My New Year's Eve With Isaac Hayes
I love playing music, especially with other great musicians.  After working in the musical instrument industry for many years, and yet having no time to devote to a band, I got back into playing live in the late-eighties.  Rap was coming into fashion and what was becoming passé was the kind of R&B/Soul music that I had grown up with, and much loved.  So with a friend, and six other musicians we recruited, I formed a black ‘n white soul band that played hundreds of gigs around Southern California: clubs, private parties, weddings, basically anybody who would pay us. 

This band, originally named Jr. Mince and the Dukes of Soul went through many players and permutations, but always somehow prevailed.  By the end of the 20th century the Dukes of Soul were renamed Bobby D and the Mixx after our drummer and lead vocalist Bobby Dixon.  I was playing keys and key bass and singing backups.  For more on our bands, follow this LINK.

Through one of our booking agents we got connected at some point to the Church of Scientology.  We played many gigs for them, even though none of us in the band were Scientologists.  I don’t hold their faith, but one thing about the Scientologists was that they always knew how to throw a hell of a party.   For many years, we played their New Year’s Eve gigs at the Celebrity Center, their posh facility on Franklin Avenue in LA where they did their recruiting with the likes of Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley and others.  They paid us well and always seemed really appreciative of our “old school soul” music. 

But at the turn of the century, they were doing something a lot bigger.  It was the millennium, 1999 to 2000, they were having a party that exceeded anything they had done before.  Their New Year’s Eve main act was to be Isaac Hayes, who happened to be one of their faith.  Our band was relegated to back-up band status, which meant we were to open for Isaac, and then follow him after his midnight set.  I was OK with being a back-up.  This was Isaac Hayes, the guy who wrote “Shaft,” “Soul Man” “Never Can Say Goodbye” and so many other great songs.  The gig was in a huge tent with the biggest dance floor I have ever seen, erected outside their main Scientology facility on Hollywood Blvd.  The tent was the size of a football field, with an enormous stage, on one side of which was the curtained-off dressing room for our band, and on the other side, the dressing room of Isaac Hayes and his band.  Unfortunately, while the dressing areas were lavishly furnished with food, drinks and places to relax, the bathrooms were seemingly miles away. 

We played our set, and at around the last 11:30 of 1999, knocked off to enjoy Isaac’s midnight set, in which he’d usher in the new century.   I was standing near the stage when one of the show organizers came up to me in a panic.  “Do you know the words to Aude Lang Syne?”  I said that of course I did, and he said that I was needed immediately.  Isaac was to go on in just a few minutes, and while he knew the music, he didn’t know the words to the most famous song New Year’s Eve has ever created. 

They hustled me through the crowds and past tons of security into Isaac’s dressing room on the other side of the stage.  He was resplendent in his red and gold silk outfit and was lacing up his pants as I walked up to him.  I held out my hand and said, “Mr. Hayes, this is a real pleasure.”  He looked me straight in the eye and said “Sorry, I can’t shake your hand, brother.”  I was crestfallen.  A musician who I had always looked up to, and one of the best soul musicians, ever,  had just rejected me utterly.  What is it?  Some black/white thing?  Or maybe I didn’t make the cut because I was just a back-up band?  Then he explained.  “I can’t shake your hand because I just got done pissin’ in that bucket.”  I looked down, and, sure enough, Isaac had relieved himself in one of the ice buckets used to cool off drinks.  Yes, the bathrooms were far away.  I smiled, understood his sensibility and we were instantly old friends.  I taught him the words to the Aude Lang Syne, and five minutes later, he was on stage performing it -- splendidly. 

And, after his set, he held out his still unwashed hands and high-fived everyone who came up to the stage.  Glad he thought more of me