The White House was on the phone. For real.
President George W. Bush was bringing the Prime Minister of Japan — a big Elvis fan — to Memphis. They would tour Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum, then have lunch at the Rendezvous, the city’s most famous barbecue joint. And they wanted a band at the luncheon.
Small space, small crowd, massive security, incredibly difficult environment. But I had the perfect band: The Dempseys, a world-class rockabilly trio who knew almost every Elvis song.
After several tense days of family issues (the drummer’s wife changed the delivery date of their first child to accommodate this gig — no joke), Secret Service clearances, and controversy about equipment, the White House approved the band. And during the luncheon for roughly 60 VIPs, The Dempseys literally made history.
Prime Minister Koizumi decided to sit-in with the guys on “Love Me Tender,” to the delight of the President and the First Lady. His rendition made international news, and The Dempseys were, as they say, “big in Japan.”
After photos and handshakes, the world leaders left for Washington. A Presidential aide pulled me aside and said, “Thank you for an amazing event. I’ve never seen the President more relaxed.”
Meanwhile, I had sweated through my suit.