Tales From the Groom: Slow Motion Walter & the Fire Engine Guys

The marriage of incorrect lyrics and a wedding band.

For years I thought Alanis Morissette was talking about the “cross-eyed bear that you gave to me” in her song “You Oughta Know.” It always struck me as an innocuous line in what is a pretty intense song, seeming somewhat out of place. When I heard rumors that the song was likely about Uncle Joey from Full House, who looked like a cross-eyed-bear-giving type of guy, I figured I was on the right page.

Not so much. The realization of what the line actually was about brought everything home for me with that song. Alanis wasn’t happy with Uncle Joey, bear or not.

Having bartended for a few years in midtown DC, I was privy to many a drunken rendition of songs where the lyrics took a back seat to the intensity of the performance. It gave me a new appreciation of how hard it is to fist-pump and keep your thoughts together. In picking the band for our wedding, I was reintroduced to this phenomenon at a recent talent showcase.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of attending a talent showcase, the deal is that you can contact talent agencies and they have a stage at their offices where you can see a handful of their acts perform on certain dates. You need a guy who spins plates? Want someone who can play a piano with racket balls? Need a burlesque sword swallower? This is a place you can get a chance to taste-test an act before deciding on who you’d like to perform at your event. I asked to see a handful of bands an agency had on its roster in a certain price range and was invited to watch them perform some of their songs.

Most of the bands at the showcase were fantastic, but they were a bit outside of our budget. I asked the agent if any other groups might be a little less expensive. “Well, we have Walter and his boys,” the agent said. “You could have them for an entire night for $300.”

Slow Motion Walter & the Fire Engine Guys is a three-piece band that predominately does Top 40 covers from the late ’60s through the ’80s. Figuring this would be a crowd pleaser for the audience at our reception, I was curious to see what these guys could do.

As it turns out, Walter isn’t just the lead guitarist but also a family man—his drummer and bass players are his 14- and 12-year-old sons.

As they hit the stage and dived into their first tune, reality began to set in that the Fire Engine Guys don’t know the songs that well, and I was pretty sure they were making up words to the choruses. From “Rock the Cat Box” (the Clash) to “Bingo Jet Had a Light On” (Steve Miller Band) and to my personal favorite, “Steak and a Knife” (the Bee Gees), I was more entertained by the ridiculous lyrics and how pumped the kids were to be playing than the music I was hearing.

After the set, I talked to Walter, and he told me how much fun he had doing this with his kids. While they had played only a few back-yard events for family friends, he was hoping they could do this to give them something they could work on together as a family.

Once I heard that, I found myself wondering, how much liquor will we need at the open bar to ensure people will be drunk enough at our reception not to notice the band doesn’t know the words to the songs?

Liking Walter’s story, I asked him where he got the great name for his band. “It’s our favorite Deep Purple song—first one the kids picked up,” he said. Unsure of what song he was talking about, he began to strum the iconic opening riffs to “Smoke on the Water,” and it all seemed too perfect to me.

While we didn’t hire Walter and his band, it reminded me of the how fun wedding planning has been so far and that that this experience is something that Kristin and I get to work on together. Our first project as a family, if you will.

A quote from one of my favorite warrior poets, Jon Bon Jovi, sums it all up: “It doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not. We’ve got each other, and that’s a lot for love.”

Read Carl's story from the beginning.

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