THE OBERLIN OBERTONES ALUMNI
A cappella never gets old
Tones Tall Tales: Tones Northeast tour 87-88
by David Milford '89
“To Letterman or not to Letterman, that is the question:"
So this one takes place in NYC also (what is it about that town?)
With our financial and concert successes, some of the "original" Obertones were really shooting for the moon. We were on tour in NYC, after hitting a couple of other Northeast hot spots (Philadelphia, Boston, etc.) We had some aca-friends who were putting us up at Columbia U. in uptown Manhattan.
At different points in our NYC adventures, I remember us crowding around pay phones (mobile phones hadn’t been invented yet, at least not outside of the big bricks that some businessmen had in their cars.) Carter Henry, Arnold Lee, and perhaps some other particularly diplomatic and mature-sounding ‘Tones were speaking with producers, promoters, whoever they could get call time with over at the Late Night with David Letterman show. These ambitious young lads actually believed we might finagle our way onto national television somehow!
A little background might be in order. Late Night with David Letterman was a big deal back then. Sure, Dave was still a big deal after that too, when he took over an earlier spot opposite the Tonight Show at CBS. But, in his new earlier time slot he was safer and less crazy, with less humorous results in my opinion. The original Late Night was a hit with us college kids back in the day, it was irreverent, creative, and downright goofy. We would stay up till all hours watching it sometimes, even though we really should have been studying or sleeping instead. It was an event, a late-night gathering in the lounge TV rooms of all the dorms at the time.
So you can see why we were so focused on getting on the show. It was THE show for college kids. Not as many people had cable back then, especially in the dorms. We took inspiration from the fact that Dave would have stupid pet tricks, and stupid human tricks, featuring average Americans from all points far and wide. This gave us hope that we too might have our 15 seconds of fame (well, more than that, hopefully). They were really workin it, the guys were talkin up every angle to see if there was a way for us to get a spot. We even were hanging out at a pay phone at 30 Rockefeller Center on one day, where the main offices of NBC were located. That way we could tell them “oh yeah, we’re right downstairs, we can come up right now and audition for you” or “meet you in person” or whatever.
I remember myself thinking it was a waste of time, and I even said so out loud, on a couple of occasions. I had pretty low self-esteem back then and just could not imagine us actually being able to get onto the coolest show in the universe. That was a mistake, in retrospect, I’m really glad Arnold, Carter, and the rest did not let me get them down, or stop them from shooting for their dream.
So, short story long, we never did get onto Late Night with Letterman. But, I am proud of my fellow Tones for trying so hard. We had a shot and, who knows, we may have actually come really close. If only one of their scheduled acts had cancelled that week… We did have a great tour of NYC, and the whole East coast though. It was a fabulous trip and I want to thank all the Oberficials who were involved in planning it and taking care of the details. Including Kevin McLaughlin, who we had affectionately nicknamed “Julie our cruise director”.