“I know, I know, Baby. It was in the main ballroom of the DeSoto Hilton Hotel, a doctors’ convention, and you played for a standing ovation and an encore – a night you’ll never forget.”
As Patty says this, I realize that once again I am recounting a musical experience I had when I was about twenty-two that left an indelible impression. And I’m recounting it to a person who has traveled all over the world, playing trumpet in Japan, in the Ukraine, and even on the center of the diamond at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Still, even now, I can’t imagine how a single performance could have been any better. But, say, have you heard the story? No? I’ll give you a very brief version.
It was back in the middle seventies when an amazingly talented singer by the name of Ann Deal asked Eddie Carriere and me if we would play music with her for a gig she’d gotten for a doctors’ convention. We would be one of several acts, and we would play for about twenty minutes. Eddie and I had performed small gigs for a long time and immediately agreed to join her. We didn’t know what to expect, but we loved to make music. This was just another excuse to do what we loved to do – and to do it with an excellent singer. So the three of us practiced for a couple of hours every day for a week. During the week we decided to officially form a little performing group, and we named our group “Echoes and Shadows.” We learned six songs, playing them over and over until we’d gotten them show ready.
When the day arrived, we drove to the DeSoto Hilton Hotel in downtown Savannah. The convention was in the main ballroom, and the room was packed. We set up as the people were being served. There was the usual clinking of silverware and the buzz of conversation. Ann was a nervous wreck, but I had seen her like that before. I knew that even when she appeared to be a basket case that the quality of her voice could bring chills to a tropical day. We also set up a little tape recorder to capture the moment. The tape would later show that after the emcee introduced us and we started playing, all other sounds in the room would fade almost instantly.
Cigarette smoke languidly rose, forming a light blue haze in front of a huge crystal chandelier. We gazed upon a packed audience, all eyes focused on the three of us. And we played. From our hearts, from our souls, from a pent-up desire to be the people who could deserve to play a hall like this, we sang, and we played. From the first note, we could tell – we were on. We played our line-up of five songs, each one building from the one before. We ended with a standard of the time “I Believe in Music.” And, believe me, none had ever believed in music more than we did.
At the end of the set, we bounded off the stage to a small dressing room on the side of the hall. We felt great about our performance, and we celebrated with each other. As we were doing this, we noticed that the applause hadn’t died down. In fact, it had gotten louder. We thought there must be a very big group that was following us on the program, and one of us looked out the door into the ballroom again to see who it might be. The crowd went nuts! We had to come back on stage for an encore. We only had one more song prepared, so we came out and gave them our parting shot.
When we left the stage that time, we headed for the elevator. Like Elvis, we were leaving the building. The elevator took us to the parking garage down below the hotel. Once there we broke out into Three Dog Night’s classic “Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music…” in loud three-part harmony. There were some other folks who had come with us to the performance, and everyone shared a moment of euphoria.
I’d like to say that following that show at the DeSoto Hilton we took the City of Savannah by storm, moved to California, and carved out our own stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But it didn’t happen that way. We had some other gigs. One was at a muffler shop opening, one was playing on a flatbed truck with the temperature topping 104 degrees, and one was playing for a small party put on by an apartment complex. Before long, the air seeped out of the balloon, and Echoes and Shadows was just that – a memory.
Then, last Sunday, Sound Traveler found its way back into that venue once more as we played for the Victor/Goldsmith wedding reception. We were the second band this time, and it was a decidedly different crowd. The chandelier was still there; fortunately, the smoke was not. But this time we weren’t trying to prove anything. We were just enjoying ourselves, playing songs that we love for our friends and for ourselves. The bride danced with her father. Her father then danced with his mother. Old friends and new ones swept around the floor to tunes that were popular long ago. At the end of the night we didn’t have to race to the elevators; instead, we joined with our friends who had gathered from all over the country to share some sweet memories and dream some new dreams.
And it was good to be back. It was good to know that everything doesn’t have to happen in a chandelier moment and a burst of glory. Some things can become sweeter over time. In Sound Traveler we have the privilege to make music and to share something magical with people we care about. As one guest at the wedding said to us, an old friend who has known me since I was born, “This is wonderful. You have something beautiful that you can experience together.”
As a performer, it is hard to imagine anything better than my first performance in the DeSoto Hilton of Savannah. As a person, it is hard to imagine anything sweeter than my most recent experience there with Patty. Life is good, and love is the soundtrack for living. – Bob Tatum
Sound Traveler played for writer’s night at Nolan’s Pub last night. There were some great acts. As usual, we were the only group that included original trumpet and guitar numbers among our selections. Our new song “Gators for Sale” made its debut. Check our schedule for future shows.
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