itting Ducks played a majority of its engagements in bars and restaurants, but the band did from time to time have occasion to play private parties. Usually these were fraternity parties or various good times affairs thrown by our ne'er-do-well friends. Once in a blue moon however, we were booked to play someone's wedding.
We were not the kind of "variety" band that regularly did weddings. Typically, those groups are hooked-up with an agency that shops them to prospective clients. So if we were engaged for one, it meant that the bride and groom were fans from the nightclubs and decided upon us, um, on purpose.
A word about bands at weddings. It is not unusual for brides and grooms to be thinking "Well, they're our favorite band. It's our wedding. We want to have them there. Let's not worry about whether or not Aunt Sophie gets to do The Chicken Dance (via realaudio, courtesy of Brave Combo). We want to hear cool music." Which is fine. In fact, it's great. I've been to such weddings and had a blast, and didn't miss The Chicken Dance, or The Electric Slide either.
But I've also been to (and played) weddings where regardless of the best musical intentions, the friends and family wanted traditional wedding schtick, or (at the minimum) a seasoned master of ceremonies to do bridal party introductions, etc. Many nightclub-trained bands aren't up to doing a great job at that; it's just not their focus. They're much better at "Last Call!" and "Please Tip Your Waitress!"
Sitting Ducks played few weddings, but we generally did a fine job. We were never a polished wedding band, but our high volume of swing music was appropriate and our raucous R&B numbers were pure party music. We did our best with the 'schtick,' announcements, introductions, cake, garter etc. However... there is one musical bit particular to weddings that involves actual music: The First Dance.
Usually, the bride and groom specify a piece of music for this sentimental moment. Frequently, bands learn the special song for the occasion, or it is one of a million chestnuts that come and go according to popular taste. Even Sitting Ducks had to learn (for a different wedding) one of the great 70's schlock-masterpieces, Billy Joel's Just The Way You Are. Granted, we learned it at the last minute, while the wedding guests were filing in, but hey, we did it.
We did consider it odd that this couple did not specify a song for their First Dance, but we were not complaining; it was less work for us. Nor were we thinking. Given the eventuality that this couple would have a First Dance, which we would be playing, all eyes on the lovely couple and ourselves, it might have been smart, or at least not bone-stupid, to have picked something ourselves.
We weren't however, completely on our own. The couple did give us the tiniest bit of direction. They told us they wanted something slow. No problem, we thought. Except of course when the big moment came, we were stuck. We were smack dab about to launch the bride and groom onto the dance floor for the Big Moment, and couldn't think of a single slow song that fit the occasion.
It's not like we didn't do any slow songs, we did a few. But when we started running the titles through our heads they turned out to be jazzy torch ballads with inappropriate titles like "My Old Flame," or "Teach Me Tonight." We suddenly realized our predicament, but the time to debate, and select, and learn was gone. We had to pick one.
It was as if we gulped, shut our eyes, put the musical gun to our heads and pulled the trigger. We did one of the saddest, most wretched, misery-laden and (to make matters worse) most famous of all torchy jazz ballads, Stormy Weather.
No, I'm serious. That is the song we played for their First Dance. And yes, from the looks on their and everyone's faces, including bride and groom, they were horrified.
We didn't even have the sense to do it as an instrumental. Judy sang each and every tortured lyric:
I can't go on
Maybe it was too dumb to be believed, because like the fraternity brothers who witnessed the wrestling match at the Christmas Party, no one said a word. Were they too embarassed? Perhaps we were so embarassed-looking they didn't have the heart. I'll never know what they thought, but I do know to this day, I don't play Unforgettable or Just The Way You Are without at least one line from Stormy Weather going through my head.
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Introduction | Kurt's Mardi Gras Parade | Frankly, 'Poe's'... | Big Nick | Go Ahead. Shoot The Piano Player(s). | "Stormy Weather" | The Drive From Baltimore | The Hat
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