What an incredible thrill it was, back in ’96, to play for President Bill Clinton on Martha’s Vineyard, in Massachusetts! The occasion and reason behind it was that it was actors Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen’s wedding, and they wanted me, James Taylor and his sister, Kate to play while they walked down the aisle, and during their actual ceremony as well. We played “Some Enchanted Evening” while they strolled down the aisle, on a rainy afternoon, and then “Fields of Gold”, the Sting song, when they exchanged vows.
It was really amazing, because every time I even touched my amp, which was about 20 feet away from the President and his wife, the Secret Service agents were right on it….after awhile, I was just saying to them, “hey, feel free to turn me up or down, I swear I won’t touch it again!”. You start to feel like you’re so “being watched” that you’d rather not even make a move, and you even start to doubt your own movements as possibly looking too suspicious!
Well, once James, Kate and I finished playing, it was very interesting to see how everyone moved in one direction, while the President simply walked over to us and said “now this is the most EXPENSIVE backup band I ever saw!” Truly funny, and very perceptive of him, as well. He was just as regular a guy as anyone could ever imagine a President to be, and was warm and friendly. I know it’s a cliché, but when you talk to him, and we spoke a lot, you really are made to feel like you’re the only one in the world he has his mind on at that moment. We spoke about the environment, vintage cars, over-population and music. I even presented him with a Saxophone instructional video I had made for Hot Licks with the great Steve Douglas, someone I played with on the Duane Eddy tour. The President later sent me wonderful and warm “thank you” letters, along with several great photos from the 2-day affair.
I even got to perform some solo pieces for them, and Ted and Mary had their first dance with me playing “When a Man Loves a Woman”. Then even later that night, at the ball, I got to sit in and play with the great Blues and R&B artist, Charles Brown, who was in rare form!
All in all, it was a real honor and a thrill, especially to play for a President who is musically so in tune with what our generation was all about! I mean, he gave me a “thumbs up” every time I played a pedal steel bend on the guitar! Talk about a unique guitar moment!