Damm straight

David Damm spills on what it takes to become a "piano man"

Written by Joe Stumpe | Photography by Visual Fusion Photographics

David Damm has performed in venues big and small. For pure party atmosphere, he says none top Ernie Biggs, Wichita's only dueling piano bar.

"It's such a fun thing to be involved with," Damm says. "A performer wants to be in front of people and have that kind of energy that that room gives you."

Known especially for belting out Neil Diamond classics think "Sweet Caroline," with the whole room singing along Damm gives that energy right back as one of three piano players who entertain nightly.

Damm says he approached Ernie Biggs about becoming one of its featured performers about three years ago. There was just one hitch: first, he had to learn to play the piano.

While that might seem like a daunting task for most people, Damm comes from a family of musicians, including several older brothers who were in bands. Today, one of them owns Damm Music Center on west Central.

David Damm started playing the drums when he was eight and picked up guitar in his teens. He graduated from Bishop Carroll High School, earned a political science degree from the University of Kansas and worked in the advertising business in Chicago for several years before returning to help out at his brother's music store.

Back in the local music scene, he fronted a Neil Diamond tribute band as Dave Diamond. He's still the drummer of record for Moonlight Drive, a Doors tribute band, although Ernie Biggs keeps him busy most nights.

It was while working at Damm Music Center that David started pestering one of Ernie Biggs' other performers about a job there. Invited to sing on stage one night, he got the gig provided he could learn a few songs on piano.

He worked up three: "Semi-Charmed Life" by Third Eye Blind, "I'm A Believer" by Diamond (although better known as a hit for the Monkees and later Smash Mouth) and "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash. The rest, as they say, is history.

Damm continues to add songs to his repertoire, which when combined with the club's other performers runs into the hundreds if not thousands of tunes. That allows them to fulfill all but the most obscure song requests. Asked how many tunes he knows, Damm says, "Not enough. The answer is always one less than I should know."

The format with the club's piano players taking turns taking the lead on songs, requiring the others to follow along provides great on-the- job training and is amazing "ear training," Damm says. He gets to show off his versatility by playing a few songs on drums and guitar many nights too. A couple times a year, the Wichita club's performers travel to Ernie Biggs locations in Kansas City, Springfield, Little Rock or Branson to entertain.

"I'm just very lucky to have this gig," Damm says. "It's four nights a week. I'm playing music for a living, which is incredible. I don't know a lot of people who can say that."

Big at Biggs

Top 3 requested songs at Ernie Biggs Dueling Piano Bar, according to David Damm:

1. "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond
2. "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey
3. "Piano Man" by Billy Joel

Ernie Biggs
550 N. Rock Road
Wednesday - Saturday 7:00 PM - 2:00 AM
In addition to its piano bar, the club features a dance club upstairs, a semi-enclosed patio bar and the quieter Speakeasy Lounge.
For reservations and more information, call 316.978.9103

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