This post is the beginning of a long form prose novel called "Superstar" that I started writing with my cousin Courtney back in 1996...so it's been a long time coming.
I'm going to post a chapter a week until the whole book is here on the blog. After that, I'll see about publishing the whole thing in one volume. Until then...Here...we...go!
Chapter 1 : Chicago, Ill 1993 Twist of Fate
“Where is Lisa?”, Terry barked.
“She’ll be here.” Groove said.
Inside of a warehouse on 119th and Peoria, Avant Groove, a band founded by Terry Mosley, Eric ‘Groove’ Williams and Lisa Staples, were waiting to start rehearsal. The band formed in 1991 as a duo with Terry and Groove trading off on guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. Lisa joined the band when she asked them if she could sit in with them and play keyboards at a performance one night. She did so well, they immediately made her a member. By late ’91, the line-up expanded to include Robert Banks on bass, Wanda Washington on keyboards and Larry James on drums.
After that, they started practicing in Groove’s parents’ basement. Before too long, Mrs. Williams, a very strong and beautiful black woman who always spoke her mind, insisted that the band find another venue to practice.
Fortunately, Mr.Williams had just the place.
He took Avant Groove to a warehouse that he owned. He usually rented out the space to companies that needed a place to store their equipment, but nobody had come forward and he needed tenants. The band saw the place and fell in love with it.
After settling the particulars, Avant Groove came and made the warehouse their own: Risers for the drums and keyboards, furniture, space heaters and stands for the microphones and guitars. Groove asked a friend of his to do a mural on the wall. As the practice space began to take shape, the band started using it at least three times a week. The rehearsals began to be marked by a powerful rush of energy, an enthusiasm that came from being able to practice as long as they wanted, whenever they wanted.
Terry started to come and practice on his own on the bands’ off days. Eric found out and he started coming, as did Lisa when she got wind of it. Soon enough, the whole band, by unspoken agreement, began to have rehearsals everyday at . As a result, they became a tight, very cohesive unit, able to play all kinds of music and stop and start on a dime. This came in very handy when they picked up a gig at a spot on 87th Street called the Spotlight. They were only supposed to play a two night stand there, but the owner was so impressed with them, he offered them a permanent position as the house band at the end of the first night.
“Groove, she knows we have rehearsal everyday at 8 ‘o clock. Why can’t she be here on time?”
“She’ll be here, Terry, don’t worry about it.” Eric looked at his watch. “It’s only 8:02.”
“Maybe it’s time for a new keyboard player.” Wanda, A.K.A. ‘Funky Fingers’ suggested.
“Damn that.” Eric said. “Lisa may be a little late…”
“…But, she’ll be here.”
. “Well, I hope it happens sometime before the next millennium.” Terry was about to give Wanda a piece of his mind, when he heard a voice say…
“Awright, you muthafuckas can stop talkin’ about me, I’m here.”
Lisa Staples, also called ‘Soft-Touch’ because of her penchant for caressing notes out of her instrument, was tall, caramel colored and curvy. She also had a fiery temper and could be brutally honest.
“Gotta get up at 8 o’ clock in the goddamn mornin’ to practice.” She muttered. “I can play this shit in my sleep.”
“Girl, stop complainin’ and get behind your keyboards.” Eric said. “And it’s nice of you to finally grace us with your presence today.”
“Groove, don’t go there.” Lisa said as she stifled a yawn. “I’m down for my crew, but you know I ain’t no mornin’ person.”
“Then you should tell yo man ‘No’ sometimes and get some sleep.” Rob added with a smile.
“Nigga, you need to get some an’ give ya hand a rest.”
“Whateva, money. I gets mine.”
“Yeah, with Vaseline.” Terry quipped. Rob gave him the finger.
“Y’know, Lisa, there’s this invention that’s all the rage called an alarm clock.” Wanda stated. “Maybe you should invest in one.”
“Maybe you should invest yo wannabe-Whitney
ass in some Tylenol ‘cuz I’m ‘bout to…” Houston
And they did. Everyone looked at Eric in shock. He didn’t raise his voice often, but when he did, everyone immediately paid attention.
“Check it: I don’t care what kind of beef y’all got, but ya don’t bring that shit into rehearsal. We’re here to work. Y’all wanna fight, do that outside after we’re done.” Eric glared at Lisa and Wanda in turn. “Ya got that?”
Lisa and Wanda assured him that they did.
“Alright…”, Terry began, “…Gimme ‘Groove’s Theory’ from the top.”
“Wait a minute!” Wanda interrupted. “What time is the vocalist we’re “auditioning” supposed to be here?”
