Jimmy Keys, Man of Many Voices

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by Yvonne Ransel

Being pleasantly surprised by an entertaining fundraising event is always good for the soul. And entertained we were by Jimmy Keys at St. Raphael’s Episcopal Church on Fort Myers Beach in mid-February.

This skinny, delightful Brit made us laugh til we cried with his witty asides and spot on impersonations of entertainers, complete with costumes and props that brought them to life.

He knew his boomer crowd, so the minute he donned the glitter jacket, Elton John’s ubiquitous eyeglasses and pounded the piano, he had us. From Crocodile Rock to Our Song to Bennie and the Jets, he began a delightful medley of familiar songs that made us grin and dance in our seats.

But that was only the beginning of his enjoyable show and his remarkable talent for impressions. In seconds he transformed himself into Rod Stewart with his mop of grey hair; Mick Jagger, with his shag, big lips and famous swagger; one of The Bee Gees with his shocking falsetto, and crooner Tom Jones and Delilah, of course.

His musical skills were obvious when his fingers flew over the keyboard and he sang Billy Joel’s Piano Man, and again, for the musicals Phantom and Les Miserables.

In between songs, he would spit out one liners and silly puns on songs, like “How Do You Mend a Broken Hip?”  – or “Whoo are You?” – that Who song played endlessly on CSI. Or he would tell outrageous stories and encourage us to yell “Liar”!!! He also earned a huge guffaw from my husband when he mumbled his way through a Bob Dylan song, since we actually left one of Dylan’s indecipherable concerts years ago.

And years ago? Jimmy Keys was touring Europe with a local group like many post-Beatle bands, recording at Abbey Road Studios and then cruising and performing from London to Spain and the Canary Islands. When he went solo as a piano player, he found himself on the island of Bermuda where he stayed and performed for thirteen years! Fortunately for us in the States, he moved here in 2000 and has played up and down the east coast, including Naples, where he happens to be this season.

Check out his show dates at www.jimmykeys.com