Yesterday I forgot to make mention that it was the official birthday of my former boss and great vocalist, Teddy Pendergrass. For those of you who are not familiar, Teddy had a slew of hits songs as a member of Harold Melvin’s Bluenotes and as a solo artist. He sang lead on songs such as “If you don’t know me by now, The love I lost, Wake up everybody, Bad Luck, Close the Door, Turn out the Lights, Do me and Get up, get down, get funky get loose.” He was riding a wave of popularity when in 1982 he crashed his car on Lincoln Drive here in Philadelphia and was paralyzed. For 19 years he stopped touring and singing until he finally decided it was time to come back out again. I was with him on his tour and even though I was reluctant to do so at first it was probably one of the best musical decisions I made in my life. At first, Teddy had his group together and he had someone else playing bass for him, but one day he was scheduled to do a concert in Mobile, Alabama and 2 days before the show his bass player had to pull out. They contacted me for an emergency rehearsal and brought me into the studio to see how fast I could possibly learn his tunes. When I got there, I ran his whole show down perfectly, and Teddy came up to me to talk personally. He said “Man, you came in here cold and played my show perfectly. That was amazing and I would like to know if you would like be a part of join my band.” This was around the time of “911” and I was really leery about touring or traveling anywhere by plane, but I told him that I would do it. From that point on I became an official member of Teddy’s entourage and it was so much fun. We all laughed together and had a ball onstage. One day I was walking through the airport with my guitar in hand and some ladies asked me who I was. I told them that I played for Teddy Pendergrass and they seemed to be a little skeptical. I was having trouble convincing them that I really did play for Teddy when Teddy himself saw what I was doing. He came up from behind us and blurted out “Man, I can’t take you anywhere. Are you getting into trouble again?” The girl’s jaws dropped to the ground. They couldn’t believe it, but there was Teddy messing with me. He told me later on that he figured he would “help me out” by coming through. That was the kind of fun we had. Then there was the gig we had in Vegas. We played at Mandalay Bay and this place was so funky that it actually had a “man made beach” in the back of it (this was rare, especially for a place located in the middle of the desert). The gig went great, but while we were at the airport ready to return home, Teddy told us that it was time to get on the plane. I decided to take one last turn at the slot machines before leaving and I “hit” for a couple of hundred dollars. Teddy then said, “Well, I guess I won’t have to pay you now.” I looked at him and said “I am from Philly just like you are. You already KNOW what we do when it comes to our money.” We both had a good laugh… and a good time. There were also the serious moments, like the time when our flight was delayed in Detroit for about 2 hours. Teddy and I were talking and I discovered a couple of things about him that most people didn’t know. First, he claimed that he was a “loner” and that he didn’t keep a lot of friends around him purposely. He didn’t mind at all staying to himself because he didn’t want to put his trust out like that again. He also said that he didn’t like to listen to radio anymore and he didn’t even like to hear his own songs played. Hearing them reminded himself of what he used to be, and he knew that he could never get back to that. Of course, there were other great times like when we performed at Westbury onstage when my background microphone was taken by 2 “very well known” people. Ashford and Simpson decided to come onstage and sing background for Teddy, and I was more than proud to give up my mic up to them. That was a very special moment. Finally, we would sometimes have special names for the songs we did. For instance, the song “When somebody loves you back” automatically got a new name. We called it “When loving somebody from the back.” Needless to say, I really had a great time touring with Teddy, and in honor of his birthday I hope you don’t mind me sharing some of my stories with you today. Of course, the last involvement I had with him was when I played for his funeral. It was truly a sad moment but it brought out a lot of his highlights for his career and reintroduced his accomplishments again. He is truly missed and it was an honor to perform for him. There is a live DVD that we did in Los Angeles entitled “From Teddy with Love.” If you can find it, you will see me featured on it. Thank you for reading my Daily Thought today and allowing me to “reflect” on the life of a great vocalist, boss and friend. Please have a truly great and “jolly” day.
Teddy Pendergrass and Brett Jolly jamming onstage in LA for a live DVD