89-year-old pianist takes requests at the Crab’s Claw Inn

LAVALLETTE, N.J. (AP) — He shuffled by strategy of the dining room at a grandfatherly go, one arm leaning on a cane, the varied carrying a pillow. The Friday lunch crowd on the Crab’s Claw Inn started to buzz as he settled in on the appropriate Altenburg piano.

Frank Staknys got there superb in time, 12:59 p.m.

The Korean Battle frail is 89 now, and his toes circulation a real deal slower than they ancient to. But his hands? They’re restful corpulent of magic.

For the subsequent two hours and 10 minutes, “Frankie Fingers” stuffed the tavern with uninterrupted song, from patriotic tunes to jazz standards to Sinatra, Elvis and TV theme songs. When Bill McEntee, who drove down from Passaic County for this, requested something Italian, Frankie launched into “Advance Assist to Sorrento” and a pair more Dean Martin classics.

His handiest spoil became a two-minute breather to envision his cell phone (a flip phone, for the report).

“Form I rep drained? Yeah I rep drained,” he acknowledged afterward.

So how does he lift out it, at 89?

“I don’t belong to a union,” he quipped. “No union rules.”

Frankie Fingers is a Jersey Shore esteem. He’s been appealing crowds for 50-plus years, including 31 and counting on the Crab’s Claw. He ancient to play 5 afternoons per week, but now he’s down to the encore — an occasional appearance.

“My esteem of song retains me coming,” he acknowledged.

It retains his devoted fans coming, too.

Frank Staknys became born and raised in Lithuania. By age 5, he became playing the piano. Within the early Forties, amid geopolitical turmoil in the Baltic states, his household fled to America. Staknys served as a Navy medic in Korea and grew to vary correct into a neatly-known member of American Legion Put up 348 in Brick, rising to vice commander of the American Legion in Fresh Jersey.

It became on the Brick legion hall, which contained a piano, that a fellow frail nicknamed him “Frankie Fingers.” His gig on the Crab’s Claw started in the Eighties and he grew to vary into synonymous with the enduring arena on Gigantic Central Avenue, superb a block from the Atlantic Ocean. Among the regulars tapping alongside to the lines of Frankie’s piano had been basketball coach John Calipari and the late actor James Gandolfini.

“All people superb loves him,” longtime general manager Aileen Gulino acknowledged. “Of us allege their kids in precisely to ogle Frankie. He’ll name them up and play, ‘Twinkle Twinkle Slight Valuable person.’”

Gulino acknowledged folks quiz “daily” when he’s coming in subsequent. There’s no staunch schedule. It’s originate invitation, and final week Staknys suggested her just a few days in advance he would be coming Friday (he drives in from Toms River, the establish he lives with one of his three kids; his partner of 63 years, Evelyn, died in 2017). Phrase circulated sufficient to push the turnout past conventional midwinter ranges.

“Of us are searching to know why we haven’t hired one other piano player,” Gulino acknowledged. “We don’t are searching to allege superb anyone appropriate into his arena. We’re feeling it out and interviewing some folks. Frankie is difficult to interchange.”

In 2012, superstorm Sandy flooded the dining room but spared the piano. Remarkably, it remained in tune. Of us knew the Crab’s Claw became up and running again when Frankie Fingers returned to the bench.

Wearing his trademark Scottish cap and American-flag tie, Staknys’ establish repeatedly begins the identical design: “America the Shapely” first, then a medley of Armed Forces songs. On Friday, Frankie followed that up with a string of standards: “As Time Goes By,” ″It Had to Be You,” ″The Entertainer,” ″All That Jazz” and “All of Me.”

Then McEntee, who became there with partner Patricia and brother-in-regulation Prick Salerni, effect in his Italian quiz. Sooner than prolonged they had been all singing “Oh Marie” on the piano.

“He’s absolutely huge,” acknowledged Bill McEntee, who owns a summer dwelling in Lavallette. “It’s the appropriate thing going — for him and for us.”

Staknys then pivoted to Elvis (“Can’t Assist Falling in Luxuriate in”), Broadway (“Memory”), Sinatra (“My System”) and TV’s “All in the Family” (“These Had been the Days”).

After accepting a hug from Lavallette resident Jennifer Bradshaw (“he has an excellent coronary heart,” she acknowledged), Frankie returned to the criteria (amongst them “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and “Candy Georgia Brown”) sooner than wrapping up with an Armed Forces medley reprise and “God Bless America.”

By the stop, half of the bar became singing alongside.

“I if truth be told maintain tears in my eyes,” acknowledged Edward Barrett, who lives in Lavallette. “He’s a blessing.”

Barrett sat bar-aspect alongside with his partner Elizabeth and their son Patrick, a 33-year-ragged with an appreciation for the classics.

“He locations us all in a real mood,” Patrick acknowledged. “There’s nothing adore Frankie Fingers. We’ve heard the routine a complete bunch of times, and it will get better whenever.”

Successfully-wishers lined up on the piano after the closing tune. The inspect of a neatly-diagnosed face sparked an encore — an Irish medley that contains “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” and “My Wild Irish Rose.”

All of this is from memory.

“If I’ve heard a tune, it’s up right here,” Frankie acknowledged, pointing to his head. “Can’t read song. Never learned.”

His support will get a shrimp of sore after two hours, but sitting on the pillow helps. So lift out the tunes.

“When I play the piano, I rep carried away,” he acknowledged.

His fans are grateful for it.

John and Pat Lavigne, of Toms River, had been coming to ogle him for a protracted time. They by no design knew his age till Friday.

“We adore all the pieces you lift out,” John suggested him. “Thank you for the song.”

How prolonged will Staknys proceed performing?

“As prolonged as my hands protect out,” he acknowledged with a suppose. “That’s the handiest thing that works.”

Frankie Fingers took a prolonged ogle on the hands which maintain entertained so many folks over the years.

“I had a reward,” he acknowledged.

Composed has it.

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Online:

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Knowledge from: Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, http://www.app.com

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