The Alley Oakland Piano Bar Going Strong After Rod Dibble’s Passing, But No Oakland Song

The Alley Oakland Piano Bar Going Strong After Rod Dibble's Passing, But No Oakland SongThe Alley Oakland Piano Bar Going Strong After Rod Dibble's Passing, But No Oakland Song

Rod Dibble was not just the The Alley Oakland Piano Bar’s star, but an Oakland Institutution – in truth he and the place at 3325 Grand Avenue near The Grand Lake Theater, Lake Merritt, and Adams Point, are noted Oakland Landmarks on the National Historic Register. The Alley has been in Oakland since 1931. Once a speakeasy, it has a deep history in Oakland, but most of its richer moments came during the 57 years Rod played at the piano.

Rod Dibble even coaxed this blogger to sing. The date was a day in September of 1997, when, after about two years of not approaching the piano, one Tuesday night at about 10:30 PM, with no one around except Rod, the bartender (I think it was Penny at the time) perhaps one or two other patrons, and myself, I walked over and asked Rod to play, and I would try to sing to, “New York, New York” – my favorite Frank Sinatra song. What I learned that night was, as much as I love “New York, New York”, it wasn’t the right song for my voice: “Fly Me To The Moon” was. And so a singer was born.

My favorite songs to sing were the aforementioned “Fly Me To The Moon”, “The Way You Look, Tonight” , “The Cal Drinking Song”, “Show Me The Way To Go Home” (from the movie “Jaws”), and “The Oakland Song.” Yep. Oakland has a song all it’s own. Rod Dibble coached me on how to sing it, too. The lyrics are these and from my memory not those posted online. This is Rod Dibble’s version, and it’s easier to sing than the original one:

I am sure that you’re aware
of famous cities everywhere
the ones that are acclaimed in song and verse!
There are songs about Chicago, Paris, London, and St. Paul,
Buffalo, Miami, and for God’s sake Beaver Falls
Beaver Falls!!
But Tin Pan Alley did us wrong
They never wrote a song
about the greatest city of them all
Now don’t go away, I hope you’ll stay
and hear this song I wrote today:
Oakland’s got the Tribune Tower
Oakland’s got Lake Merritt, too
She’s got Jack London Square
The Alley Cat is there!
The Kaiser Center sticks up everywhere!
Where did all the people go when ‘Frisco burned?
They all went to Oakland and they never returned
Right outside the city limits
scoots a freeway called the Nimitz
Of all the pretty cities, she’s the leader
And don’t forget the tube to Alameda…
Oh, she’s got pride!
Hope (some replace that word with “Dope”)
Oh, what a view!
Oakland, we’re for you
Don’t mean Milpitas!
Oakland, we’re for you!!

While The Alley’s stlll going strong (and with Paul Hlebcar at the piano and Jeff Loeb), sadly, since Rod’s passing, The Oakland Song is all but forgotten – Rod never missed a chance to play that song, nightly. And while the Alley’s still going stong, and the kitchen is back with the great chicken and the steaks, the piano habits have changed. It’s more about the talent of individual singers, rather than songs that large groups of people can sing. The Oakland Song is one example, as is another once-popular group of a different kind song “42nd Street.”

The way Rod Dibble played “42nd Street” called for everyone around the bar to pull out a coin. When the song was sang, at the following points, as marked in the lyrics below, everyone would rapidly tap their coin on the piano (or nearby table):

In the heart of little old New York,
You’ll find a thoroughfare.
It’s the part of little old New York
That runs into Times Square.
A crazy quilt that “Wall Street Jack” built,
If you’ve got a little time to spare,
I want to take you there.
Come and meet those dancing feet,
On the avenue I’m taking you to…
Come and meet those dancing feet,
On the avenue I’m taking you to,
Forty-Second Street.
(TAP COINS!)
Hear the beat of dancing feet,
It’s the song I love the melody of,
Forty-Second Street.
Little “nifties” from the Fifties,
Innocent and sweet;
Sexy ladies from the Eighties,
Who are indiscreet.
They’re side by side, they’re glorified
Where the underworld can meet the elite,
Forty-Second Street
(TAP COINS!)

These group-songs made singing at The Alley “accessible” to those who otherwise would be intimidated by someone who could just walk up to the piano, roaring drunk, and belt out a tune that would land them a gig at Carnegie Hall.

Those days are gone. Or are they? Go to The Alley one night, and sing The Oakland Song! With a large group of people. Heck, get the whole dang bar to sing! It’s the perfect antidote to what social media has done to Oakland society in causing people to be isolated from each other!

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the song from Jaws, here it is:

Show Me The Way To Go Home – Jaws from Thomas Kelly on Vimeo.

Lyrics (as sang by Rod Dibble and I):

Show me the way to go home
I’m tired and I want to go to bed
I had a little drink about an hour ago
And it went right to my head
Wherever I may roam
On land or sea or foam
You can always hear me singing this song
Show me the way to go home.

Chorus: Show me the way to go home
I’m tired and I want to go to bed
I had a little drink about an hour ago
And it’s gone right to my head
Wherever I may roam
On land or sea or foam
You can always hear me singing this song
Show me the way to go home.

Good evening, friends!

Stay tuned.

Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media

About the Author

Zennie Abraham
Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media