Could America’s next jazz stars come from a Pennsylvania retirement community?
Marvin Weisbord, 88, and Alan R. Tripp, 102, think so. The two friends recently released their first album together, Senior Song Book, a collection of eight songs reflecting on love, loss and growing older.
The album’s first copies sold out within days, launching Weisbord and Tripp into unexpected stardom. The duo has received fan mail from across the country and appeared on news and radio stations in far-flung places like Michigan and Canada.
A mutual friend introduced the pair a few years ago, thinking they would bond over their shared love of music.
Tripp grew up singing and playing the piano with his father and wrote poetry in his free time, increasingly so in adulthood. When Weisbord was 15, he watched jazz pianist Nat King Cole play at a high school dance and committed to learning piano.
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As Tripp’s 100th birthday approached, Weisbord struggled with what to get his new friend. “What do you give someone who’s 100 and has everything?” he tells PEOPLE.
So he surprised Tripp and set his poems to music. Watching Weisbord perform his words on the piano sparked the idea for an album, Tripp says.
“I spent my entire life time wanting to become a songwriter, and at 102, I thought, ‘Why not finally do it?’” he says.
Over the course of two years, the men spent several hours each week testing melodies and poring over lyrics. They would meet in the morning (they’re both early risers) and sit at the grand piano in Weisbord’s apartment, laughing and testing notes.
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The songs are reminiscent of the triumphant Big Band days of the 1940s, with tongue-in-cheek lyrics set over rhythmic horns, piano and drums. Weisbord says he wanted the songs to feel timeless and have wide appeal, though some songs cater to more mature listeners, like “I Just Can’t Remember Your Name”: “You’re so engaging, but we’re both aging / What was once on the tip of my tongue / Seems to elude me, so I say crudely / It ain’t like it when I was young … I know I ought to kiss you, but baby there’s an issue / I just can’t remember your name.”
They spent September recording the album in a professional studio near their retirement community, Beaumont at Bryn Mawr.
Tripp served as lyricist and producer, while Weisbord set the lyrics to music and played piano. They funded the entire album themselves, recruiting Weisbord’s band, the Wynlyn Jazz Ensemble, and fellow residents of their retirement community to sing the tunes.
Senior Song Book was released Nov. 15 and is available for streaming on Spotify and iHeartRadio.
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The reception has “surpassed all of my expectations,” Tripp tells PEOPLE. They’ve received fan mail from across the country, including professional musicians requesting a copy of the album, and caught the attention of national publications including The Washington Post and PBS. There’s already a waiting list for the next batch of CDs.
“For the first time in my old time, I’m learning what ‘going viral’ means,” Weisbord says.
“I thought it was a disease at first,” Tripp quips.
Next, the pair hopes a director might pick up the album for a TV series or film.
“It’s the perfect soundtrack for an elderly romantic comedy,” Weisbord tells PEOPLE.
For now, they hope the album inspires other seniors to try something new.
“You don’t retire from something, you should retire to something,” Tripp says. “We love what we’re doing, and that’s what makes you live as long as us and be happy.”
Listen to Senior Song Book here.