One-man band makes music for manyTo hear George Renaud perform on his keyboard, it’s hard to believe that at one time he hated playing piano. “My mother made me take lessons and I hated it. I quit as soon as I could,” said Renaud, who now describes himself as a kind of one-man band.
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
To hear George Renaud perform on his keyboard, it’s hard to believe that at one time he hated playing piano.
“My mother made me take lessons and I hated it. I quit as soon as I could,” said Renaud, who now describes himself as a kind of one-man band. Through the use of a computerized keyboard, he can simulate the sound of multiple instruments for all styles of music. That’s what makes him the perfect man to provide the live music for the first “Senior Sock Hop” April 3 at Faith Community. The dance runs from 7-11 p.m.
Despite his early feelings about playing, music is in the family’s blood. Renaud’s brothers were both performers in high school and college. He recalls a time when he was 15 and they asked him to help them out on the piano.
“I said no. It was the last thing I wanted to do, but they were stuck and needed a piano player. I did it but I was horrible and they lost the job.”
But that wasn’t the end of performing with his brothers. The family lived in Massachusetts. By the time he was 15, both of George’s parents had died. He headed to Iowa where his brothers went to live following World War II.
“I had a GED but I wanted to get a high school diploma. They said I couldn’t go to school in Iowa because I wasn’t a resident. My brothers were going to Wesleyan College and they talked to the dean there. He said I could go to school there and send the credits back so I could graduate from high school. I got all A’s and B’s that first year.”
Renaud and his brothers formed the Esquire Trio to make money for college, but George wasn’t able to afford four years. He moved to Chicago, where he earned a two-year nursing degree. After training in Duluth, he went on to become a nurse anesthetist, a career that lasted 40 years until his retirement.
Renaud and his wife, Carol, his “No. 1 groupie,” lived in Bemidji where they raised their two daughters. They moved to Hudson six years ago to be closer to their seven grandchildren.
It was about 25 years ago that Renaud saw an electronic keyboard in a store window and went in to investigate. He has been playing ever since. “I like it because even though it is just me, with all the different instruments and rhythms, I don’t feel like I’m playing alone at all.”
He may be familiar to Hudsonites who have heard him playing holiday music at County Market. “I really enjoy it. It is great when people stop and listen or give you a thumbs up as they go by. One lady even stuck a dollar bill in my coffee. She must have thought it was for tips.”
Renaud heard about Pat Dietz’ idea for a seniors dance. He contacted her and made a very positive impression.
“He played me all kind of things over the phone. He is wonderful and has the kind of enthusiasm that will be just great. And he can play anything,” said Dietz.
He especially likes the idea of playing for a dance. “The best time I have playing is when people are dancing and interacting with each other. I’m not much for people such sitting and listening. I want to see them tapping their feet and having fun with the music.”
Renaud says he will play a wide variety of music at the sock hop including waltzes, polkas and dance hits from the ’40s to the ’60s and more. The dance runs from 7-11 p.m. at Faith Community, 777 Carmichael Road. Admission is free with a donation to the Hudson food shelf, or a $2 donation.