We stood in the doorway and listened for a while before going in. They were tight, very tight. They apparently had the songs down and were currently working on the set structure, the playlist, segues and stuff. The disturbing part was that the lead voice, my voice, what I would be singing in the live shows, was right there with the rest of it and was very good. OK, it was very, very good. Part of what disturbed me was that it was there; somehow I had always imagined the backup band rehearsing without a lead singer, though it made more sense to get someone to play me in the rehearsals to get everything as true as possible to real life. The other disturbing part was how good this kid was. You could tell from his voice that he was young, but we couldn't see anyone from the entryway where we were standing. Was I that easy to replace with an off-the-shelf after-market singer?
When we came around the corner and through the doors, the shock was complete. The singer looked like he might be high-school age, maybe not quite. He was wearing a white T-shirt, cammo pants and some New Balance trainers that we learned later were his "dancin' shoes." He had a reddish-blond crew cut, flat on top with a point in the front, and looked like a mini-marine. They finished the number they were playing when we came in, during which he was running up the ramps with the wireless mic and jumping off of four foot risers, break dancing and doing somersaults, all while singing my greatest hits in great form without missing a beat. When the song was over, they came down from the "set," Manny sent out for coffee and donuts, and we had the rest of the morning to talk.
One of the young Team Sha-La brothers got his grandmother on the phone and told her to head on over. She handles the business end of their operation and he said it would be much easier if she was there from the gitgo because otherwise she would be pumping them for information about what was said for a week.
While we were waiting for Mrs. Connor, we found out that the singer is a cousin who goes to a military academy in New Hampshire. He is staying with other cousins in Santa Fe for the summer and he was told he would have to help out and make himself useful if he were going to eat their food and swim in their pool all summer. The youngish blond guitar player who nominally lives in the same house in Santa Fe, is one of the singer's innumerable cousins and knew he could sing, so he grabbed him up, drove him to Pueblo and pressed him into service as a "place holder" for the rehearsals. When I said that he made a pretty good "place holder," the guitar player said, "Yeah, when he lived with us, he sang with the radio all the time and got it right about 95% of the time." To which the singer said, no, he had fucking nailed it every fucking time. Which he barely got out of his mouth before he lurched forward due to a kick in the back of his head from his grandmother's tennis shoe.
"Sorry, Gran, I didn't see you."
"Seeing me or not should have nothing to do with it, young man."
"Gran, I go to school in a f . . . in a barracks."
"Well that wasn't my idea. It is my idea, however, that you will behave as a civilized human being no matter what influence you encounter."
Grandma wanted to know if it was OK for her to video tape the rehearsals. Manny said he didn't see why not as long as I did not appear at all, not even for a fraction of a second. For my hallowed visage to appear on a video recording would cost millions of dollars and would entail at least a year and a half of negotiation. Oh, and no sale or distribution of the recordings without permission, otherwise you'd need clearance to use the songs. Mrs. Connor said she understood; it was just that it was easier to get the band to quit picking their noses and staring at the floor if you could show them how bad it looked to the audience. And she thought they might enjoy seeing themselves as rock stars ten or twenty years from now. Manny said go for it, just not with me in the building.