Saturday, January 21, 2006

Adventures in Music

As Dad, Chet, and I were setting up for our gig this afternoon, Chet (who booked the job) casually let this slip.

"Hey do you guys know "Margaritaville?" The guy who hired us wants us to play it."

Now I knew a little bit about this gig. It was for a very nice man's 90th birthday party in a swank banquet room of a restaurant. The birthday man's son had hired us after hearing us last fall. Everything was going along just fine until Chet dropped his bomb.

"Chet, why did you just say that?" I asked, picking myself up off the floor and dusting myself off.

"It's not a big deal, but the birthday guy likes margaritas, so his son asked if we could play "Margaritaville" when he arrives." Chet replied, like it was the most normal thing in the world.

I once took a blood oath that, in order to preserve a microscopic shred of musical dignity, I would never again play certain songs. On that list of forbidden music, "Margaritaville" is #1 with a bullet. Adding to this horror show is the undeniable fact that "Margaritaville" is a guitar song. We are a jazz trio consisting of piano, bass, and drums.

But we're professionals, so, after panicking and screaming for a few minutes, my dad and I sat down at the piano so I could teach him the song. He professed to never having heard it. Lucky man. My dad is a master musician, but I quickly deduced that, in spite of the fact that the song only has three chords in it, our version of it was not going to happen without some sort of sheet music.

So I jumped in the Birdmobile and headed down the road a couple of miles to CA House Music, thinking I could surely find a sheet music book there with the songs of Jimmy Buffett, a man who has made millions of dollars singing songs about parrots, rum, and lost shakers of salt.No dice. I blew out my flip-flop trying to find the song in the store's psychotically organized sheet music sections (there were five different places in the store with sheet music on display). If I'd been desperate for any song from the 1890s, no problemo.

Big Manhattan Transfer gig coming up? We got your music right here, Sparky. But this was a Buffett-free zone as far as sheet music was concerned.
Just when I was about to give up hope, I spied Bill, a drummer I'd worked with last year. He works at CA House. I told him of my predicament. He sympathized, knowing that I was in a real pickle. "Man, I once had to chase down the chords to "Una Paloma Blanca" for a VFW gig on a Sunday afternoon in Keokuk," he said, shaking his head.

Bill summoned the computer guy for the store who, with a bit of coaching from me, was able to get online and find the chords and words to "Margaritaville." He printed it out and placed it in my sweaty hands. I raced back to the party, arriving just in time to transpose the key from D to C (better for piano) and scribble a few notes on the sheet.

Enter the birthday man. The crowd cheers. He is handed a Margarita. We begin that cheesy riff--ba-ba-baba-ba, ba-ba-baba-ba--that sends parrotheads into rapture....I lean into the microphone, and say a silent prayer to St. Jaco, patron saint of bass players.

The rest is a blur.
I can now say on my resume that I have serenaded a 90-year-old man with "Margaritaville." How many people can say THAT?

And you know what? We didn't sound too bad doing it.

Oh, and on the way home, we saw two red-tailed hawks perched close to each other in a huge oak tree. I took this as a sign that I should never again sing "Margaritaville."


At 12:04 PM, Blogger Lori S said...

You should read Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs. I think Margaritaville is listed as one of the world's most hated, along with MacArthur Park, and possibly, A Horse With No Name. Dave comments that if you go through a whoel DESERT with a HORSE, you NAME it, for Pete's sake. Duh. Right up there with Wildfire, who is was said died from a "killing frost"....which as Dave succintly points out, kills TOMATOES, not horses!

Good book.....hope you can find it


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