He sports a white fedora in addition to his kippah, speaks in a distinctive Scottish accent (except when he’s pretending to be French), and sings as though he’s auditioning for a place in the Rat Pack.
He’s Pinchas Avrom Toshner, aka. Pinny the King.
A classically trained singer, Pinny lives in Pikesville but was born and raised in the city of Glasgow. His professional career began in the Danish city of Aarhus, when an acquaintance asked him to cover his gig as a performer in a hotel for a month. He soon became quite enthusiastic of the associated benefits.
“When they first gave me the check, I giggled, that you get paid for doing that. That was true. I really thought it was fantastic,” he recalls.
From there, an agent got him jobs playing at the bars of Swiss ski resorts. He went on to take his performances all over the United Kingdom, including London, Manchester, Blackpool and, of course, his native Scotland.
In the course of his adventures, Pinny eventually crossed paths with a Dr. Tan Sri Khoo, he says. A major shareholder and chairman of a British textile company, Khoo became his major patron and pushed him into the musical genre that would become his staple.
Khoo happened to be a great fan of Sinatra.
Pinny currently describes himself as a performer of Sinatra and opera parodies, with a focus on performing at retirement communities. It’s a predictable fandom for his genre, but he said he finds American audiences enthusiastic about his repertoire in general — which is what influenced him to relocate to the US three years ago.
“[The British] were great, they’d say, ‘Oh, it’s great, mate. Do you want a drink? Can you play Wonderwall by Oasis?’ But the Americans would be like, ‘Hey, man. Do you know Bob Dylan? Here’s 20 pounds.’ They would tip,” he explains. The fact that American audiences seemed more emotionally invested in his performances helped to sway him as well.
“American audiences are great; they’re very, very, very engaged,” he says. “They’re not as reserved as British audiences.”
Pinny now lives in Pikesville with his wife, Tamar, where they attend services at Suburban Orthodox.
With a friendly, bubbly personality that lights up the room and makes everyone feel welcome, Pinny is known for his distinctly off-beat style and an almost mystical relationship with his music.
“I have songs, a handful of songs, that I dreamt the melodies of,” he says. “I played so much that… you would dream music. The same as you would a dream: Something you can see.”
Pinny the King will be performing a launch concert for his own songs as well as the Sinatra staples live at the Oheb Shalom in Pikesville on Sunday Sept. 22 at 8.30pm. For more information, visit pinnytheking.com
CORRECTION (9/13/19 9:32 a.m.): This article originally reported that Pinny the King would be performing at the Hilton Hotel in Pikesville on Sunday Sept. 22 at 7 p.m., when in fact he will be performing at the Oheb Shalom in Pikesville on Sunday Sept. 22 at 8:30pm. The editorial staff of the JT apologize for the error.