The Wedding Singer

By Sue Mayfield Geiger

As my younger son’s wedding was in the planning stages, he called me one night to inform me that he wanted me to sing while he and his bride danced at the reception.

What? Was he crazy?

No, he was absolutely serious.

First of all, I didn’t want to turn my son down because he knows my history. I actually was a professional singer way back when. But it was a time when supper clubs ruled. Think a Frank Sinatra movie with tiny lamps on every table, a small bandstand, a three-piece combo (piano, bass, drums), and a singer holding a boxy mic whose repertoire consisted of ballads from the 1940s.

Yet, that career was long ago, and my pipes were not in the best of shape.

“What song did you have in mind?” I asked, as I rattled off everything I knew by Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland and the like.

“No, Mom; It’s a Willie Nelson tune,” he said. “Something he recorded on his Red Headed Stranger album. It’s called ‘Hands on the Wheel.’ That song has always resonated with me and says everything about the way I feel about my wife to be.”

Now, I live in Willie Nelson territory and have been a fan for decades and thought I knew every Willie tune that existed. But this one had me stumped – I’d never heard of it.“Let me think about it,” I said.

“No thinking Mom. I really want you to do this. You can get it on iTunes, and you’ll do a great job.”

As I hung up the phone, my first reaction was: “I can’t do this, and he will forget about all it in a few days.” After all, he lived over 1,000 miles away, and the wedding was going to take place even further away, in his bride’s hometown – Guadalajara, Mexico.

How could I sing a song that was unfamiliar to me? Who would accompany me, how and when would we have time to rehearse? Most important: I’d not sung before a live audience in over 40 years! Oh sure, I still belted out a few tunes at parties and sang along with the radio, but this was a wedding with 420 invited guests, in a foreign country, and 99% of the people attending were people I’d never met.

As the days went by and as I conjured up every excuse possible to relay to my son as to why I could not possibly do this, I let this tiny voice in the back of my head plow through all the negativity. It said: “You can do this! Your son has made this request and you should consider it an honor. How many sons want their gray-haired mother up on stage belting out a tune when they could have hired a real wedding singer? He must be really proud of you to ask you to do this. If you refuse, you will hurt his feelings, and you will be full of regret. Now, run toward your fears and find the song and start learning it!”

I found the song on YouTube with the iconic Mr. Nelson singing it in his very familiar style.

The lyrics took my breath away. They were powerful. I was motionless for several minutes. Then I wondered how I could make the song my own and wedding-appropriate.

Long story short, I did learn the song, recorded it and sent to my son, who in turn sent to the guitarist and violinist in Guadalajara. They in turn practiced it in my key, but we would not have a chance to do a live rehearsal until I arrived in Mexico. Even then we would only have an hour to do so since there were so many events taking place.

The wedding was spectacular, and the reception was like a fairy tale. The night sky was full of stars as I picked up the mic and sang. I did not make eye contact with my son or his bride on purpose because I knew I would cry. So, I focused on a few faces in the crowd.

This was not just my comeback moment – it was honoring my son’s request and proving to myself that I could do it. Everything got captured on video and when I watch it, I am amazed how I was able to pull it off. So, I thank that little voice that cheered me on, because the look on my son’s face and the tears in his eyes were my biggest reward.

Hands on the Wheel (condensed)

Written by Bill Callery

At a time when the world seems to be / Spinning hopelessly out of control / There’s deceivers and believers / And old in-betweeners / That seem to have no place to go / Well it’s the same old song / It’s right and it’s wrong / And livin’ is just something I do / And with no place to hide / I looked in your eyes / And I found myself in you / I looked to the stars / Tried all of the bars / And I’ve nearly gone up in smoke / Now my hand’s on the wheel / Of something that’s real / And I feel like I’m goin’ home / Well it’s the same damn tune / It’s the man in the moon / It’s the way that I feel about you / And with no place to hide / I looked in your eyes / And I found myself in you.

About this writer

  • Sue Mayfield Geiger Sue Mayfield Geiger is the granddaughter and niece of pressmen who worked at the Gulf Publishing Company in Houston, Texas. She grew up near enormous typesetting machines, inhaling the smell of ink and writing stories on reams of discarded paper. Today she freelances for several publications, both regional and national, and her short stories and poems have appeared in various literary magazines. She lives on the Texas Gulf Coast.

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3 Responses to “The Wedding Singer”

  1. Erika Hoffman says:

    What a wonderful memory you made for your son and his bride!

  2. Great piece! A most unusual mother/son piece, I found it thoughtful, colorful and, most of all, uplifting. I hope Sue finds many other occasions for “comeback” moments.

  3. Linda O'Connell says:

    What a lovely come back moment, surely a treasured memory.

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