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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sunbird - Rod Piazza And Mighty Flyers Blues Quartet

Honey Piazza was born on April 24, 1951 in Fairfield, CA. Actually, she was born at Travis Air Force Base, very close by, as her father, a master sergeant, was stationed there. She was named Debra Denise Solum and they called her Debbie. She would be an only child for 16 years, until 1967, when her brother, Mark, would be born. As always happens in the service, her father was stationed in various states and countries during his more than 20 years in the Air Force. After a short time in Kansas, the family moved to England, near London, in 1954. They would live there for 3 years and England would be where Honey started her piano lessons at age 4. These classical lessons continued throughout her teens until she left home at age 17. Her family had eventually moved back to Fairfield after returning from England in 1957 and never left.

After leaving home with her beautiful newborn daughter, Maya, in 1968, Honey headed to Southern California. It was there that she met and married a boy who would share her life for the next 8 years. It was an ill-fated relationship but two wonderful things came out of it. He introduced her to the world of blues and playing in a band, and they had a son, Zoe, in 1971. His name was Robert and he was a guitar player who was constantly forming bands. They moved from town to town up and down the state of California, at one point there were 20 moves in a 5 year period, following the musical opportunities.

It was in Redway, CA in 1970 that Robert suggested that Honey join in with the band who was rehearsing in their living room. There just happened to be an old upright piano included in the house they had rented. Up until this time she ran the house and looked after the two young children. Hesitantly, she attempted, with just classical training, to play along with the band. To go from reading music to improvising was incomprehensible to her at first. She joined in the rehearsals half-heartedly until one night she heard the magical sounds of a piano player coming out of the record player. The album was called Fleetwood Mac in Chicago and the piano player was Otis Spann. This would be the turning point that would shape the course of her life from here on out. Her heart lit up with the sounds of his piano and, with a big smile, she simply said, "I want to play JUST like that." After a quick visit to a Berkeley record store, and 12 albums by Otis Spann under her arm, she began a daily practicing regimen that still is hard to imagine. After getting up in the morning with the two children of 1 and 3 ½ and getting them fed, dressed, and out to play, she would practice with records until lunch. Then there would be a practice session in the afternoon until dinnertime. Once the kids were in bed, the couple would play late into the night. The practicing would go on for 10 hours a day for the next two years.

Wanting to meet their heroes and hopefully get to play with them, the couple packed up an old 1957 station wagon, and together with their two young children, headed for Chicago. There they met and played with The Aces, which included Louis & Dave Meyers, and Fred Below. They also played with Lucille Spann, Willie Cobb, and countless others (it was all an exciting blur) in Chicago, then traveled further east to meet and play with Robert Jr. Lockwood in Cleveland. This was an adventure and an opportunity that would never be forgotten. It was an experience that would prepare her for what was soon to come.

In early 1973, Rod was playing at the San Gabriel Civic Auditorium with his Bacon Fat Band, including Pee Wee Crayton, on a show with Big Joe Turner and John Lee Hooker. Honey, her husband, and a friend were sitting right up front and were so impressed by Rod and his band that they asked their friend to go backstage and talk to Rod. He found out where Rod was playing that very next weekend and that was the first time Honey met Rod. He was playing at a party and since she didn’t have her piano with her, he asked her to sit in and sing. After that, they met at a local Riverside, CA club, The Red Baron, where Rod was playing two nights a week, Sunday and Monday. She told Rod that she loved Otis Spann’s playing more than anything in the world and was practicing with his records every day. He told her that all his band was missing was a piano player that played like Otis Spann. So after an audition and three months of practicing with the songs Rod gave her, she joined his band in 1973.

Eventually, Rod and Honey’s separate marriages would end and they became a couple in 1977. They married in 1989. Their daughter, Maya, now 39, is an animal groomer who owns her own shop in Murrieta, CA. Their 37 year-old son, Zoe, is a musician in Monterey, CA. Rod and Honey have been together in love and in music for the past 31 years.
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  1. Honey Piazza, in addition to being one hell of a pianist and one of the prettiest women in the blues, is also one of the nicest and most personable people you will ever meet in any walk of life. That Rod Piazza is a lucky dude, and he knows it!