Strangely enough, it was a broken finger that steered Norco native Jim Lockwood to the piano.
Lockwood grew up wanting to be a musician, like each of his parents – and like the Beatles, who he was fascinated by as a child after seeing them on the Ed Sullivan Show. He started off as a guitar player, but when he broke his left index finger at the age of 20, he couldn’t bend it to be able to play that anymore as he lost 50 percent usage of it. But only having to extend the digit to strike the piano keys made that instrument an attractive alternative.
“I’m a far better piano player than I ever was a guitar player, so it worked out pretty well for me,” said Lockwood, a singer, songwriter, entertainer and – yes – pianist who regularly puts his talents on display both in the St. Charles Parish community and the New Orleans area community as a whole.
On Saturday, Lockwood will feature in a unique showcase alongside fellow musicians Lacey Troutman and Tommy McNulty, a dueling piano show at the Truck Farm Tavern in St. Rose. Lockwood and Troutman will be on piano and McNulty on drums. The show will run from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
It’s not the first of such shows for the performers, who have worked together many times in New Orleans shows, but it is the first for them at this venue. Troutman has performed all over the world on cruise ships and resorts, and Lockwood said the two of them have varied styles that make for a good mix. McNulty, meanwhile, is a veteran drummer who has played for many years and with many different artists, including touring with N’Sync in the 1990s.
“It’s a high-energy, all-requests show,” said Lockwood. “We’re going to have a requests list on every table. People write in the songs they want to hear and we’re going to try to play it if we know it. If we don’t, we’ll goof on it and try to play it anyway. It makes it fun.”
Lockwood, who regularly plays solo shows at Truck Farm Tavern, said it’s always a special night when he gets to perform back home.
“I was raised here, I went to Destrehan High School. So it’s very cool for me to get back to my stomping grounds and play locally for people I grew up with,” Lockwood said.
Lockwood has been performing both solo and dueling piano shows for the past eight years at different venues. It’s the realization of a longtime dream to become a fulltime working musician. He was in the trucking business for many years and would scratch his performing itch via gigs on the weekend.
One day, a long time friend and mentor reached out to him just as Lockwood had committed to getting serious as a piano player. Sometimes timing is everything.
“He called and asked if I’d be interested in doing a dueling piano show on Bourbon Street,” Lockwood said. “That created an opportunity for me. I fell into it quickly and learned how to do it, and I’ve been doing dueling and solo piano shows since about 2013.”
Those shows are what enabled him to move from a part-time to full-time musician. He sold his trucking business and dove headfirst into the scene, and at one point he was playing six times a week.
Then COVID-19 happened, and the music stopped, just as it did for countless others in his profession.
“It was like somebody flipped a switch,” Lockwood mused. “I went from a full-time, very satisfying career – the one I always wanted – to nothing at all. It was a complete shock.”
He filed for unemployment and dipped into his savings to tread water before making a call. He reached out to the man he sold his trucking company to years ago and asked if any work was available. He was in luck: buy a van and Lockwood could make deliveries as a contractor, the new owner said.
“I was very fortunate that I had someone to reach out to that could help me, thanks to my past experience,” Lockwood said.
But while he found steady income once again, the dead period the live entertainment industry was going through was nonetheless eerie.
Once the door opened to perform again, he moved quickly. First, he reached out to three fellow musicians who were likewise hungry to get back to work and formed the band The Maniacs, performing outdoor dates wherever it was permitted.
“Thankfully I had other musicians to reach out to, and I’m so grateful for that … because piano gigs are mostly indoors, that wasn’t an option at the time,” Lockwood recalled.
Now those indoor venues are back at it, and the crowds have been receptive. Lockwood says he’s just about back to his workload pre-COVID, and at times he can be even busier.
“I think everyone’s been so anxious to see live entertainment after the past year, and I’m seeing more opportunities,” he said. “It was tough for awhile but it’s awesome to be back at it.”