Happy Birthday Book Nova
Today is my big brother Branford’s birthday.
We had some helluva times growing up. He is a musician with such great ears and reflexes that playing with him was something you could take for granted…until you played with other people.
I remember us learning tunes in the mid-70's off of Earth, Wind and Fire, Parliament, Stevie Wonder, Tower of Power and all the recordings of funk bands with good horn sections. We were so country…we would write the names of notes (a-b-b-d-f-f) on regular loose-leaf paper.
Our first gig was an elementary school dance in Kenner, LA. We had a four piece band——sax, trumpet, guitar and drums. The gig was supposed to be two hours and took place in the school cafeteria-gymnasium-meeting room. We learned about 12 songs. Well, those songs took us about 35 minutes into the gig. We stopped. People said, "We came here to dance, y'all better come up with something, NOW". The next hour was a continuous medley of all 12 songs with some of the saddest solos you ever heard in your life. We were 11 and 12 then.
4 years later we played in a funk band called the Creators. Girls would ask us, "What do y'all create?"
The band was about 9 pieces, and Branford and I were the youngest by 4 or 5 years. We played a talent show in the 9th ward at Nicholls High School, and some kind of way had neglected to learn one of the contestant's songs…and to add insult to injury, didn't realize it till he walked out onto the stage.
Now these could be raucous brown affairs with the audience commenting (back and forth about what they liked and disliked) to the band. One group of singers earlier that evening had butchered “Kung Fu Fighting” and had the nerve to announce to the audience, "The band is fuckin' us up, y’all."
We had 9 and 1 packing, so we took the mic and announced that they weren't shit. It was funny, but we had to think about whether they would go home and come back with something because it was their neighborhood and those karate outfits probably gave them the feeling they could whip someone's ass. So we were on edge and the people were ready for some Crescent City type excitement to jump off.
Here comes my man whose song we definitely don't know. The show stops while we discuss another song to do. "Hey man, this is what I know. You motherfuckers better play my song." He has his country-best clothes on and probably all his friends and girlfriend there.
It was tight.
The people start murmuring which soon leads to shouting which we know will lead to a really colorful story, if you survive to tell it. Branford had only heard the song a few times on the radio. He sat down at the electric keyboard and played the intro and changes of the tune. He guided our bass player and drummer through it all with complete cool and saved us from a very unpleasant physical encounter with a hyped up audience.
My man made it through his song, yellow suit intact, and we all couldn't believe Book pulled that off. That was Branford's nickname Book, Bookie, Book-Book Nova, Track Star Book. He could play any instrument he touched and run the hundred in 10 seconds or faster if being chased through South Boston.
Happy Birthday Book.