When you picture a friendly hometown banker, it’s not the guy who rocks out ’60s and ’70s hits on a piano every Tuesday night at Virginia Beach’s Cavalier Hotel. But as skilled as TowneBank CEO Morgan Davis is at managing loans and deposits, he is equally adept at belting out Billy Joel, Elton John, the Stones, Neil Diamond and practically any other pop act.
“You just want to join in with him when he starts playing,” said real estate agent Betsy Atkinson, one of several dozen devotees who filled the Raleigh Room in March to celebrate four years of raucous Tuesdays with Davis on the ivories.
“I have been on vacation with him,” said friend Billy King. “And if he sees a piano in a hotel lobby, he’ll take a seat and start singing Carole King or James Taylor. Before long, a crowd forms, and he’ll keep entertaining until well after midnight.”
The fact that there is a fine piano in the Raleigh Room is partly thanks to Davis. “I told developer Bruce Thompson that if Towne was going to finance the Cavalier renovation, there better be a piano in there. And voila, there it was.”
And then came Tuesdays. “I would put a tip jar out for the waitstaff and valets, and it fills,” says Davis. “I figure I have entertained several thousand locals and hotel guests from all over the world. It’s especially nice when someone says, ‘we were here last year, and we made sure we stayed until Tuesday to sing along with you.’”
Of all the songs he performs, perhaps Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” best describes this Coastal Virginia native. “I love the line, ‘the regular crowd shuffles in.’” But the hotel sells a lot of drinks and dinners on Tuesdays, thanks to their banker/lounge singer and storyteller. “I love educating everyone about the songs, who wrote them and the artist that made them famous. It sparks conversations.”
His training? “I bought a baby grand in 1996 when I was 47 and basically taught myself how to play. I never really had any lessons, although Bruce Hornsby did spend a couple hours with me in his home in Williamsburg, giving me some playing tips.”
Davis describes his repertoire as “classic songs of co-dependency, ‘I need you, I want you.’” His standards are mostly last century, but they also include Bruno Mars and Michael Bublé.
“Truly Tuesdays are so much fun, and I love all of you for coming out to be with me,” he told his fans as he blew out candles on a congratulatory cake. Four years down, he declared his intent to return every week for “four more years.” And probably four more after that because he’s calling his day job quits later this year.
“When I retire from the bank,” proclaimed the white-haired crooner, “I hope to spend some time learning to become a better entertainer. Maybe then, Bruce [Thompson] will let me keep the tips!”
IMAGES BY DAVID UHRIN