As you wake up on any given day you can never be to sure what surprising thing may lie just ahead of you. Back in the early nineties a friend of mine, Julie Burton, now a singer song writer in Nashville Tenn., asked me if I would be interested in being a roadie for a day as she and her band showcased for some of the largest record companies in the world. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that this was something extraordinary that I would probably never get a second chance to do again so I jumped at the offer.
The first big surprise of the day came as we rolled into New York City in search of the studio where the showcase was to take place. I expected some high rise palace where no expense had been spared to attract the upper royalty of the music industry. What I got was a nondescript building on this out of the way alley that no one would have ever suspected to harbor the megastars of music as they prepared for world tours or whatever. And once inside this cold cement fortress it was anything but what you would think a multi-platinum millionaire would spend time at during rehearsals.
After checking in which required passing thru two heavily locked and secured sets of doors we were ushered into studio B of a triplex of studios that surrounded a common room that was even more unimpressive then the building itself. The furniture, what there was of it, appeared to have come straight out of someone’s basement or the nearest second hand store. Otherwise, it was clean, but that was the best I could say for it.
After setup, and during sound checks of which I was absolutely no help, I decided to take a book that I had brought along and take a break out in the common area while I waited for the first of two showcases to take place. As I entered the common room I soon realized that I wasn’t the only person who had the same idea. And I found my day suddenly brightening beyond all expectations. Let’s just say that I instantly fell in love with my new reading partner but that’s another story. In no time at all I was engaged in a conversation with a woman who if memory serves me right which it probably doesn’t, remember this was twenty some years ago, was named Christine or Christina. And she told me that she was a dancer with LL Cool J.
I replied, “LL who?”
She said, “LL Cool J, we’re rehearsing for a tour in studio C.”
I confessed that I was surprised because the guys that I had come with all said that LL Bean was in studio C. And yes, I was really that naïve about Rap and Rap Musicians back in those days. When Christine stopped laughing, and believe me she was bust a gut laughing, she took pity on my lack of knowledge and explained that my friends had played a huge joke on me. And she went on to tell me a little about her story and how she had managed to become a dancer with LL Cool J. And not long after this I had to return to studio B for Julie’s first showcase.
When I next emerged at the conclusion of the showcase I was extremely pleased to see that Christine was still sitting in the common room. I could have talked to her all day if I had the chance. However, this time she wasn’t alone. LL Cool J’s entire band, as well as his manager, were all taking a break.
Christine looked up and smiled as she said, “This is Bill, the guy who thought we were all a part of The LL Bean Band.” They all laughed as I looked for the nearest couch that I could climb under to hide.
It was LL’s manager who decided that it might be best if he taught me a little bit about the culture and inspirations behind Rap Music. I guess he genuinely did not want me to ever be so humiliated again so he spent the next fifteen to twenty minutes laying out how intricate the underlying messages really were. Christine, as well as the rest of the band, were all great throwing in little bits of information here and there.
And then it happened! The door to studio C opened and a very big guy, LL Cool J is a lot bigger then most people probably realize when you see him in person and up close, and this mountain of a man who I realized had to be a body guard emerged. After a moment I heard LL Cool J’s manager speak up. “Hey LL, this is Bill the guy we told you about.”
I was glad that he left out the LL Bean part but I realized that was my queue, “Hi, it’s really nice to meet you, especially after making such a fool out of myself.”
To which Mr. Cool J replied, “Eh!”
And that was it my entire earth shattering conversation with the man himself. It was a moment that he probably had forgotten by the time the door to studio C once again closed but one that I’ll never forget.
And then I had to go back for Julie’s second showcase and I never saw Christine or the band the rest of that afternoon. Christine, I might not have your name right, but I will never forget the short time I got to spend with you! And without you, I probably would never have met LL Cool J. Cheers, and thank you, where ever you are these days?
And Julie, the biggest thank you goes to you. The only thing that could have made this day even more special would have been if you had been signed by a major label. Thanks for this cherished memory!
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