Miami Piano Man Irving Fields Still Plays Six Nights A Week In NYC -- At Age 97

Before Irving Fields dominated the 88's here in the 1930's -- Miamians thought a gig was a way to flay fish.

Irving and his brother Murray headed to Henry Flagler's Royal Palm Hotel to get a gig as pianist and band leader. Murray flirted with a woman sitting next to them. She was the hotel's social director. She asked Irving to play the piano (he was wearing his wet bathing suit) and he played his heart out. For that, they got hired for $25.

Learning to play the piano when he was just 8, makes me wonder how many people who danced to his compositions, "Miami Beach Rhumba" and "Managua, Nicaragua", would have been impressed with his creds. He originally wrote "Rhumba" as a French waltz.

"As soon as I changed the rhythm, everybody went out on the dance floor. There was a Latin craze." Xavier Cugat led his band to play the hit and then Carmen Miranda, the Brazilian samba singer, made it her own. It became Irving Fields signature song.

In 1947, he wrote "Managua, Nicaragua" and turned the song over to his lyricist, Albert Gamse. That year the song hit No. 1 on the Hit Parade and stayed there 14 weeks. Frank Sinatra even crooned it.

He says working with his sister Peppy Fields on her radio show was his favorite part of living in Miami. Fields has played Carnegie Hall and was featured on Ed Sullivan show, Jackie Gleason's show and "Live with Regis Philbin."