Dueling pianos (also known simply as "sing-along") is a form of entertainment, usually on stage with two grand pianos, each played by a professional player who sings and entertains; humor and audience participation are prevalent. Usually these types of piano bars have substantial sound systems, and most of the songs performed are rock and roll, "classic rock", Top 40, R&B, or country, played primarily by request. The modern format originated in late 1986 at Alley Cats in Dallas, Texas, and was based on the old-style dueling pianos still found at Pat O'Brien's Bar in New Orleans.
Literal dueling pianos can be verified as early as the late 1890s, when ragtime piano players would actually "duel" in an effort to see who could play better and faster. In 1933, when B.H. O'Brien and Charlie Cantrell opened Pat O'Brien's Bar in New Orleans, they included a room where two piano players would entertain the crowd on copper-topped baby grand pianos. Players would take turns singing songs requested by the audience, written on cocktail napkins.
In 1986, a piano bar called Dallas Alley (aka "Alley Cats") opened in Dallas, Texas as an attempt to copy the piano bar style of New Orleans. Players at this club started redefining the style of dueling pianos by playing more contemporary rock and roll music, coupled with humorous bits that involved lyric substitutions and audience participation. These "bits" would become commonplace at many dueling piano clubs over the years, as a staple of the industry. From there, many dueling piano clubs and chains opened, and there are currently well over 200 different clubs across the United States, and even more in other countries. The name of the concept has also evolved to be called "sing-along" since the goal of the players is not generally to work against each other, but rather to gain audience participation with singing and clapping. This is widely accepted as the current incarnation of dueling pianos/sing-along.
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