Westerns always have a slightly out of tune piano tinkling away in the background of saloon scenes, no matter how rough or remote the locale. But one of those old barroom pye-annas would have been a big improvement over the sad instrument at Santa Rosa’s main vaudeville theater, where fully 36 of the 88 keys didn’t work. This must have sounded beyond-belief terrible. Especially pity the poor singers who had to make do with random notes missing from their accompaniment.
The reference to “jack straps” here is an error; the writer confused the jack portion of the mechanism with the “bridle straps,” which are braided fabric ribbons connecting each key to the hammer. If a strap is missing, the key won’t return to position after being played, or will return so slowly as to make the note unplayable in all but the most mournfully slow music; even then, the pianist must sometimes need to lift up the key before playing it again.
NOVELTY THEATRE PIANO AT OLD PITCH
The piano in the Novelty theatre is back at its old pitch and is strictly in tune. For some time the piano, prior to last week, did not yield up as much music as it was warranted to produce. It had been acting “kind of strange” [as a] music producer for several weeks. Last week “Dr.” S. L. Parks was called in and he performed an operation on the theatre piano. He removed certain portions of the musical “anatomy” and anatomy that was not musical [sic].
The trouble, the autopsy showed was caused by mice having nibbled through thirty-six “jack straps” that have something to do with the mechanism of the key board. A more critical examination of the interior of the the piano revealed a nest of mice and in all seven were killed. The repairs made have increased the volume and quality of the music from the piano at the Novelty. Morris Zoberbier supplied the straps needed to replace those the mice had eaten.– Press Democrat, April 13, 1905