"CHOCOLATE CHIPS..." August 19, 1993
That current TV commercial hustling ice cream bars -- you know, where they ask a man to sing I'm A Little Teapot -- well, that ad reminds me of my first, only and final appearance as a "singer" with a big-band.
During my Mile High City fledgling years in radio, my on-air partner on a daily afternoon deejay show was a gentle man by the name of Pete Smythe. Pete was also the leader of a well-known dance orchestra in the Denver area. Evenings, his band played at a swank Denver hotel ballroom. EAGER BEAVER... As we are sometimes prone to do in our learning years, I was anxious to be a part of everything. One momentous day, Pete asked me if I'd like to sing a novelty number with his band. I had never had any training in singing, however, I enthusiastically said "yes" to his invitation. That night I went to the hotel for my grand vocal debut. At that time, the current big hit novelty song on the radio was the very same I'm a Little Teapot. The song had a big-band arrangement, but a singer (with the band) had not yet been named. The job was mine, if I "clicked." The drummer usually sang the "funny stuff." I sat in front of the musicians, just like Frank Sinatra sat in front of the Tommy Dorsey band. I was self-consciously dressed in a tuxedo, clutching little cards with the words to the song, waiting for my introduction. HERE HE IS...
When it came time for me to sing, I was introduced and I stood up with lyrics in hand, waiting for a cue from Pete. My long awaited debut was at hand. I was launching upon a new career - a novelty band singer. Pete even choreographed a little dance, much like the one the guy performs in the TV spot. Within 10 seconds after I began "singing" I noticed the dance crowd slowly shuffling toward their tables, some covering their ears. Within a minute, I was standing alone in front of the band, "singing" to an empty dance floor. The reason was simple, I had no idea of how to control my voice, so I just sang as loud as I could. I figured sheer volume would do the trick.
I finished my "song" with the band breaking up with laughter, the audience scowling and the perplexed manager of the ballroom huddling with Pete. As I left the bandstand, the musicians gave me a courteous, professional round of applause - a simple gesture to a fellow performer, I figured. The drummer winked at me, sending that well-know acknowledgement of a "job well done." He seemed the happiest of them all.
Smythe, the next day, reluctantly related to me what the manager had told him: "If that awful Hawthorne ever sings here again, I'll fire you and the band." It really wasn't necessary for Pete to tell me, I KNEW I was not destined to be a band singer after that fiasco. It was then that I decided to concentrate on broadcasting as a career.
Now, after all these years, some dumb TV commercial reminds me of the most sensitive of my many youthful adventures. One thought has occurred to me. I just wonder if the person who dreamed up that TV spot is maybe a distant relative of one of the dancing couples who happened to witness my "singing debut" that night in Denver. If so, I feel sure he/she was inspired, subconsciously, perhaps, to re-create the monumental event on a TV spot many years later. I hear the commercial is really working as the sale of those chocolate-covered ice cream bars is at an all-time high. Without doubt, a consequence of my unique performance with a big-band many years earlier.
Hey, I want my royalties.
©1993 Jim Hawthorne