Archive for October, 2008

Logical (But Erroneous) Assumptions

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

I wrote recently about the need to be very specific when requesting special songs of your band or deejay (for the simple reason that there are multiple – and very different – tunes with the same titles.) It’s always a mistake to assume that the version of “The Best Of Times,” “Baby I Love You,” or even “I Saw The Light” which you have in mind is automatically the same one which will come to your music provider’s mind.

Another erroneous assumption involves your venue. Our town has 3 – count ‘em, three – Westin Hotels, within 8 miles, on the same road! Telling someone to meet you at the “Westin on LBJ” practically guarantees a missed connection. Plus, like a lot of major metropolitan areas, we have 2 airports – each of which has a nearby flight museum. My band recently played for a corporate party at one of them. But – as I was going over last-minute details with my musicians – I discovered that one of them had assumed we were at the other one from where we’d really been hired. That could have been bad.

Coincidentally, at one of those 3 Westins on LBJ, we were playing for a Hollywood-themed party. Outside our ballroom, reasonable facsimiles of both Elvis and Marilyn Monroe were posing for photos with the guests. All was fine, until the hostess told “Elvis” that she was ready for him to put on his show with our band. Fortunately for her, he was a Presley sound-alike (as well as look-alike), and we were of the right vintage to know the Elvis repertoire. Marilyn’s show-time, when it came, was dicier. I couldn’t remember any Monroe song except “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,” and I was unsure where the middle part of that went. Marilyn was ready. At the right time, she simply called up “Happy Birthday in C.” That one we knew.

A disaster was averted, thanks to a pair of outstanding, talented, and flexible performers. But the client was luckier than she knew. She had assumed that hiring Elvis and Marilyn for the evening included musical performances. She was wrong. And the look-alikes would have had every right to turn her down flat. That would have led to one hostess with major egg-on-face.

You can easily avoid that same situation. How? Just don’t assume that your vendors are mind readers – spell out the Who, What, When, and Where of your event. That way, when unexpected stuff still happens, you can take heart that it won’t be boo-boos of the preventable kind.

We’re Playing Your Song (We Hope!)

Monday, October 27th, 2008

After his retirement from professional football, former Pittsburgh Steeler Rocky Bleier became a very popular motivational speaker. A dozen years or so ago, my band was asked to give him a little walk-up music at a convention. Thinking that I had come up with something really original and clever, I led the band in playing the theme from “Rocky.” (I was really proud of myself for that brilliant idea, too.) Or – I was – until Rocky walked past me on his way to the podium. He stopped, put his hand on my shoulder, and muttered, “I get so sick of hearing that *&^% song.” One lesson learned – the hard way: don’t assume you’re playing someone’s special song – ask.

At least – I thought I had learned my lesson, until this past week. This time, the band and I were to play something appropriate for T. Boone Pickens to take the stage. I had 3 different songs in mind – “Amarillo By Morning” (to reflect his Mesa Petroleum background), the theme from “Giant” (a classic film about Texas oil wildcatters), and “Wind Beneath My Wings” (because he is now a huge wind-power advocate.) When I ran the choices past my boss – a long-time Pickens associate – I was told, “Yeah, he hates all those. What he really likes to hear is the Oklahoma State University Fight Song.” Oops – again!

When honoring an individual (whether it be for a birthday or for their record of achievement), a couple (be it for their wedding, or for a significant anniversary), or an entire group of people, special songs are often appropriate and always appreciated. At least, the right tunes are certainly appreciated. Even if you are trying to keep the song selection secret from the honoree, and thus don’t want to ask them personally, a close family member or business associate will usually know if there is one tune they particularly love.

By asking, you avoid the trap I fell into of mistakenly assuming that an honoree will automatically love a particular melody, only to belatedly discover that you have missed the mark (and possibly even given offense.) So I stress again – ask first, before you strike up the band.

Back to my recent Boone Pickens experience: I had never heard the OSU Fight Song, but offered to learn it for the occasion. As it turned out, that wasn’t necessary. In appreciation for the 400 million dollars Pickens has donated to his alma mater, the school sent down their entire Cowboys Marching Band to escort Boone into the room. And yes – they were playing his song!

Always Have A Plan “B” (And “C” And “D”…)- Because (Stuff) Happens

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Tomorrow night, my band is booked to play an outdoor barbecue for a convention group. The date has been on the books for months. But – according to tomorrow’s weather forecast – the outside temperature as the party begins will be in the low 50s and falling fast. Looks like we may have to go to our fallback (or Plan “B”) option – a climate-controlled, indoor ballroom.

No problem, right? Wrong. You see, I’ve also had an afternoon event scheduled for months, emceeing a charity golf tournament. My evening client knew this when they booked me, and made arrangements for me to do an early set-up at the barbecue site. Problem solved – right?

Wrong again! Today, th