JBs Dueling Pianos

After a week of basking in unseasonably warm fall temperatures that enabled my hibiscus plants to continue blooming through November, I was jolted out of my capris-wearing phase and forced to start dressing in layers when a brisk – and unwelcome – cold front blew into town.


The shock to my system made me want to don my fuzzy socks, envelop myself in a fluffy down comforter, and watch Netflix in bed.


I wanted to hibernate.


However, I’d already committed to going out. My husband Travis and had made plans with friends to go listen to live music, so I reluctantly grabbed my winter coat and out the door we went.


We were going to meet another couple at JBs Downtown for Dueling Piano Night, which had just recently returned to the venue after being on hiatus for a few years. JBs is a hot spot in Joplin for live music, featuring bands, musicians, and even karaoke, every week.


Travis and I found a table and settled in for the show. I kept my coat on, fantasizing that it was my down comforter, keeping me warm and snug.


There was no sign of the other couple we were supposed to meet, so Travis and I went ahead and placed our drink order with our server.



The piano players began warming up for the show.


Still no sign of our friends.


Then, just before the show was about to begin, my phone lit up with a text message notification: We won’t be able to make it tonight. So sorry!


Now, not only was I cold, but I was disappointed, too. I was looking forward to spending time with our friends, which is a rare thing these days, and now it wasn’t going to happen.


At that moment, I wasn’t the most content person at JBs. I felt a bit sorry for the piano players because I was a pretty tough customer; it was going to take something monumentally entertaining to shake me out of my somber mood.


Godspeed, piano men. Let the show begin.



I watched as the tables in the room filled up with people talking and laughing, ready to have a good time. Most of them were about half my age, but I spotted a few others representing other decades, too.


The show opened with the gregarious Mike Manson playing the piano on the right, and the hipster BJ Huffman playing the piano on the left, and Ron Savage joining them on drums in the center of the stage.



Their fingers danced across the ivories, pushing the lively music through the keys and out into the room, where it touched the audience members with its upbeat energy.


Okay, piano men. You have my attention.


Requests started pouring in, with audience members dropping slips of paper into glasses positioned on either piano.


Mike and BJ took turns playing the requests, which included songs that represented different decades, like Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me” from the ‘80s, Alanis Morrisette’s “Ironic” from the ‘90s, and John Legend’s “All of Me”, a current hit.



Then the notes to a ‘70s classic filled the room. Out of the corner of my eye, I spied a subtle movement. Was that my boot-clad foot actually tapping along to the beat?


Sweet Caroline,

Good times never felt so good


“So good, so good, so good!” 


That was me, my voice joining others in the crowd responding to Neil Diamond’s famous chorus lyrics.


I’d been infected by the music.


I was having fun.


My coat was off. My phone was tucked into my purse so that I wouldn’t have to read another apologetic text from my absent friend.


My mind was right there in the room at JBs, focusing on the moment and allowing myself to feel the excitement and joy of hearing live music.



“YMCA” was a crowd favorite that night.


Then Mike read the next request, scratched his head, then declared, “Whether we know it or don’t know it, we’ll try it.” With that, he picked up his phone and searched for the lyrics of the requested song: Shania Twain’s “Feel Like a Woman.”


He then proceeded to play his heart out while reading the lyrics, doing a great job of performing a song that was unfamiliar to him.


The audience also got a kick out of hearing him sing, “Man, I feel like a woman.”


I’d started the night cold and disappointed and in a foul mood, but experiencing the palpable energy of live music cleared my head and allowed room for something more joyous.


So now I’ll let my gal Shania sum up the rest of my night at JBs:


The best thing about being a woman

Is the prerogative to have a little fun.

Well done, piano men!



JBs Downtown is located at 112 South Main Street. Click here to visit its Facebook page.


Check out these other Joplin venues where you can hear live music: Blackthorn Pizza & Pub, Turtleheads Raw Bar, and Tropicana Bar & Grill.


To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

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