If one were to poll Gospel music fans about their favorite piano players, the response would doubtless be overwhelmingly in favor of Jeff Stice. In addition to his flamboyant stage personna, and musical virtuosity, fans just love Jeff's humble personality. He has earned a reputation as one of the "nicest guys" on the road today. When I was a 14 year old kid in West Virginia, Jeff was one of the first piano players to take me under his wing. I've learned a lot from this genius. Here's his story:
CM: It's always good to start with the basics; when and where were you born?JS:
I was born on May 30, 1960... I know, I don't look that old... I was born on Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida.
CM: Tell me a little bit about your parents.JS:
My parents are Jimmy and Evonia Stice. Both are retired, but my dad was in the Air Force, which is why I was born on an Air Force Base. My dad is my hero and I'm a huge
CM: Where did you grow up and go to school? JS:
The first four years of my life were spent at Tyndall. We then moved to Louisville, KY, and lived there until I was in the 8th grade. We then moved to Brownsville, KY where I
attended Edmonson County High School. I went to Western Kentucky University and
majored in music for two years; then I left to go on the road and play piano!
CM: Tell me about your salvation experience. JS:
I got saved on April 20, 1968 in my living room. I had been attending a revival at Campbell's Chapel in Louisville, KY. After we got home that night from the service, I felt the need to pray again. My parents invited several of their friends over topray with me, and I gave my life to the Lord that night.
CM: When did you first start playing? JS:
I started taking piano lessons when I was eight. My mom plays too, and before I started taking lessons, I would lay under the piano and listen to her practice. When she would get up from the piano, I would peck out the songs she played.
CM: When were you first exposed to southern gospel music? JS:
I am told that while we lived in Florida, I went to my first gospel concert when I was only two weeks old. It was in the parking lot of a Pleasing Super market! JG Whitfield had invited the Florida Boys to be on the program that night. Although I don't really remember this, (LOL) I do know that for as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a piano player like Darrell Stewart!
CM: Did you ever have any jobs other than playing the piano? JS:
Yes! I worked in a grocery store as a Dairy Manager. I also taught piano for four or five years.
CM: Did you play in any part-time groups? JS:
I played the bass guitar when I was in the 8th grade for my dad's group, the Harvest Time Singers. I then started playing the piano for the group when I was a sophomore in high school.
CM: What was your first professional job and how did it come about? JS:
The Rex Nelon Singers was my first full time job. I can remember sitting at my piano with my record player sitting on it. Their album cover would sit on the music rack of the piano in front of me, and I would play along with the records. Funny thing is, when I would really "get after it", the record would skip! I'll never forget the day Rex called me. He said "Jeff, Rex Nelon here." I was stunned. He said, "I need a piano player." I said, "ME!!! Pick me!!"
CM: Who would you say are your heroes? JS:
I have so many! I loved Wally Varner, Darrell Stewart,Hovie Lister, Eva Mae LeFevre, Lorne Matthews, Rosa NellSpeer, in gospel music. I also loved Floyd Cramer, Art Tatum, Ray Charles, Liberace, Roger Williams, and David Foster in the secular world.
CM: Do you have any advice for young aspiring artists?JS:
Practice! I think now, more than ever, I realize this. Sometimes you can be so much into the idea of getting to do this, that you take short cuts. For the last five years, I have
really tried to apply myself to my art. I've always had a concentration problem, so I'm working on that too. Be yourself and be nice to people. It's a blessing and a privilege to get to do this, so don't abuse it!