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Keith Emerson was born November 2, 1944, in Todmorden, a small village in Lancashire, England. Inheriting a love for music from his parents, he became an accomplished pianist by his early teens. Listening to jazz, including Charlie Parker, Art Tatum and Dave Brubeck, he discovered that Bach and Parker had a lot in common.

During the British R&B boom, Keith worked reluctantly in the Registrar Department of a local Southern England bank and played with either a jazz trio, big band, or rock group at night. "I stuck at the job for nearly a year and a half," says Keith. "My employers couldn't understand why I was not entirely thrilled working on Shell Transport and Trading Dividends. Eventually it reached a stage where they would've happily paid me to leave. Instead they all clubbed together to buy me an alarm clock as a farewell present."

Keith's first bands were Gary Farr & the T-Bones and The VIPs. In early 1967 Emerson, Lee Jackson, David O'List and Brian Davison were recruited to back American soul singer PP Arnold. This band evolved into The Nice. Pioneering a keyboard-oriented format, The Nice wouldn't hesitate to play a rocked-up Sibelius piece one moment and a twelve-bar blues the next; an original jazz/classical blend or a rearranged Bob Dylan song.

A highlight of their stage show was Keith's outrageousness, squeezing sounds out of the organ never intended by the Hammond Company. Knives were both thrown and used to hold down chords as its 350-pound frame protested, screaming out a barrage of electronic feedback when it was lifted and spun on its axis.

From the The Return of the Manticore liner notes. Contributed by Mo Hanrahan,


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Updated:    01/02/12