30-1 Spring Issue
Entertaining the Bakersfield Way
A potato-beef casserole, eaten in Greece and Bulgaria.
Written by Bakersfield Magazine
Name: Nelson Varon
Birthplace: Manhattan, NYC
Title: Musician; Author; Owner, Kern Piano Mall
How he got started: After graduating high school in 1945 and trying his hand in a few vocations (including engineering, education, and sales), Varon realized that the only constant in his life was music. More specifically, playing music. His skills on the piano and organ soon landed him a position traveling the country with his own band, aptly called Nelson Varon and His Orchestra, during the mid-1950s, playing beside vaudeville acts, other musicians, and circus performers.
Career highlights: For a guy like Varon, who has written 12 musical instruction books (including the arrangements), developed a universally-recognized method for learning music (the Play Now Method), and started and later sold a music magazine, there are quite a few highlights. Mainly, that he was one of a select few organists to have the chance to play at the Picadilly Hotel in Manhattan and, here’s the “kicker,” Radio City Music Hall in its heyday.
His heroes: While there’s no one in particular that Varon views as an industry hero, he does get satisfaction from being in the same business, and playing on the same stage, as greats like Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, and Benny Goodman during his time as an organist in New York City.
His favorite part of the industry: Varon was playing on stages during the height of organ and big band music, which afforded him the chance to play alongside the likes of Ginger Rogers. Not to mention, this was a time when audiences were looking for entertainment and really wanted to see a good show. The challenge of coordinating the organ music during a show kept him busy and the star sightings (including Richard Burton in the bar of the Picadilly), kept him enraptured.
What he’d still like to accomplish: Varon wants to expand his current store, Kern Piano Mall, and start teaching lessons again for his patrons. For a guy who played in Art Mooney’s Big Band and knew Lil’ Jack Little and comedian Chuck McCann, that’s saying something.
Article appeared in our 29-1 Issue - April 2012