Music always has a way of landing me in some interesting and sometimes comedic situations. This one took place in September of 2009… My man Asheru knew a kat who had a direct link to a couple of the Washington Redskins players and wanted to know if he could put a band together to play at cornerback Fred Smoot’s wedding reception – No problem. Ash ended up putting a couple of calls in to members of the ELs crew, including myself on keys, Omar Hunter on bass and Chris “Biscuit” Bynum on drums. We all rolled down to Falls Church, VA to meet up at Fred Smoot’s house and knock the gig out. I arrived to the house first, loaded my equipment in through the garage and headed down into the basement where a long table was set up for guests to eat along with the catered food and drinks all set up along the wall in preparation for the reception itself. Omar, Biscuit, and Asheru rolled in not too long after I did and set their equipment up in the space next to my board. Now, before I move along any further, let’s think about this… It was already random as hell to have received the call to play at Fred Smoot’s wedding reception in the FIRST place so I had no idea what to expect. My impression of him like many other sports fans who would tune in to SportsCenter fairly regularly in the morning, was that he was a pretty solid cornerback who ran his mouth a little bit – yet he always seemed like he was having fun with it. I mean, shit… nowadays, it’s almost like, what athlete doesn’t run their mouth anymore? But then again, those same kats who are all extra and over the top on the field, usually up being the most down-to-earth and “real” kats off of it. I was pretty interested to see if this held true for Smoot as well. Regardless, we were gonna make this joint fun because the gig was so… I don’t know…. vague and different.
We took our time setting up our equipment because the wedding (which was to take place upstairs on the main floor) had not begun yet. From the looks of things, it wasn’t close to start time either….. Or so we thought. As we were slowly plugging cords into amps and power strips while cracking jokes and figuring out the reception’s food situation, a young lady whom I assumed was the wedding coordinator came downstairs. She walked straight up to me and asked, “Excuse me… But can you play “Here Comes the Bride”, or something as the bride walks down the aisle?”
Although I was totally unprepared for that request being as though we were there to play at the RECEPTION, I was cool about it and responded, “Yeah, I can do that… Let me figure it back out for a couple of minutes to work the kinks out before I actually play it.”
Coordinator: “Oh no… She’s walking down the aisle right NOW.”
Me: *crickets*………… “OH.”
I sat down at the keyboard, turned the volume up so that those attending the wedding ceremony upstairs could hear me and proceeded to play… I’m sorry, I mean work through a slow version of “Here Comes the Bride” all while O and Biscuit were watching me….. and laughing, of course. It’s a pretty simple song, but I had the “heavy concentration face” on as I didn’t want to earn a permanent place in the Smoot Wedding memory annals as the piano player who couldn’t bring the bride down the aisle worth a shit.
I actually got through the bride’s introduction unscathed and we just kinda waited around quietly for the actual wedding ceremony to wrap up. Once it did, everyone in attendance began to filter downstairs to the basement where the reception was being held. Folks took pictures, shared small talk and we were all finally able to get up and get a plate of food. I looked around and saw a few Redskin players that I recognized and there was another kat in attendance whose face looked familiar as well, but I knew he didn’t play football. We discovered it was vocalist, Dave Hollister. Dope! We also found out that Fred wanted him to do a song with us… Well shit, even better… Let’s run it!
The song that Brotha Smoot wanted Dave Hollister to sing with us…….. At his wedding…….. was….
BlackStreet’s “Before I Let You Go.”
“Now uhhh, ok uhhh..seee uhhhh…. Lemmeh tehya som’n!!” © Charles Barkley
Pretty much any other time, this song choice would make sense. I mean, outside of “No Diggity” and “Don’t Leave Me”, “Before I Let You Go” is still one of BlackStreet’s best known jams… PLUS, Dave sang the lead on the original recording, so shit…. There it is, the perfect song choice!
I can still hear Biscuit’s response when I told he and Omar what they wanted us to play. He said, “Dogg, at a WEDDING??!” None of us wanted to hit the audience with the “break up song” 30 minutes after Mr. & Mrs. Smoot exchanged vows! I mean, ok…. let me put it to you like this. Let’s take, Earth, Wind & Fire’s “After The Love Is Gone” for instance. As pretty sounding as that song is, I think it’s safe to say that you’ll never hear that shit as a couple’s “first dance at the wedding” choice. But hey… If folks wanna begin a clean slate of matrimony with, “Baby I’ve been thinkin’, there’s something’s goin’ wrong ‘cuz you’ve got an attitude, and you’re not in the mood…. like ya used to”, be my guest. Who am I to argue with what the groom wants played?! Maybe the joint had a deeper meaning than we all thought… I didn’t know, nor did I care to find out. So we talked it over with Dave in regards to how we would present the song format-wise, Omar and I quickly figured out the chords, changes, etc… And we pulled the song off. Now, if I remember correctly, people responded to it pretty well. I was actually bracing myself to get a puzzled response similar to the one Randy Watson received at the “Miss Black Awareness Pageant”. But all jokes aside, Fred Smoot was a good dude, definitely a lot more laid-back and humble than he used to portray himself in the media. After playing for a couple of hours, we ended up leaving that gig with some satisfied wedding attendees, full stomachs, our checks, and more helluva stories for the library…