Wally Kane died Monday, May 31, 2021 just shy of his 88th birthday at Teresian House Nursing Home in Albany after living with Alzheimer’s for eight years. He was the impof Carmel Gardens East and was adored by his caretakers for his air kisses, hand holding and thank yous all around.
Wally Kane was a big personality in a compact body. He was the pied piper of Reid Avenue, the spontaneous host for infamous parties, the fisherman who didn’t catch fish, and the funniest guy who never got the punch line out because he was laughing too hard to get there. He was a prolific studio musician in NYC and made all the music for Sesame Street for 40 years.
He was a great Dad, a loyal and loving family man, a friend to young people and a most generous and enthusiastic home maker, craftsman, collector, cook, adventurer and
boatsman. He was our hero.
On Reid Avenue in Port Washington, NY with his wife, Mary, Wally created a warm and inviting home and with a lively circle of families affectionately called the Reid Avenue Irregulars, produced beloved traditions, hatched crazy adventures and nurtured deep and
abiding love for neighbors.
As “Captain Outrageous” he fished, clammed and innately navigated the creeks and inlets of Peconic Bay with his family, friends and musician cronies by day and served a killer Beefeater martini with oysters from his stash hanging off his dock in the evening. As “safety man” he sent us out into the wild world with the prayer, “watch out for the a…holes”.
Wally was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Ridgewood, Queens where he played the fife at six because he got to wear the cool uniform, the hat with the tall feather panache and spats. Twice he received NY Times concert reviews that said he played with “panache”, which he thought explained everything.
Wally was a woodwind doubler and played all the clarinets, flutes, saxophones, bassoons, and recorders. At 19 he toured the US with the Sauter-Finnegan Orchestra, and band leaders Eddie Sauter and Bill Finnegan would remain his beloved mentors the rest of his
life. “I just love those men” he often exclaimed.
With Ballet USA and Westside Story, he and Mary toured the US and Europe. Wally played Broadway shows, Barbra Streisand television specials, the Kraft Music Hall, and was in the Tonight Show Band with his best friend Don Ashworth.
Together the two created epic lunacy and an enduring family bond that lives on in their children. He was the baritone player with the NY Saxophone Quartet which took him
to Europe and the East.
The 1960s-80s were a boom time for music recording in NYC and Wally considered himself
incredibly lucky to be one of the few go-to reed players for session dates with recording artists, and for television, films, and commercials. He worked with Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, Igor Stravinsky, Stan Getz, Liza Minnelli, Leonard Bernstein, Bill Evans, Eddie Daniels, Roberta Flack, Billy Joel, Tony Bennett, Grover Washington Jr., Joni Mitchell, Moondog, Hubert Laws, Paul McCandless, The Manhattan Transfer, Steely Dan, and so many others. He performed with the NY Philharmonic, NYC Ballet and at Carnegie Hall. And thanks to the lifelong membership efforts of the Musicians Union, Local 802, his pension and recording residuals supported his retirement.
But some of Wally’s most treasured and honored work was with the band that made the music for Sesame Street where he brought his “far out” humor and technical wizardry. He’s the recorder on Sing, flute on Don’t Want to Live on the Moon, and alto sax on Put Down the Duckie, among so many memorable tunes from the show. In his retirement he fly-fished the waters of Long Island’s East End and tied exquisite flies using Big Bird’s yellow
Wally is survived by his wife, Saint Mary, as he called her, of East Greenbush, NY, Elissa the oldest and her wife Lynne of Albany, NY, and David, his brilliant boy and his wife Adrienne of Port Washington, NY. Grandchildren Nora, Samuel and Sophia all play or sing with Wally’s beautiful sound.
The Kanes have great appreciation for Wally’s caretakers, especially during a year of COVID lockdown.
Wallypop loved and was loved by many to the end. So go out and pay for live music or if you are so inclined, make a donation in honor of Wally to the Musicians Local 802 Emergency Relief Fund, https://erf.local802afm.org/donate.
Online condolences may be offered at www.danielkeenanfuneralhome.com.