The day Johnny Carson asked if anyone in the audience played piano

This is legit.

Johnny Carson’s piano playing guest canceled at the last minute due to an accident, so Johnny asked if anyone in the audience played piano.  This guy, David Tolley, raised his hand, so Johnny had him come down an play.

Tolley reports via the YouTube page that this was legit, it wasn’t a set-up – he honestly volunteered from the audience and it wasn’t planned.

Here’s a bit more:

On December 19, 1985, David was just another guy in the “Tonight Show” studio audience when Johnny Carson said, “Horatio Gutierrez (a classical pianist) couldn’t come tonight because he accidentally shut his hand in a car door and didn’t want to chance playing the Tonight Show. Can anybody here play the piano?” David volunteered; he played “Memory” (from the Cats musical). The next day, David got tons of phone calls — everything from playing on cruise ships to acting in movies. Since then, David’s career has gone up and down.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • hollywoodstein


  • hollywoodstein

    The Great Carsoni retired to the Serengeti and died from emphysema in 2005.

  • stldem

    I loved Johnny Carson. He seemed to always have a liberal slant on the news. Smart and funny. No one like him.

  • Gustav2

    his hand is not as heavy

  • Butch1

    They probably liked the free advertisement.

  • Butch1

    Where is he now? ;-)

    A complete natural.

  • Freday63

    That was adorable…

  • Krusher

    Man oh man, I miss Johnny Carson. That kid was a natural showman.

  • MyrddinWilt

    Works as a session musician and gives performances from time to time.

  • So where is he now?

  • Tor

    That was cute. He took showmanship lessons from Liberace!

  • A dude combo of Ferrante & Teicher!

  • UncleBucky

    Hahaha, oh those marketers… boy oh boy…

  • ComradeRutherford

    Because the Marketing Department decided that they will get less complaints from cutting off picture then they would from having black bars on the sides.

  • Randy

    Wow, that’s great! He liked mugging for the camera, and really seemed to enjoy it. Sure, it was a little overdone and schmaltzy, but when you’re that cute, you can get away with it.

  • UncleBucky

    Or the Chico Marx school? with the Index finger move? :)

  • UncleBucky

    Why the hell do they cut the top and bottom of the NTSC frame to fit the new screen shape?

    I am perfectly happy to see two black borders on the sides.

    Oh, and by the way, it’s good to hear Carson’s voice… :) This clip was good.

  • keirmeister

    John, you’re really taking me down memory lane – but this one is personal. I met David when our band teacher asked if he would play keyboards for our high school play. They knew each other from OSU, and lemme tell you, David was AWESOME! We loved all the sound effects he added to our show! I even got a copy of a tape he made, including his famous OSU medley for piano. I have no idea where that tape is now. :(

    I can’t remember how long after he performed in our play, but I’m watching Carson (EVERYONE did back then), and there David pops up randomly! We were all talking about it at school the next day. And Carson liked him so much, he invited David back as a guest on a later show.

  • Buford

    Neat… that was a new one on me. Interesting, too, that they were able to show the Nike logo on his t-shirt un-pixelated without litigation complications. It was a simpler time.

  • TheOriginalLiz

    He looks like he’s having fun.

  • olandp

    From the Liberace school.

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