Mrs. 88 Keys joins her partner in heaven

Blanche London, who was half of the act, Mr. and Mrs. 88 Keys, died in Palm Coast at 103.

Blanche London celebrates her 103rd birthday with Rick and Pearl Jones, Pastor Dr. Kevin James and Marva Jones. Courtesy photo
Blanche London celebrates her 103rd birthday with Rick and Pearl Jones, Pastor Dr. Kevin James and Marva Jones. Courtesy photo
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Marva Jones fondly remembers her childhood, growing up as the daughter of Blanche and Sim London — Mr. and Mrs. 88 Keys.

Blanche and Sim London, Mr. and Mrs. 88 Keys, in 1947. Courtesy photo

Blanche and Sim toured the Eastern part of the United States from the 1940s through the ’70s. They played together on the same piano, sang songs together and teased each other. Marva and her brother Sim Jr. lived with their grandparents while Blanche and Sim toured in the winter and then they'd spend the summer with their parents in Ontario, Canada where Mr. and Mrs. 88 Keys would play at a resort.

“They gave us a good childhood, a good life,” Jones said. “All of us have the music in our souls.”

Blanche London died on May 14 at 103 years old. She was full of life, loved being around young people, which in her later years included just about everyone in her estimation. She was a stylish dresser and smoked until she broke her hip when she was 99.

A Celebration of Life will be held for Blanche at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 22, at the Palm Coast United Methodist Church.

“She had a crazy sense of humor that everybody loved,” Jones said. “We used to eat at the Golden Corral after church on Sunday, and she would go outside and smoke. And one time, one of our dear friends, Jim Sims, told her, ‘you shouldn’t be doing that.’ And she said, ‘I'll tell you what you do. You go downtown and buy yourself a business, and stay out of mine.’”

After Blanche and Sim retired from the road, they bought a nightclub named Mardi Gras in Shaker Heights, Ohio. In later years, she worked for the Cleveland Council for the Aged and at Collinwood High School. She worked until she was 86 but continued playing piano in church.

In 2012, after Blanche turned 90, Jones told her it was time that she moved down to Palm Coast where Jones and her late husband, BJ, lived.

Blanche quickly made friends and found a home at United Methodist Church where she became a favorite of Pastor Kevin James.

Jones would take Blanche to get her nails done at Sofia Nails.

“Everybody at Sofia’s embraced her,” Jones said.

After Blanche broke her hip, Sofia would come to the Flagler Health and Rehab Center and give Blanche a manicure and pedicure there. When Blanche went into assisted living, they would come do her nails there, Jones said.

The framed photo was a gift to Blanche London for her 98th birthday celebration. Courtesy photo

Because of Sim and Blanche’s influence, music and art infused into the family’s genes over three generations. Sim Jr., who died unexpectedly in 2012, played drums for such R&B artists as Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes and the Spinners and he painted, Jones said.

“His paintings and drawings are all over my house,” she said.

Jones’ son, James McMillan, is an entertainment lawyer, representing successful musicians. Her other son, Dorian McMillan, plays guitar and sings.

In her 90s, Blanche performed at Flagler Auditorium for Flagler Palm Coast High School’s Black history program.

“She talked to the children, and they all enjoyed listening to her play,” Jones said.

And Blanche continued playing in church.

Those who celebrate her life at the Palm Coast UMC will hear her play and sing again with her late husband, Sim, as the church will show a video from 1947 of a 27-year-old Blanche London and a 30-year-old Sim London tickling the ivories and singing, “Wherever There’s Me - There’s You.”

At the end of the video, which can be seen on YouTube (, a 93-year-old Sim and 90-year-old Blanche can be seen jamming together on the piano again.

Watching the video one can’t help but to tap their toes or snap their fingers and smile.


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