Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Kingsport bassist brings the boogie to Bush wedding

‘George W. Bush treated us first class, and he always does. On his behalf I’ll say he certainly knows how to treat his band.’
— Victor Simon



It’s been called the wedding of the year; details shrouded in secrecy and the locale flanked by paparazzi. But one Kingsport native was, literally, front and center at Jenna Bush’s wedding.

AT RIGHT: Victor Simon, a Kingsport native and member of the Tyrone Smith Revue, played Saturday at President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, at the celebration following Jenna Bush’s wedding.

As a member of the Tyrone Smith Revue, bassist Victor Simon performed Saturday at President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. Classic rock, funk, r&b — the 1971 Dobyns-Bennett graduate laid down rhythms for the post-ceremony celebration.
“This wedding was the tops. It was absolutely gorgeous out there on the ranch,” Simon said. “We were right in the heart of the mix. It was a very close crowd, 200 people.”
From Kool and the Gang to KC and the Sunshine Band, Simon said, “Whatever they wanted to hear, we laid down.” While they played for more than three hours, the band was already familiar with the first family’s musical tastes.
In 2003, they provided the soundtrack to a private Christmas party at the White House. In 2005, they entertained at Bush’s inauguration ball.
“For them to take us into their little fold like that, I really felt good about it,” Simon said. “For them to take us on for the third time was quite an honor.”
In fact, it was Saturday’s bride, Jenna, who introduced the Bushes to the Tyrone Smith Revue. Simon says she watched them perform about six years ago at a fraternity in Austin, Texas, and has recommended them for shindigs ever since.
And while the Bush daughters have been labeled party girls by tabloids, Simon says all in attendance stayed on an “even keel” Saturday night.
“A lot of other weddings start out pretty slow then get pretty wild,” Simon said. “This one kept a good lid on it. Everybody just had a good time.”
One of the gig’s many perks was the band’s vantage point for the wedding ceremony. With the stage arranged about 100 feet away, Simon said he was able to watch the entire wedding party walk the aisle.
He even got a nod from the father of the bride.
“When the president first looked over he gave me a little wave, then he gave me a salute,” Simon said. “I saluted him back, and he gave me the thumbs-up. I was glad that he’d recognized me and was taking the time to do that while walking down the aisle.”
Like most grooms, Simon said Henry Hager seemed relieved to move past the “I do” and on to the reception.
“That boy was like, ‘OK, that’s it, it’s on now,’ ” Simon said with a hearty laugh.
Though it’s key to remain professional in such a setting, Simon was also able to bag some mementos from Saturday’s festivities. Jenna and Laura Bush autographed one of his guitars, while the Secret Service presented him a gold presidential coin.
And though President Bush endures much criticism due to the war in Iraq and crumbling economy, Simon says he knows how to entertain his guests — and make the performers feel equally as welcome.
“Regardless of the politics or anything — and at something like this it didn’t matter — George W. Bush treated us first class, and he always does,” Simon said. “On his behalf I’ll say he certainly knows how to treat his band.”
Spending most of his time in Nashville and on the road, Simon, aka Vic Danger, will soon return to Kingsport. Vic Danger and the Voodoo Doctors, composed of many Tyrone Smith Revue members, will hit a Fun Fest stage this July.
For more on Victor Simon visit