The warm evening had been one of those perfect, early Summer evenings. The Thames River cruiser had picked us up from The Compleat Angler Hotel, Marlow and was heading towards Henley-On-Thames, before returning to Marlow. On board, the DJ was working his way through my playlist, the bar was doing a roaring trade and the food had been wonderful. At the back of the boat was the place to be. My brothers, my mates, my old band-mates were all gathered, swapping stories from the old days and laughing. Just laughing. I could see my Mum, dancing with my oldest friend. She looked so happy. As I was laughing with my brother at another old gig-story, my ear picked out the intro to "A Love Of Your Own" by The Average White Band. Which meant I had 5 minutes. Five minutes. I drained my pint and put my arm around Marty's neck, pulling him towards me and kissing him on the cheek. He looked at me and winked. I went inside, snaking my way across the dance-floor between the 2 or 3 couples dancing closely to Hamish Stuart's voice. I reached the bar, at the far end of the deck, and tapped a girl on the shoulder. She was talking to her sister. She turned and beamed at me.
"It's time." I said. She smiled even wider. I held out my hand and she gripped it, tightly. We walked back towards the dance-floor as the DJ started to talk over the final chords of the AWB.
"Ladies and gentlemen. Please welcome your bride & groom." There was a roar, a few whoops, and applause. I could see my brothers and my mates crowd through from the back of the boat.
Benny Benjamin was from Mobile, Alabama. His family were poor but he found his way to Detroit where his skills as a drummer were perfect for Berry Gordy and his fledgling Motown label. In 1965, Benny was at work, rehearsing a new song, written by his friend, Smokey. It was a slow ballad and Benny's signature intro was too much for the song. He tried several combinations but couldn't find an intro he liked. They broke for a cigarette. Benny went outside, onto the street. He finished his cigarette, twisting his shoe on the butt, and went back up the steps.
"Let's go for a take." said Smokey. James Jamerson settled onto his chair, beside Benny, his bass guitar on his legs. Smokey mouthed the count, 1, 2, 3....... And Benny played the best three strokes of his life.
As the third stroke gloriously greeted the fourth, I stepped onto the dance-floor, held my new wife close, and began to dance. Thirty five years had passed since Benny had just followd Smokey's count. A few hours had passed since we had said "I do." Fourteen years later, I can still remember those three drum-strokes, the pounding of my heart in my ear, and the gleaming, beaming smile of the beautiful woman in front of me. I am truly blessed.