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Why Paul McCartney’s Father Refused to Teach Him Piano

Showbiz CheatSheet logo: MainLogo Showbiz CheatSheet 2/4/2023 Hannah Wigandt

Paul McCartney‘s father, Jim McCartney, refused to teach him piano when he was a kid. Jim came from the music hall era of the 1920s. He was a trumpet player and pianist and led Jim Mac’s Jazz Band. However, Jim didn’t think he was good enough to be his son’s teacher.

Paul McCartney and his father | Keystone/Getty Images © Provided by Showbiz CheatSheet Paul McCartney and his father | Keystone/Getty Images

Paul McCartney’s father instilled a love for music in his family

In The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, Paul wrote that his father came from the music hall era and that the family was “steeped” in it. They listened and sang all the songs from the era around their piano. It was how they came together and bonded, especially during parties.

Paul’s Auntie Jin and Auntie Milly used to sing an old music hall song called “Bread and Butterflies.” Later, Jim worked as a limelight operator at the Royal Hippodrome, which helped more music creep into the McCartney household.

Paul’s father was the family pianist, but there was always someone around who could play the instrument. “It was a wonderful thing because it meant people broke into song a lot, like in musicals,” Paul wrote.

During Paul’s childhood, there was a “camaraderie of people all standing around in a room, getting drunk and singing these songs, was something very special,” Paul wrote. “I always thought the McCartney family was ordinary when I was growing up, but I realise now how lucky I was to have that kind of a family, where people were decent, good and friendly.

“Not rich; nobody had any money, but that was almost an advantage, because they had to do everything themselves.”

Interestingly, Jim got the family’s upright piano from Harry Epstein’s North End Music Store (NEMS). Epstein’s son Brian later became The Beatles’ manager. Despite being proficient in the instrument, Jim did not want to teach his son everything he knew.

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Paul McCartney’s father wouldn’t teach him the piano

Jim McCartney instilled a love of music in Paul and the rest of the family. However, he wouldn’t teach Paul the instrument.

Paul’s father wanted him to take lessons from a professional because he didn’t think he was good enough, and because his parents had aspirations for him and his brother, Jim wanted Paul to learn the “real stuff.”

Jim’s plan didn’t quite go as planned. Paul started taking a few lessons but “ended up being pretty much self-taught, just like him,” Paul wrote. “I found lessons to be too restricting and boring. It was much more interesting to make up songs than to practise scales.”

Around the time that Paul wrote The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” he’d started retaking piano lessons. Margaret Asher, the mother of his then-girlfriend, Jane Asher, arranged lessons for him with someone from her job at Guildhall School of Music.

Paul even played “Eleanor Rigby” for his new piano teacher before the song had lyrics. However, the teacher didn’t seem impressed. “They just wanted to hear me play even more scales, so that put an end to the lessons,” Paul wrote.

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The former Beatle recorded one of his father’s songs

Paul’s father Jim didn’t help develop his son’s piano skills. However, Paul quickly became proficient in the instrument and made his father very proud.

Later, the former Beatle paid homage to his father by recording the only song Jim wrote, “Walking in the Park with Eloise.” Paul only recorded the song with Wings so his father could hear it.

When Paul reminded his father of the song, Jim said, “I didn’t write a song, son.” Paul said, “But, you did. You know, ‘Walking in the Park with Eloise’?” Jim replied, “No, I didn’t write it. I made it up.”

Paul wrote that Jim lived long enough to know “what a great effect he had on my life.”

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