The Beatles, Elton John and Carole King: Jim Wilson's New Memoir Has Them All (Exclusive)

Jim Wilson's new book 'Tuned In' shares hard-won life lessons and inspiration he's learned from a who's who of music's biggest stars

<p>Courtesy of Jim Wilson; Willow Bay Media</p> Jim Wilson and his new book

Courtesy of Jim Wilson; Willow Bay Media

Jim Wilson and his new book

“There’s meeting celebrity, there’s meeting royalty and then there’s meeting a Beatle,” says Jim Wilson. And he would know — Wilson has met everybody.

A piano technician to just about every musician anyone has ever heard of, inventor of the first MIDI-adapter for acoustic piano and recording artist with four Billboard Top 20 albums and two PBS specials, Wilson can tell stories about the greats that range from horseback riding with Dan Fogelberg to getting his “manhood chomped” by Paul McCartney’s dog.

All of that is in his new memoir, Tuned In — Memoirs of a Piano Man: Behind the Scenes with Music Legends and Finding the Artist Within, out April 2. But the book is about something much deeper, much more impactful than Wilson’s shoulder-rubbing with the stars.

<p>Courtesy of Author's Personal Collection</p> Jim Wilson singing with Paul McCartney

Courtesy of Author's Personal Collection

Jim Wilson singing with Paul McCartney

“It's not intended to be a tell-all book,” the author says. “Kid emerges from a troubled childhood in a broken West Texas home, kid pursues his artistic aspirations, gets derailed by all these celebrity encounters and then his best friend dies of a heart attack and he reevaluates. So that's the narrative.”

Wilson first began writing this book when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, because he realized, “I’ve had the great fortune of getting to meet pretty much every one of my childhood heroes,” the author says. “And so I knew that I'd been given this really extraordinary opportunity to have a front-row seat to see their creative processes.”

<p>Courtesy of Author's Personal Collection</p> Wilson and Elton John

Courtesy of Author's Personal Collection

Wilson and Elton John

But it was the sudden death of his best friend, Claude, 37, that really set Wilson on the path of sharing all the lessons he’s gleaned from the greats.

“That was the thing that shattered me, and it grabbed me by the shirt collar like nothing else could have,” Wilson explains. “It's so easy to hit the snooze button on our artistic aspirations, whatever they may be.”

Losing Claude made Wilson reevaluate his own dreams, and how he could inspire others to follow theirs. That’s one of the most important lessons he’s learned from people like McCartney, Fogelberg, Elton John and Martin Short, who started out as clients and in many cases, became friends.

<p>Courtesy of Author's Personal Collection</p> Wilson and Martin Short

Courtesy of Author's Personal Collection

Wilson and Martin Short

“The common through-line with all of them is that lesson of learning to dig the process,” he explains. “Like Paul McCartney, he's made more money than he or his children, or his children's children will ever need and yet you go into his private study, and there are these easels of paintings that he's working on.”

“It's that following the muse. It's that honoring the act of creation,” he continues. “That's been the biggest takeaway for me, and certainly served to inspire me on my journey.”

Make no mistake: There are plenty of star encounters in Tuned In. Wilson tells the story of tuning the Sargeant Pepper piano backstage and then singing ‘Hey Jude’ at the Hollywood Bowl with Ringo Star, Natalie Merchant, Steve Miller and a stadium of music-lovers. He recounts hearing Chick Corea noodling over new melodies and taking road trips with Carole King.

No matter your musical taste, there’s almost certainly a songster in this book that would leave you, as Wilson put it, “opening your mouth and then feeling relieved to hear actual, human words coming out.”

<p>Courtesy of Anastasia Savage Ealy</p> Wilson on horseback with Dan Fogelberg

Courtesy of Anastasia Savage Ealy

Wilson on horseback with Dan Fogelberg

But above it all, Wilson hopes his readers come for the stories and stay for the inspiration. “My original hope with the book is that people will be amused and entertained by these stories of getting to hang with these music legends,” he says. “But the bigger mission with this book for me is the hope that it connects with people on a deeper level. Whatever it is you want to do with your life, get on with it. There's not a limitless reservoir of tomorrows.”

Tuned In: Memoirs of a Piano Man: Behind the Scenes with Music Legends and Finding the Artist Within is out April 2 from Willow Bay Media and available for preorder now, wherever books are sold. 

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