Keith’s out of practice

 

Keith-&-LesliKeith came out of the movie and, suddenly, was running a little bit late. Called a messenger company and had his purchases dispatched to the apartment. Called Jesse to feed and water Butch and Sundance. Then caught a cab to Electric Ladyland.

When he got there, the lobby was decked out nearly like a banquet. On the investors’ dime, Helen had booked the entire joint for the afternoon and evening. And catered up some classy hospitality. For four, plus hired hands. That’d be Faith, the studio’s head engineer Carl Beatty, and Kate, his assistant.

This, Keith assessed, was some kind of way to put on the feedbag. Platters and plates of steak, lobster and so on. Cheeses, crackers you could be sure wasn’t Ritz. However, many kinds of mustard and dips.

Luis walked up to him, full plate of food in one hand, can of Corona in the other. “‘Sup, homie?”

“Who’s here?”

“Everybody except you. Greeze. I’ll let ‘em know you made it.”

Before he could, Helen came out. Grinning all over herself. “Man, this is on!” She hooked an arm around his waist and hauled Keith into the studio. His palm settled on a hefty hip and he once more marveled at how he’d ever restrained himself from hitting on his friend.

They got inside and wall speakers rang with a sound that kicked and took names. He’d always known the band had a special sound. Could feel it when they played together. Heard it at Samantha and Faith’s place.

But with this fidelity it was clear they killed in cold-blood. You had a cross-section of pop, rock, R&B and blues with three distinct singers who, between their styles, spanned genres, truly in a brand new bag.

The playback was that Céline Dion number Sam refused to cut and wound up singing behind Helen, “If There Was Any Other Way.” Live tracked, the gals trading the lead with him coming in on the chorus. He stroked his chin, listening hard.

Sam ran up and blindsided him with a bear hug. Kissing all over his forehead and cheeks. “Girl, if you don’t get off me…” He grabbed her shoulders, holding her at arm’s length. Joked, “You don’t know me like that.”

She let him go, beaming. Where, he caught himself wondering, was Faith? Said to Sam, “Caught you on the teleweenie. You somethin’, you know that?”

“Yeah,” she said, brightly smiling, nodding, “I know.” He just shook his head. And listened. Tracks played. Everybody listened. Eating, drinking, laughing. Keeping company, holding conversations.

Keith finally spotted her. Faith leaned in a corner, talking with Carl Beatty. Carl motioned him over. She looked over her shoulder, saw Keith and smiled. Completely shorting his circuits. Carl shook his hand. “This project is hot, man!”

“Thanks. Yeah, we ain’t doin’ half bad with it.”

“And where did you find this lady? She is sharp!”

Keith nodded, winked at Faith. “Not hard to look at, either.” Her smile widened.

Carl added, “Look forward to working with her.”

“Hi, Keith,” Kate chirped, walking up to Carl. “Boss, you have a call in the booth.”

“Okay.” He went with her, saying to Keith, “Yeah, this thing is burnin’ hot. You gonna let me keep a personal copy?”

“Knock yourself out. Let Katie have one, too.”

“Yes!” she shouted. Then covered her mouth and scurried into the booth. That left him standing there looking at Faith looking right back at him. He could not, for the life of him, remember the last time he was face to face with a beautiful woman and unable to think of one thing to say. Was he ever out of practice, choking like Dave Winfield in a World Series.

 

Next week: Keith still tongue-tied.

Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.