It’s funny how performing for TV is at least a little more tense than many of the other medias. One reason is that they don’t like doing more than one take and, of course, in live-recorded TV shows you usually can’t do more than one take.
I did a Willie Nelson CBS special in Austin once with a live audience and I thought it would be funny to show up right before the show with a sling around my arm just to see Willie’s reaction. When he saw the sling, I quickly figured out maybe it wasn’t as funny to him as it was to me, especially when his face turned pale white. So I took off the sling and started laughing right away, saying, ” There’s really nothing wrong with my arm.” We both had a good laugh. But he got me back…
I was supposed to play the opening number with my jazz band, then he was supposed to come onstage and sing a few songs with us before bringing Ray Charles out to sing Angel Eyes from our newest CD, and a couple of other tunes. So I opened the show with I’ll Remember April (I think) and thanked the audience for their applause, expecting Willie to come onstage any moment. But now it was his turn to get me back.
I waited… and waited…but Willie didn’t come out on stage right away as planned when I finished the first song of the show! So I’m sitting there feeling really stupid, and thinking that if I said something to the audience, well, as soon as I said something probably one of these camera guys or producers is going to say, ”SSSSHHHHHH!” So I sat there, going through my whole life, watching my career take a tremendous dive, when Willie finally comes out laughing. He said, ”Didn’t you know you were supposed to MC the show, Jackie? They didn’t tell you?” This is all, of course, in front of a live audience.
Luckily, it all came out very funny, especially after Willie did his numbers with my band, and Ray didn’t come out for at least two minutes after a big introduction from Willie! So Willie had to ad lib about a chess game he’d played the night before with Ray (that Ray won), and Willie added, “The next time, we are going to put the lights on.”
Anyway, along with several other funny incidents that were unplanned, we did the show, which I think is really a good show because of the comedy as well as the music. I’m pretty sure it can be be bought or rented online or is still in video stores. It’s called The Willie Nelson Special with special guests Ray Charles and Jackie King. Even in the best of planned TV shows, music can still be unexpectedly diverted, spontaneously creative, and surprisingly original. And sometimes, the most tense formats can be the most fun.