Johnny Carson asked if anyone in the audience could play the piano. This man raised his hand, and his life was changed forever.

There are always surprises in life, and David Tolley’s path was altered by one unanticipated event. He was watching Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show in the studio on December 19, 1985, when something unexpected happened. The classical pianist Horatio Gutierrez was supposed to be the guest, but Carson disclosed that he would not be able to perform due to a hand injury. Carson questioned whether anyone in the crowd could play the piano with any rhythmic irregularities.

Tolley, who had grown up playing the piano, got right into it. He took to the stage, belting out “Memory” from the popular show Cats. He received a standing ovation from the crowd and gained notoriety for the spontaneous performance.


The day after the incident, Tolley’s phone began ringing nonstop. People called him with offers of performing roles in movies, cruise ship jobs, and other prospects. A chance meeting on a late-night talk show had changed his life forever. The tale of Tolley’s unanticipated success serves as a reminder that we should always be prepared to take advantage of the chances and difficulties that life presents.

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