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Montana’s Piano Man

Recording star George Winston talks about his Montana roots and influences.

George Winston, Montana's Star Piano Man
Photo caption
High plains drifter: piano man George Winston

For road warrior and Windham Hill Records pianist George Winston, Montana is the center of the universe—in particular Miles City, his hometown. Winston has sold some 13 million albums worldwide and performs 110 concerts annually. His most recent recording, Montana—A Love Story, was nominated for a Grammy in 2005.

Q How do you describe your music?
A It's rural folk piano. I've had a lot of influences over the years, from Fats Waller to Vince Guaraldi, Professor Longhair to the Doors, and the Hawaiian slack-key guitar masters.

Q What surprises you about Montana?
A When I first went back after 27 years, I realized how much Montana had influ-enced everything I am and do. I'd go back to a specific street and think, "Here's that song, right on this block." Even though I didn't start playing piano until after I'd left, Montana gave me a reason to play.

Q What's your new CD about?
A I realized the people who were my friends then are still my friends now. "You Send Me" is a Saturday-night dance in the plains. "High Plains Lullaby" is a kid going to sleep at that last part of sunset, when it's dark in the east and there's still some light in the west.

Q Do you spend much time in the region?
A I go every May and early June to play benefit shows—Bozeman, Libby, Kalispell, Missoula, Thermopolis, Gillette, Yellowstone, and others. (For a tour schedule, visit

Q Your favorite venue?
A The Custer County High School auditorium in Miles City has great acoustics. And it's got an idiosyncratic old Baldwin—really powerful and trebly—where I recorded "(Love Echoes in the) Pine Hills." It took 45 takes.

Q Is it true that you drive everywhere?
A I rent a Ford Taurus and take my AAA card. Everything fits in that car as if it's custom-made.

Photography by Jonathan Frost

This article was first published in May 2006. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.