Terry felt his blood pressure beginning to rise. Instead of losing his temper, he turned to Groove and asked, “What time is it?”
“She’s supposed to be here at . That gives us forty-five minutes to practice before she gets here. Is there anything else you need to know?”
“Then shut up.” He turned back to the group and repeated his request for ‘Groove’s Theory’ from the top.
Eric laid down a funky guitar riff and one by one, the rest of Avant Groove joined him and soon the walls of the Warehouse shook with the melodic thunder of the tune. Like a well oiled machine, the band smoothly changed from ‘Groove’s Theory’ to an instrumental version of ‘Let’s Groove’, by Earth, Wind and Fire and finally, a scorching, guitar driven version of ‘Oye Como Va’ that would’ve made Carlos Santana jealous.
Avant Groove were well known in the Chicago area especially for putting on a live show that rivaled any major label band that came through town. Despite all the local accolades, a record deal and major, broad spectrum success has eluded them and it was starting to wear on them. It seemed to bother Wanda the most.
Over the past year, she’d started becoming a serious thorn in Terry and Eric’s sides. She snarked on their leadership, questioned every decision they made and had started to royally piss the entire band off.
One day, when Eric, Lisa and Terry were hanging out at Evergreen Plaza, Lisa asked the burning question: “Why is she still in the group? There are other keyboardists that are more cooperative and way more talented who want in.”
“She’s hungry.” Terry replied.
“So are children in third world countries.”
“Look…” Eric said, “…We know Wanda wants to go solo and blow up. That’s no secret. Right now, she knows her best chance of doing that is to stick with us. We need her, but she needs us too.”
“Groove, the bitch needs a swift kick in the ass.” Lisa said.
“Maybe so, but if we don’t make it, she won’t. We’ll be alright.”
“Not if she keeps up this bullshit campaign. There won’t be a band if it doesn’t stop.”
“We’ll get rid of her before that happens.” Terry assured her.
“I hope so, Mr. Mosley”
“We will, Miss Staples.” The subject was dropped and hadn’t been brought up since.
Two weeks previous, the lead vocalist quit, citing artistic differences. (“The heifer had fuckin’ diva disease.” Lisa stated when she left.) Wanda wanted the job, but Eric and Terry both knew that her head would swell to the size of Jupiter if that happened. And so, they put an ad in all the local papers, hoping, praying that someone would respond and save them from the possibility of Wanda’s XXL sized ego getting stroked. Eric, for his part, sincerely hoped that Miss Dominique LaSalle could sing.
“Here you go.” said the cabbie. He turned to look at his passenger, who was a joy to look at. She had café au lait skin, deep brown eyes and a body that would make a rich man want to sell, sell, sell.
“Is there something wrong?” She asked, raising a lovely eyebrow.
“Naw. Just enjoying the view. What’s yer name?”
Oh, boy, she thought to herself. “Dominique.”
“Right. I’m Jim.” When Dom didn’t answer he continued, “Look, the fare’s nine seventy-five. I’ll knock it down to eight if you’ll gimme yer number.” Jim smiled, showing a set of yellowed, misshapen teeth. Dom shivered, whipped out a $10 and lunged out of the cab.
Dom looked at the warehouse. It was brick and very solid looking, with barred and boarded windows that were painted blue. There were light posts on each side of the building and a set of skylights on the roof. Music faintly made its’ way to the outside world and she recognized the Santanna tune and heard someone killin’ on the guitar.
Sound hit her like a tidal wave when she opened the door. Once she got over the shock of the music, Dom entered the warehouse. It smelled faintly of dust and old air, along with newer, lingering smells of food brought in that morning. The space was wide and tall, with fluorescent lamps hanging from the ceiling. The walls were decorated with posters of different music acts as well as some that advertised some of Avant Groove’s own shows. A mural of the band along with some song titles were on the far wall. Tables, chairs and a couple of sofas were off to Dom’s right. In the far left corner, there was what looked to be an office. In the middle of the space, Avant Groove were toiling away doing Carlos Santanna proud.
Dom was impressed as she watched the band work. They made it look so easy to play such an intricate piece of music. Her gaze encompassed everyone, but her eyes kept being drawn back to the lead guitarist, a butterscotch toned brother, who was working his guitar into a frenzy. She was mesmerized by the sensual way he played, how his t-shirt clung to the wiry muscles of his body and the way his forearms rippled under his skin. Dom sighed, just enjoying the view when this butterscotch dreamboat decided to look up and promptly stole her heart away.
