Billy Joel may be ending his Madison Square Garden residency, but another long-running venture is about to begin. The Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame in Stony Brook has announced the Nov. 24 opening of its next exhibit, “Billy Joel — My Life: A Piano Man’s Journey.”
“This will be a chronicle of his life, from growing up in Hicksville through all phases of his career, with memorabilia from each era, including his 1987 trip to Russia, and tours with Elton John as well as his residency at Madison Square Garden,” says LIMEHOF chairman Ernie Canadeo. “We are covering everything!”
The exhibit is being designed by creative director Kevin O’Callaghan, who built LIMEHOF’s inaugural exhibit, “Long Island’s Legendary Club Scene — 1960s-1980s,” which opened last year. O’Callaghan personally pitched the idea to Joel backstage at Madison Square Garden with Canadeo in February.
“We presented him the overall idea with some rough concepts and he was interested,” says Canadeo. “We’ve been following up with his people since then and have been given a list of items he will be donating.”
Joel is actively participating in the project by lending LIMEHOF career artifacts from his own private collection.
“We went to his storage facility with his team and reviewed a lot of items. Billy is excited. He really opened the doors for us,” says Canadeo. “We have rare photos, awards, instruments, platinum and gold records as well as other items no one has ever seen before. There will also be rare video and audio recordings from the studio.”
The exhibit begins in the lobby with a three-dimensional image of Joel as a teenager on Long Island as the title wall. There will be a 20-foot keyboard-shaped counter, a baby grand piano-shaped trophy case and a gift shop filled with Joel-themed merchandise.
As visitors enter the main exhibit space on the first floor, they will be schooled on Joel’s influences.
“We wanted to show where Billy came from musically. He is a loyal guy who respects the past,” says O’Callaghan. “The first thing you see is a 1960s wooden style TV set playing The Beatles on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ from 1964 and a quote from Billy stating, ‘This is the moment that changed my life.’ It had a strong impact on him.”
O’Callaghan is reproducing a Long Island record store with old wooden bins holding albums from Joel’s influences such as Ray Charles, Paul McCartney and Beethoven.
“We will have record players where people can actually take the records out and play them,” says O’Callaghan. “There are all different types of interactive things throughout the exhibit.”
The stage set from Joel’s old band the Hassles gets recreated including the original drum kit as well as material on his days in California. In the middle of the room, a 9-foot piano Joel used on his “Face 2 Face Tour” with Elton John sits on a revolving stage as concert footage plays in a 25-foot floor-to-ceiling alcove with full audio.
“Even the floor will also have projections of performances,” says O’Callaghan. “Plus, there will be a giant TV playing all his MTV videos from the ’80s.”
A recreation of A & R Recording, Inc., where Joel cut his hit “My Life” from the 1978 album “52nd Street,” is reproduced, including his actual Yamaha CP-70 electric piano.
“It’s going to be very detailed,” says O’Callaghan. “We are even reproducing the Oriental rug they had underneath the equipment.”
Additionally, a tribute to the Billy Joel Band will spotlight drummer Liberty DeVitto, bassist Doug Stegmeyer, guitarist Russell Javors and saxophonist Richie Cannata. On the second floor, there will be a glass case displaying Joel’s famous awards.
“Billy is loaning us every award he has ever won — Grammys, Kennedy Center Honors, gold and platinum records,” says O’Callaghan. “Our theater upstairs will also play Billy Joel films like ‘The Last Play at Shea’ and others.”
For those seeking a selfie, three Joel album covers — “The Stranger” (1977), “52nd Street” (1978) and “Glass Houses” (1980) — are reproduced in 8-by-8-foot size for some fun photo ops.
“We are removing Billy from the picture and you will be able to stand there and pose like him. This way people can become part of the album,” says O’Callaghan. “If you are a Billy Joel fan, this will be heaven for you.”
Tickets ($35 general admission, $49 VIP) for the exhibit are on sale via limusichalloffame.org/billy-joel-exhibit/.