was capable of tearing a house down with his soulful Chopin hands; and there was me, born in 1942 living in the house with Blanche Dubois, and Stanley Kowalski, trying to survive the melee of childhood with these two characters.. What was evident as a five and six year old was that I was transported and mesmerized by the beautiful sounds of the classics being practiced by Bill in the house all of my entire youth.
Everyday I got a full smattering of Chopin, Liszt, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Bach, and numerous other mad immortal composers. I would crouch in the stairwells and alcoves listening like a hypnotized bird at the gorgeous strains angelically blasting out of the keyboard of my dad’s long two to three hour daily practice sessions.
Over the years these melodies got into my spirit, and like a blotter I sucked them up with a voracity that would become my own musical nature primally destined from the beginning of time to one day morph into Chris Gantry, a young obsessed driven Polish boy from Jamaica Queens with a hunger to beat on a flat top guitar and write country songs.