Terry was in the middle of a solo when he saw the most beautiful woman in the world staring at him. Drowning deep brown eyes, golden brown skin and a presence that demanded attention hit Terry like a sledge hammer and almost made him forget what he was playing. He snapped back to reality and continued, but his concentration was definitely split between the music and the woman.
The song ended with a rumble of drums and they mystery lady clapped and whistled her approval.
Terry and Eric told the band to take a break and walked over to the young lady and introduced themselves.
“You must be Dominique.” Eric said as he offered a hand. She took it.
“Yes, I am.”
“Wonderful. It’s good to meet you finally.”
“Likewise. And who is this?”
“This is Terry Mosely. Terry, this is Dominique LaSalle.” Terry offered his hand. Dominique took it and he felt a rush of electricity run through him.
“Pleased to meet you.” He smiled.
“The pleasure’s all mine.” Dom said as a smile lit her face. The handhold lingered and Terry started to feel warm inside.
“How about we introduce you to the rest of the band?” Eric said with as he nudged Terry.
“Uh, sure.” Terry reluctantly let go of Dom’s hand and shepherded her towards the band. “The man mountain behind the drums is Larry James. We affectionately call him ‘Earthquake’--”
Larry, who was doing some high speed drum rolls, simply raised a drumstick in response.
“--and the tall woman playing piano on his left is Lisa Staples, AKA ‘Soft-Touch.’--”
“Whassup?”, Lisa said with a smile.
“Hey.” Dom responded.
“—the dark-skinned sista on the opposite side is Wanda Washington. She plays organ and--“ Terry chuckled ”—we call her Funky Fingers.” Wanda’s face went hard at the mention of her nickname and her voice was like steel when she said, “Hello.”
“Okay, the brotha on the bass is…”
“Robert Banks.” He cut in, doing his best Barry White impression. “You can call me ‘Booty-Bass.’”
“And why is that?” Dom asked.
Rob closed the distance between them and grabbed Dominique’s hand. Terry wanted to snatch it away. “Because my bass lines make the honeys shake their butts.”
“Well, I’ll be sure to call them.” Dom said as she extracted her hand. She turned to Terry and asked him what his nickname was.
“Because his guitar playing is as bright as the sun and twice as hot.” Eric interjected.”
“Somethin’ like that.” Terry blushed. Dom thought he had the cutest dimples.
“Anyway, everybody calls Eric ‘Groove’ and together we’re Avant Groove, the baddest band on the planet.”
Dominique rested her weight on one hip, folded her arms, raised a pretty eyebrow and said, “You guys are serious aren’t you?”
Terry and Eric looked at each other and said, “Yep.” Dom just shook her head.
“Well, enough about us.” Eric said and led the way over to the couch. They all sat down. “What kind of music do you listen to, Dom?”
“Lessee--Massive Attack, Fourplay, Chaka Khan, Minnie Ripperton, Prince, Tricky, The Family Stand and Aretha Franklin to name a few.”
“Very nice.” Terry said. “Very eclectic.”
“Thanks. I like variety.”
Terry smiled. “How long have you been singing?”
“All my life. I used to get on Ava’s nerves.”
“Ava?” Eric asked. Terry briefly despaired of Lesbianism rearing its’ ugly head.
“I used to sing in the choir at church and in different groups as I got older. There was usually some kind of drama goin’ on so I didn’t stay very long. The last group I was in tried to pull a Martha Wash and have me sing the vocals on a demo, but kick me out of the group before they got signed. Since then, I’ve stuck to Karaoke. I haven’t even tried to be in a group until now.”
Eric nodded and looked at Terry. “What d’you think, Cuzzin’?”
“Wait, are you two related?”
“No. We’re like brothers, but we’re not related.” Terry explained.
“I think it’s time to see what Miss Dominique can do.”
“I agree.” Eric said. “How about you sing some Aretha for us?”
“What song?” Dominique asked.
“ ’Dr. Feelgood.’ ”
“I thought you were gonna give me something hard.” Dominique shrugged off her jacket and walked towards the bandstand.
“Can y’all give me ‘Dr. Feelgood’ in C?” She asked.
“I can give you anything you want, sweetness.” Rob purred.
“Just give me the song, thanks.” Lisa snickered. Rob gave her the finger. Dom looked back at Terry and Eric. “Are you two gonna play or what?”
The both of them got up and strapped on their guitars.
“I think we have our lead singer.” Terry said to Eric.
“We’ll see.” Eric responded. “Set it off, Earthquake.”
