While she was a student at Chatham College near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Robin Meloy Goldsby began her summer employment as a waitress on Nantucket Island, but after hearing her play a few songs, Lino Tambellino hired her to play professionally at his Club Car bar.
Piano Girl: Lessons in Life, Music, and the Perfect Blue Hawaiian covers not only Goldsby's stints at hotel bars, some in Manhattan, but also her perspective on the owners, agents, the musicians with whom she worked, as well as her clientele, homosexuals with their Bette Midler preferences, the stalker who attempts to kill her, and those folks who are not even listening. In addition to playing piano her show business career involved dancing and even auditioning for a circus. With her easy conversational style, she recounts some hilarious stories, like playing at a prison wedding, but there are also some poignant stories, like the one about her grandmother mistaking a maintenance man's countenance for the face of God or the one about her close friend dying of AIDS.
The first part of the book deals briefly with Goldsby's failed first marriage, then with her relationship to a night-club owner in Haiti, where she sees the repressive government of that impoverished country. The second part focuses on her second marriage, her move to Germany with her husband, a bass player (she makes a case for them as the best husbands), and her daughter Julia. She continues to play at weddings and special events with sometimes humorous results (she is a master at self-deprecating humor), but the fitting end to the book is Julia's recital. Goldsby writes well about her musical debts to her family, especially her father, and to her colleagues, but some of the most moving episodes concern her relationship to her various pianos. For her, home is where the piano is.