EVERETT — Lloyd Boyd inherited a wealth of music.
Boyd is in charge of selling about 40 vintage pianos, including many Steinways, from his brother’s estate.
What’s up with that?
More than 20 grand pianos and about 10 uprights are on display in downtown Everett, plus another five are on consignment at a Bellevue piano store. The pianos were rebuilt and restored by his younger brother, Ronald, in the Washington, D.C., area. He died a year ago at 74.
“I’m the last person alive in this era,” said Boyd, 79. “He had no will. I’m the representative. The other heirs are my nephew and two nieces.”
It’s an impressive fleet of ivory.
“This 9-foot concert grand piano would sell new for $148,000,” Boyd said. “Right now, I could probably get $50,000 or $60,000 for it.”
That’s the grandest of the grand in the lot, and he knows it will take the right person to shell out that kind of money.
Not to worry, you can take one home for a whole lot less. The price tags were put on by his brother and he’s keeping them on out of respect.
But Boyd’s on a mission. So, make him an offer.
“I leased this place for one year, starting in October of last year,” he said. “I need to get rid of them. This is a liquidation sale.”
It took months to get the pianos moved and set up inside the showroom at 2710 Colby Ave. in the former Everett Symphony Orchestra building. There will be an open house from 2 to 6 p.m. Thursday.
“It’s not a piano store,” Boyd said. “I was a salesman, but not a piano salesman. I don’t play the piano.”
The pianos are mainly from the 1800s to early 1900s. In addition to the Steinways, there’s a Petrof from Czech Republic, a South Korean Samick, Chickering grand, a Henry Miller upright, some Mason & Hamlins and even a Yahama or two.
Can’t play? No problem. There’s a Steigerman grand player piano that has a disc mechanism that mimics the moves of a maestro.
“That’s the only one I am interested in keeping,” Boyd said.
Ronald moved the collection to the Whidbey Island home he purchased in Greenbank after retiring in 2015 from a 50-year piano career in the D.C. area.
“He brought some himself and others were by 18-wheelers,” Boyd said.
The pianos were stored sideways, sans legs, wrapped in protective covers in the RV garage at Ronald’s Whidbey home — his piano home. Ronald spent most of his time at another home he owned in Arizona, and that’s where he died last July after a stroke.
Boyd is in charge of selling those homes, too. “And a car and a van and a motorcycle. It’s quite a process going through probate.”
He had no idea of what kind or how many pianos there were until the movers set them up in the Everett showroom.
Nathan Jensen, a Shoreline piano technician, took it from there.
“A number hadn’t been tuned for a long time and some had new strings that hadn’t been brought up to pitch just yet,” Jensen said. “It was about bringing everything up to par … and make them work and sound the best they can.”
Jensen called it “pretty extraordinary to see that many in one place.”
“It was a unique situation where an entire piano store from the East Coast comes out here,” he said. “These are upward-end pianos. Steinways, many people consider the finest pianos made. These are all restored antiques.”
For Boyd, the pianos are a bond with his brother.
“In a lot of ways I didn’t know my brother well,” Boyd said. “He went back East and my adult life I mostly spent in California. We were not real close and he’s a total different personality than I was. It does make me wish our relationship had been better. I admire what he accomplished. His focus and resolve was very impressive. And his talent in rebuilding and refinishing these pianos.”
Ronald left the playing to the experts.
“His instrument was the cello,” Boyd said. “My brother did play the piano some. He was interviewed by a magazine back in the D.C. area, and he said, yes, he could play but nothing that anyone would pay to hear.”
The brothers spent their boyhood in Washington state before the family moved to Arizona.
“When he was a teenager he learned how to tune pianos down in Arizona,” Boyd said. “He was drafted in the service and went into Operation Whitecoat and that was at Walter Reed Medical near Washington, D.C. That’s where he started his piano business and he was in it from the mid-’60s until around 2015. His last store was in Falls Church, Virginia. At one time he had five stores.”
Ronald did it all.
“I have a picture of him delivering a piano to the White House in the mid-’80s when Reagan was in there. I have a picture of his truck with ‘Boyd’s Pianos,’” he said. “He would rent them, take them in for a concert, and pick them up the same night so people wouldn’t be pounding on them, I guess.”
Boyd said the Reagan piano is in the collection for sale, but can’t say for sure which grand it was.
Ronald also made piano covers.
“The covers he made were a whole side business that he developed,” Boyd said. “I have hundreds of those and the sewing machines over at the house, still to get rid of.”
He chose Everett as the main piano sale site, with “Boyd’s Pianos” signage in honor of his brother. He has fond memories of coming downtown as a kid with his mom and aunt. Also, one of his daughters lives in Everett.
The art-deco style building where the orchestra practiced was a good fit. “It’s ideal, because of the acoustics, and lighting and all those things,” he said.
It’s not like the Aug. 2-22 Street Tunes, where pianos decorated by artists are placed on the streets of downtown Everett for the public to play and pound.
People are welcome to play Boyd’s pianos. Gently, that is.
Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @reporterbrown.
There is an open house from 2 to 6 p.m. June 22 in the showroom at 2710 Colby Ave. Other showings are by appointment. For more, call 714-749-7054 or 360-632-5440.
In his words
Ronald Boyd was the subject of a first-person story that appeared Jan. 31, 2010, in Washington Post’s Arts & Living magazine.
Here is an excerpt from the piano man:
The piano store in my hometown was owned by the Rose brothers, who were very, very smart. They’d moved to Phoenix from Kansas City, Missouri, when everyone was moving there — without their pianos. So these brothers would go back to all those old farmhouses in Kansas, Idaho and Missouri, get these old family uprights and bring them to Phoenix. Then they’d fix ‘em up and resell them to those Midwesterners who missed their pianos.
That’s where I got my start in ‘51. They’d been hiring winos, who, believe it or not, were excellent piano tuners. But these guys would make lots of money, then go on a binge and not show up for days. I showed up. Pianos have a never-ending life. They’re made of trees, earth and animal. They’re hardy. As long as that plate isn’t broken, they can just keep on living, getting rebuilt and resold.
People have an emotional attachment to pianos, even if they’ve never played, because they’ve been in the family. Look, pianos don’t talk back. They sit there, and if you stroke them right, they sound pretty good. Pianos have no political agenda. So when (people) have to get rid of one, it’s usually because there’s some big shift in their lives: death, change of lifestyle or moving — it all adds up. They have to move on to a next phase, and there’s no room for a piano in it. That’s when I see the tears. Every one of these pianos has a story.
I don’t mind selling to people who will never play; they keep me in business. Emotionally, I’d like to sell to needy musicians who just love the piano and play it every day, but I’d be crying all the way to the bank. All of us in this business have taken a hit. There are less customers, and this recession is not over yet. I own my property. I own all the pianos. So I’m just going to wait it out.
There will always be a market for skill. And I’m optimistic, because people will always want music in their life. Not superficial music that comes into their headphones, but real music that comes from their touch.