Larry locked onto a slow, swaying beat and the rest of the band flowed into place, filling the warehouse with the music of Aretha Franklin. Dominique began to sing and everyone was treated to a voice that was full, rich and summer warm. Her phrasing and execution were nearly perfect and emotion saturated every note she sang. She made it look very easy. Terry and Eric were grinning ear to ear and nodding their heads. They’d found their lead singer.
With a flourish of notes, the song was over. Dominique opened her eyes and took a deep breath. Singing was as natural as the Sun rising for her, but stage fright was something she still struggled with. She turned to Terry and, with a shy grin asked what he thought.
“You got it goin’ on, Dominique.”
She winked and said, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Terry felt his heart flip-flop in his chest.
“Well, silky, silky now.” Eric exclaimed with a smile. He turned towards the rest of the band. “I don’t know about y’all, but I think we’ve found our lead singer.”
“You know that’s right.” Lisa agreed. “Girl, you was sangin’.”
“Thank you.” Dominique blushed. Terry thought she looked lovely when she blushed.
“You all kinds of fine and you can sing like dat? I just met my future wife,” Rob stated.
“I don’t think so.” Dom grinned.
“Aww, baby. Why you gotta break a brotha’s heart like dat?”
“You gotta have a heart to break first.” Lisa interjected.
“Kiss my ass.”
“Not in a skillion years, brothaman.”
“Anyway--,” Eric interrupted, “—is Dominique in?”
Everyone agreed that Dominique was in. Well, almost everyone…
“I think she should sing one more song.” Wanda said. Everyone looked at her like she’d lost her mind.
“You’re outvoted five to one.” Terry said with a hint of satisfaction in his voice. He turned to Dominique. “If you want it, you’re our new lead vocalist.”
“Yes! Yes!” she squealed and threw herself into Terry’s arms. He was caught off guard and held onto her to keep from falling over. Once he got over that, he started to enjoy the feel of Dominique pressed against him. She felt so resilient and warm; her perfume intoxicated and excited him. He was also a little embarrassed to find that a certain part of him was standing at attention, but from the way she held on to him, he gathered she didn’t mind at all.
Finally, they broke the embrace and looked into each other’s eyes. Up close, Dom noticed that Terry’s eyes were a pretty shade of gray. She wanted to say something, but her brain was having trouble making her mouth work. She was enthralled and, from what she could see, so was Terry. Everything around them disappeared and for a brief moment, they were the only people in the world; the universe collapsed down to a singularity where their bodies, their souls were joined as one.
“Oh.” Terry snapped back to reality and reluctantly let Dominique go. “Um--congratulations, Dominique.”
“Thanks. You can call me Dom.”
“Dom it is then.”
“Terry, why don’t you get our concert music for Dom?” Eric asked, smiling.
“Yeah, give the girl a chance to breathe.” Lisa teased.
“Both a’ y’all, shut the hell up.” Terry shot back. “Come with me, Dom.”
“Gladly.” She said, watching the play of muscles beneath his clothing. “But, that could get a little messy, though.”
“Not if we bring a towel.”
Dom chuckled and Terry blushed. He was glad Dom wasn’t above a little flirting or offended by a double entendre. They walked over to the break area. Terry grabbed two tapes that were on the table and handed them to Dom.
“Here you go. We have rehearsals six days a week, but since we don’t want to burn out your voice, you can come on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Practice on Friday’s will be short so you won’t strain your voice before we perform that night. Any questions?”
“Yeah. Why practice six days a week?”
“So when our break comes, we’ll be ready.”
“Won’t y’all get burnt out?”
“I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ll never get tired of playing music. Not at all.”
Dominique looked in his eyes and saw the fire, the passion for making music lighting them and she knew he was telling the truth.
“I don’t doubt that for a minute, Terry.”
“Cool. Anything else?”
Dom shook her head. “Just be here tomorrow at eight, right?”
“Yeah. We’ll get you up to speed, but it wouldn’t hurt to start listening to the tapes.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Dom said and extended her hand. Terry took and it and looked deeply into her eyes. The world fell away again and the both of them were smiling ear to ear.
“See you tomorrow?” Dom asked.
“You bet.” Terry answered.
Hesitantly, they released each other’s hands. Dom waved goodbye to everyone and grabbed her jacket. As she opened the door, Dom looked back to see if Terry was watching her. He was. She smiled and winked at him and stepped out. The second the door closed, Dom let out the loudest scream and danced and jumped around. I got the job! I’m singing lead in a band! She thought wildly. Her dream of becoming a singer was about to come true. And having Terry, that butterscotch caramel dream of a man, beside her would be a very pleasant bonus
(c) 2014 W.L. Sherrod & Courtney Sherrod
(c) 2014 W.L. Sherrod & Courtney Sherrod