The Trade Winds' Palm Room in the basement of an old Belltown building was an integral part of Seattle's nightclub past. So was "Summer of...
The Trade Winds’ Palm Room in the basement of an old Belltown building was an integral part of Seattle’s nightclub past. So was “Summer of ’62,” a simple tune that was an ode to the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.
Lou Bianchi, a Northwest entertainer for more than a quarter-century, left his mark on both.
Mr. Bianchi, 86, who moved to Seattle in 1960, died at his Magnolia home last Tuesday (April 19) of heart failure and other maladies.
From the early 1960s until the Trade Winds restaurant and its piano lounge were closed by an electrical fire in 1986, he was the mainstay at the piano in the Palm Room, a popular watering hole that boasted a kitschy 1950s Polynesian decor.
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His was not a set style. “He played anything, and everything. He had an amazing memory for songs,” said his wife, Carol Bianchi.
Mr. Bianchi wrote the words and music for the famous World’s Fair song a couple years after settling in Seattle. It was recorded by a group known as Ronnie Draper and the Four-Do-Matics and released by a little Northwest company, Virgelle Records. But his wife has no idea how many sold. “I do know they were in jukeboxes in those days,” she said.
The record, sold at the fair for $1, was a large plasticized picture postcard that could be played at 45-speed. Mr. Bianchi kept one somewhat-warped copy of the record and another framed with its label still intact and readable.
Mr. Bianchi was born in Boston and attended Harvard. But he rejected his parents’ desires that he become an attorney and, instead, pursued a career as a radio announcer and entertainer.
“He said his family told him they’d sooner he collect garbage than become a piano player,” said Carol Bianchi’s son, John Carpine of Medina.
In Los Angeles, he worked for a company that booked movies into theaters, then moved north to San Francisco to play in piano bars. A booking agent lured him to Seattle, his wife said.
Although he had played and sang at numerous nightspots in the Seattle area, his longest association was with the Palm Room, at the corner of First Avenue and Wall Street. His singing and playing were accompanied by his first wife, Rene, on the snare drums.
“He was a real Seattle treasure; an absolute gem,” said former Seattle resident Ruby Montana, who several years ago abandoned her title as Seattle’s Kowboy Kitsch queen when she closed her Pinto Pony shop on Second Avenue and moved to Palm Springs, Calif., where she now runs a motel.
The Palm Room was one of Montana’s favorite watering holes. “Lou really played favorites from all eras, including contemporary stuff,” she said. “He had the gift of being able to figure out what was special about each person who came through the door. He made us a community of fans who later became friends.”
After the Palm Room closed, Mr. Bianchi continued to entertain around town at such places as the Tropics Motel, the Ballard Elks and the old Grosvenor House.
He was a lifetime member of the International Musicians Association.
His first wife died nearly two decades ago. He and Carol Carpine had been married since 1987. “Our family became his family,” John Carpine said.
Also surviving are her children Susan Price of Renton; Karen Finch of Auburn; Linda Carpine of Bainbridge Island; Joanie Klein of Lake Stevens; and Colleen Smith of West Seattle; and seven grandchildren.
A service was held Saturday at Magnolia’s Our Lady of Fatima Parish. Remembrances may be made to the church, at 3218 W. Barrett St., Seattle WA 98199, or the Puget Sound Blood Program’s Blood Platelet Research.