Claim: A pizza delivery man played the piano part on the Bachman-Turner Overdrive hit "Takin' Care of Business."
Example: [Collected via e-mail, June 2010]
Origins: A common type of tale within the realm of urban legendry is the story of the stranger who (despite being a novice or amateur in the field) suddenly shows up and makes a small yet vital contribution to an
Another tale in this mode is the anecdote of the pizza delivery man who, having dropped off a pie at the studio where the Canadian group Bachman-Turner Overdrive (BTO) was in the process of recording "Takin' Care of Business" (a
RB: The song was written by accident. It was a song that the Guess Who had passed on earlier, and I desperately put it together one night on stage when Fred Turner, who was the main lead singer in Bachman-Turner Overdrive, had lost his voice and I had to finish the last set. We were going to record it a few weeks later. After we were recording it with just guitar and bass and drums, there was a knock on the recording studio door.
This is in Seattle, Steve Miller was down the hall recording the Fly Like an Eagle [sic] album, and War was down the hall doing their album, and there is great big guy there. I'm big, so when I say a big guy, I mean a really big
So he went down the hall and dumped the pizza with
He took a napkin and he wrote down the key and he said, "What should I play like?" I said, "Well, Little Richard, Elton John,
I was going to wipe this track the next day, just erase it. The head of our label, Charlie Fasch, flew in because he wanted to hear this album and hear some songs to get us on
I said, "I don't know, a pizza guy."
"What do you mean, 'a pizza guy'? What musician did you pay?"
"It was a pizza guy."
"Well, we have to get him and put his name on the album and pay him!"
So I went down the hall and said to Steve Miller, "Where did you order the pizza from?" He said, "Are you kidding? We've all been here two months, and every day about two in the afternoon it's Chinese or Mexican, and every night it's pizza. Here's the Yellow Pages." I went to the front of the studio and I said to the girl, "Would you please start phoning in the As and I'll go half through the
PM: Come on, you're kidding.
RB: And we asked them if they delivered pizza to this studio on this date. Now two days have gone by, and we had to find him.
PM: And you found him?
RB: I got it, but they wouldn't tell me his name or anything because they didn't know why I was calling. Finally I got a really good Italian guy and he said, "Oh yes, there's this musician that only works for us the last day of the month. When he can't pay his rent, he delivers pizza."
And I said, "Can you give me his name and number?"
"No. But if you order a pizza we'll send him out."
So we ordered a pizza and the guy came out. His name was Norman Durkee, and this was his entrance into show business. He went on to become Bette Midler's musical director on her first national tour. About six years ago I was playing with the Ringo Starr All-Starr Band and we played at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, and before us the L.A. Symphony was
A: Here's Randy's version of the story. We were encased in the studio, and the pizza guy delivers our pizza. He hears us recording the song and says, "Hey, that needs piano!" Randy asks him if he can play. He does, and he goes into the studio and does one take. We think that's cool, pay for the pizza, give him a tip and he leaves. Then Randy realizes that we have to pay this guy for the session! Randy and the president of Mercury Records sit down with the yellow pages and phone every pizza parlor in Seattle until 4 in the morning asking if they had a pizza delivered to Casement Studios by a guy who can play piano.
Here's the real story: We're in the studio recording "Taking Care of Business". In the next studio is a guy working with Steve Miller. He hears the song as he's walking back and forth getting coffee. He sticks his head in and says, "That needs piano! A real boogie-woogie piano would sound cool." The he leaves. We're looking around for him, asking, "Where's that piano guy?" So Buzz Richmond, the engineer, tells us that he's working next door and he'll go get him. So he comes back, and asks us if we want piano on the song. He asks us how long the song is, and we tell him about five minutes. "Well," he says, "I only have six." He then picks up a pizza box, proceeds to write the chord progression on the cardboard box, puts it down on the piano, and plays it once. It sounds great. He then asks us to send him a check and he leaves us his card. The fellow's name is Norman Durkee. He's a musical director for Bette Midler and Barry Manilow. We credited him on the album.
So to me, the most amazing part of this story is I go over to this
So we both put on headphones, and then when he wanted me to play, he would point, and when he wanted me to stop, he put his hand across his throat. And so, the thing starts [imitates intro to "Takin' Care of Business"] and they point, and I go [imitates piano playing], and anyway, we get through the whole song, and I get up and leave. And he says, "How do you do that?" And I says, "I don't know; I've got this magic, man, you know. Gimme some money or something."
So I get ninety dollars, which is the legal fee for a union musician playing one session. Then later, one of the Allman Brothers says, "You know, man, you really got
[sarcastically] Sure, I'm the pizza guy. And I play piano.