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The SCV’s piano man

Palmdale man plays mini-concerts inside Santa Clarita antique store

Posted: September 2, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 2, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Palmdale resident Bill Swain plays at the Country Antique Fair Mall in Santa Clarita every other Tuesday from about noon until 2 p.m. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Palmdale resident Bill Swain plays at the Country Antique Fair Mall in Santa Clarita every other Tuesday from about noon until 2 p.m. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze.
Palmdale resident Bill Swain plays at the Country Antique Fair Mall in Santa Clarita every other Tuesday from about noon until 2 p.m. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze.
Bill Swain's spiral notebook contains more than 475 songs that he's memorized on the piano. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Bill Swain's spiral notebook contains more than 475 songs that he's memorized on the piano. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze.
Bill Swain's spiral notebook contains more than 475 songs that he's memorized on the piano. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze.
Palmdale resident Bill Swain plays at the Country Antique Fair Mall in Santa Clarita every other Tuesday from about noon until 2 p.m. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Palmdale resident Bill Swain plays at the Country Antique Fair Mall in Santa Clarita every other Tuesday from about noon until 2 p.m. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze.
Palmdale resident Bill Swain plays at the Country Antique Fair Mall in Santa Clarita every other Tuesday from about noon until 2 p.m. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze.
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Palmdale resident Bill Swain walks into a Santa Clarita Valley consignment store on a Tuesday around noon, sits down at an old piano, and begins to play for customers.

The 83-year-old does it pretty much every other Tuesday from about noon to 2 p.m., playing a few of the more than 475 songs he’s listed in a spiral notebook — and he has all of them memorized.

It’s not a formal concert by any means. Just something he enjoys doing after visiting his brother in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Swain doesn’t read music. Between songs, he stops to flip through the notebook’s worn pages to pick out the next song and to take occasional requests from a customer who has stopped to listen.

“I kind of got to keep my eyes on the keys,” he says.

Swain’s fingers jump back and forth across the black-and-whites as they play songs like “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” and “Give Me That Old Time Religion.”

He just needs to know the name of the song to know how it goes. And sometimes his friend, Don “Skip” Steffens, sings along, as he did during one recent Tuesday to the tune “I Want a Girl Just like the Girl That Married Dear Old Dad.”

Swain’s venue is the Country Antique Fair Mall on Golden Triangle Road. When a vendor selling a piano there moved the instrument out, the owner of the 35-year-old business moved in one of his own to encourage the impromptu concerts for mall customers.

When he misses a note, Swain shakes his head and keeps playing.

“Sometimes I do pretty good, and sometimes I don’t,” he says.

The Country Antique Fair Mall is located at 21546 Golden Triangle Road in Santa Clarita.

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