Ooh, Rumpo Smoothskin-You Say You Wanna Get In My Benz?

There’s no graceful way to say this, so I’m just going to say it: I used to be in an R&B group.

Well, that’s not at all embarrassing.

I got the gig after I auditioned with a mall tape (remember those?) of me singing “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles (Google that shit) and I swear to the SIPNEL, I got the gig because I had big hair and a nice butt. Or was it a big butt and nice hair? Either way, I was a good singer, but I have this lingering feeling that it was not this alone that got me into the band.

We were called Pearl. Of course. And there were four of us in the band: myself, singing back up and occasional lead, Pearl, the lead singer and namesake; Bullet, the bass player, and some freaked-out weirdo on drums. Seriously. He was a total freaked out-weirdo. And I never saw him wear a shirt.

Ironically, Bullet was, like, the nicest guy. A total pussy cat.

We never played out, and we didn’t last long, but I can assure you we had chops. Really bad chops. We played a lot of originals (sloooooooooow jams) and an enormous amount of Prince songs. Well, Prince and then . . . this:

One of my favorite memories (and crowning achievements) is the time I was asked to write down all the lyrics for “Baby Got Back,” so we could start rehearsing it. As this was before the Internet, I had to listen to the song measure by measure on my walkman and write all the lyrics down. I took this assignment very seriously, and I would give my left breast to have that hand-written copy of it in my possession right now. It’s actually surprising that I don’t have it. I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to things that have been written down. I’m pretty sure I still have a napkin that John and I played hangman on, like, 11 years ago.

Anyhoo . . . my part in “Baby Got Back” was both the best and the briefest: I got the “Oh. My. God. Becky.” part and, gloriously, was asked to sing the, “Ooo, me so horny!” part. Sadly, it was like a dream come true for me since, at the time, it was one of my favorite songs. At 38 years old, I can assure you that I now listen to this song differently and am both tickled at my youth and devastated by my naiveté.

We played about 45 minutes away from where I was living, and rehearsed a few times a week. One night, on my way to rehearsal, I was so tired from my work week and all the driving too and from rehearsal that I actually fell asleep at the wheel of my ford escort and woke up when I hit the guardrail.

So that sucked.  

But I was also provided with an opportunity that was, for me, a dream come true. I spent a whopping 8 long hours in a recording studio, laying down terrible back ground vocals for Pearl’s (the guy) super top secret and really bad solo album. I was sworn to secrecy, and I managed to keep not only the album a secret, but the fact that it sucked super bad. But it was there that I realized that I didn’t have what it would take to pursue singing as a serious and actual career. Standing in a glass box with unflattering headphones on while some asshole in a booth criticized me was, well, terrible. And it made me absolutely crazy with self doubt and hatred.

I don’t know what it says about me that I don’t remember what happened to the band. It’s highly probable that we broke up, but it clearly didn’t affect me much, since it has left not one single memory behind. Either that, or I smoked to much pot in the years that followed, and it’s gone forever. But either way, not matter what, I take a certain, um . . . humiliated pride in the fact that I can say:

I was in an R&B group.



Filed under All of them.

2 responses to “Ooh, Rumpo Smoothskin-You Say You Wanna Get In My Benz?

  1. Kath Wickham

    I wonder if your life would have been different if AutoTune had been around? Maybe those backup vocals wouldn’t have been “terrible.” I wonder….would there still have been peas?

  2. Kath Wickham

    Damn you, Ms Cafiero! I’ve had, “Lord, Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz,” tumbling around in my mind ever since reading your blog, which, to be fair, I acknowledge had nothing to do with Joplin. Please, another blog soon, so my mind can come up with some other weird connection…

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