MONTE VISTA— A familiar name in Monte Vista for almost 50 years is now performing on Thursday nights, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Tequila Star Lounge west of Monte Vista, formerly the Movie Manor Lounge.
Some people know him as “the lawyer who never goes to court (except his own);” most knew him as John Wilder, the municipal judge of Monte Vista for almost 40 years, but only a few knew him as a local pianist.
His musical career actually began when he was 15 years old, when he and four of his classmates landed their first paying job as the “house band” for Sunday night jam sessions in a jazz nightclub in Warren, Ohio. He continued as a jazz pianist through high school and most of college but marriage and law school effectively ended that career. He then became a “play at home” pianist and vastly expanded his repertoire to include countless “oldies,” popular music, show tunes and movie themes in addition to most of the jazz standards.
Wilder barely reads music, learns by listening and plays entirely by ear. Asked how many songs he has stored in his head, he gives a wild estimate that he can easily play several thousand requests.
Asked why he is finally playing professionally again, he gives two reasons. First, he thinks that 75 years of age is a really good time to start a new career. Second, after 40 years as a judge, it will be fun to perform for a “volunteer audience” instead of the thousands of defendants who appeared in his court over 40 years, none of whom were volunteers.
Give him a listen some Thursday evening and bring a list of your favorite songs.