A Conversation with Graham Spice

Graham Spice

Graham Spice

This afternoon, I met with Graham Spice of the W&L Music Department to discuss his experience as a regular pianist at Haywood’s Piano Bar on Main Street (part of a new hotel called The Georges) in Lexington. As part of my research for my article, this conversation proved incredibly helpful as a complement to my interview with Ann Parker Gottwald, the owner of the inn. As Professor Cumming says, a one-source article is a cardinal sin in journalism. Spice offered a lot of interesting information and a different perspective that I couldn’t have gotten from Gottwald. He worked with Haywood’s before they opened in an effort to help them through the live entertainment aspect of the restaurant, though he humbly commented that they didn’t take many if any of his tips.

Spice told me a few things that I believe Gottwald’s humble nature would prevent her from admitting. For instance, he so astutely pointed out that the establishment of Haywood’s and TAPS has “changed the scene downtown a little bit.” Having grown up here, Spice knows the town very well. Even though he moved to Nashville for 15 years, he has been back in Lex for the past nine. He said that now, because of these two restaurants, there is a bar crowd of 20- to 50-year-olds that wasn’t here five or six years ago. The restaurants have successfully expanded the social scene in Lexington, and some of the older restaurants are beginning to step up their game, he believes. The Palms apparently is hoping to begin featuring live music, to compete with Haywood’s and reclaim the centrality of its bar scene.

Haywood’s as a hotel has to offer something more to its guests than what is readily available at any other hotel in Lexington. The owners accomplish this with the piano bar, but also with the casual lounge atmosphere and low-priced menu items across the street at TAPS. They have even initiated different events, like a Mardi Gras parade. Spice worked closely with Mary Carter Hyman, one of the managers and Gottwald’s sister, to orchestrate the music component of the parade. He arranged the music selections and distributed them to local high school and middle school band departments, in an effort to include the community as much as possible. “We started at Haywood’s and ended at TAPS,” he recalls, detailing the route along the historic streets of Lexington.

Spice also listed a bunch of other musicians that have played at Haywood’s. He plays every Sunday, so he knows a lot of the other entertainers. A lot of them are some of his very students from W&L. He is thrilled with the opportunity Haywood’s afford to students, where they can put into practice what they’re learning in the classroom. They have the experience of performing for a crowd while still in school, a luxury he never had while studying and living in Nashville. “And they pay well,” he says. Other professors join the music scene at Haywood’s occasionally, along with VMI Keydets, keeping the relationship with the universities strong.

I was very interested to hear all of these wonderful things about the music aspect of the restaurant. While this could be a provocative article in and of itself, I knew that for the nature of Valley Dish the focus on the restaurant and food was much more relevant. It’s exciting that Lexington is effectively getting a new vibe just from the opening of The Georges. He suggests that this gives the brand new inn a longevity that might otherwise not exist without the live entertainment.

This conversation added an element to my article that was missing before. While I left out a lot of what we discussed, it altered a little bit the vibe of my article previously. Gottwald and Spice were both incredibly gracious while speaking with me and offered a lot of information I may not have even thought to ask about. It definitely pays to reach out to anyone you can find when writing a magazine article. Glad I learned my lesson.

— Elise Petracca

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