Archive for August 20th, 2007

“Please, Mr. Please – DON’T Play B-17!”

Monday, August 20th, 2007

Certain songs have the amazing ability to take us back through the years to a particular time and place. Those of us who survived Disco only have to hear one chorus of anything by KC And The Sunshine Band (“uh-huh, uh-huh!”) or the BeeGees to be transported back to the days of polyester yester-years gone by.

Other memorable melodies, specifically love songs, remind us of a particular romance. Bandleaders like me l-o-v-e it when old ballads are recycled. For instance, I can play “Unchained Melody” and scratch the musical itches of couples who courted in the mid-50s (the Al Hibler original version), the mid-60′s (the Righteous Bros. re-make), and 1990 (Righteous Bros. again – in the film “Ghost.”) For a bazillion newlyweds, this was their first dance as man and wife, and will always be “their” special song.

However, for reasons of death, divorce, or simply distasteful break-ups, some formerly “special” songs no longer conjure up pleasant emotions. Pain replaces the joy once felt.

So – what if playing one otherwise harmless tune takes a guest at your party back to somewhere they would rather not re-visit? What if even hearing it may just about ruin their night? Furthermore, what if you know what song it is and how it will affect them? What should you do? (I think I have now used up my quota of “whats” for this entry.)

The answer to the last question is: alert your bandleader or deejay. Let them know in advance any songs that you absolutely don’t want to hear. (This is infinitely preferable to running up to the bandstand, flapping your arms, after the song has already begun.)

I had the opportunity to play for the second marriage of a dear lady who had been widowed at an early age. She didn’t want anything to mar the happiness of her reception. So – when her new hubby-to-be wasn’t around, she asked that I not – under any circumstances – play “What I Did For Love.” It had been 1st hubby’s favorite. I assured her that I would comply, even if #2 requested it. (He didn’t.)

Of course, even the best-intended plans don’t always work out. A bride who had recently lost her mother told me that playing “I’ll Be Seeing You” might cause her father to fall apart at the reception. So – who do you think requested the afore-mentioned ballad? That’s right – Dad himself asked for it mid-way through the evening. With the bride’s blessing, we started the song. Dad borrowed the lady in the wedding gown from the groom. Soon, father and daughter danced cheek to tear-filled cheek, applauded by an equally teary crowd. Far from falling apart, it actually seemed to be therapeutic for old Dad. The bride and crowd handled it well, too.

In fact, as I recall, only the bandleader lost it!