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    Bit to Do

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    When I take my seat to watch Freddie George perform at the nightclub Jerry Green and Friends, I feel as though I’ve been transported to a different decade. Pinpointing the decade is a little difficult — I’m sipping an Old Fashioned à la Don Draper, an older man dressed like a Mafioso from the ’50s is guarding the door, and George is killing “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the piano. One thing is clear — you’re not going to experience this kind of retro-heaven anywhere else in Louisville.

    “I get here early to get this seat,” says a dedicated fan named Louise. She sits as close as possible to George. “It’s got the best view in the house.”

    Louise, 90 and nursing a big glass of beer, tells me how her fandom of George began eight years ago when he first started playing at Jerry Green’s, located in the Breckinridge Inn. Someone told her of a “darling man” who played the piano, and she’s been coming to Jerry Green’s ever since. She gushes about him, blushing like a schoolgirl. While George is gifted (I think he’s now playing a Phantom of the Opera tune), the man himself is just as fascinating as his talent. “He writes me a birthday card every year. And he sends me gifts!” Louise says. She holds out her arms, showcasing bracelets and rings. “Oh! I’m not wearing any of them now, but…”

    George, meanwhile, has finished his medley of show tunes and waves at his packed corner of applauding fans. He singles Louise out and says he’s going to play her song — she claps excitedly. He then launches into an Elvis Presley hit I can’t name. I feel a bit like a clueless millennial, but that’s OK. This is a smorgasbord of decades, after all.

    George’s appearance is striking. He’s small and thin. When we meet, his shoulder-length black hair is adorned with a ribbon headband, and a pair of clip-on diamond earrings dangle from his lobes. It’s no wonder the 78-year-old is so adored by the men and women who come to see him every week; when he speaks to you, you recognize a warmth and kindness that seems completely genuine. That you’re-the-only-person-in-the-room feeling.

    He started playing piano at four. His teacher quickly discovered that George could learn by ear, correctly identifying notes without the aid of sheet music. “I feel blessed by the Creator,” he says, taking a sip of his pink smoothie made with freshly picked blackberries from a friend’s farm. George is a strict vegan and an admitted health nut. “The worst thing about dying will be that I won’t be able to play music anymore,” he says.

    George performs every Wednesday and Friday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Jerry Green and Friends, 2800 Breckinridge Lane.

    This originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazine, click here. To find your very own copy of Louisville Magazine, click here. 

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