When I tell someone about my past as a performer on a cruise ship, I know it will be immediately followed by the golden question, “What’s it like working on a ship??”
You would think by now, I had my answer down to a short memorized monologue, but that’s hardly the case. While I’m more than prepared for the question, it’s one that is almost overwhelming to try and put into words on the fly. My mind is instantly flooded with memories…from extreme sunburns, to $1 crew bar beers, endless breakdowns over my exhausted singing voice, to finding my partner in life, my story is one that could only be truly understood by those who have also lived it.
While it might be difficult as an outsider to grasp the parallel universe that is ‘life on ships’, I still LOVE to paint the pictures of my experiences as best as I can.
One of the greatest parts to my job in particular was mingling with the guests after performances. On a Carnival Cruise Ship you NEVER know what you’re gonna get, but they all come with one common goal… to PAR.TAY!
Among the many stories I could tell you about these crazy cruisers, and believe me, I have some doozies, one of my favorites was getting to meet the world famous drummer, Bernard Purdie!
Now, I’m not surprised if most of you have no idea who that is…to be totally honest, I wasn’t exactly sure at first either. I had heard the term “The Purdie Shuffle” in college, thanks to my Berklee friends, but would have never put the pieces together on my own. However, the other musicians on board were acting like little 12 year old school girls at a Justin Bieber concert over this guy so I knew he was someone big! Without Google to save me while at sea, I had to fess up and ask my over-intelligent-judgy-band mates… “Who is he?” and they explained…
“Bernard Purdie is one of the most recorded session drummers of all time!!! He was the creator of the “Purdie Shuffle” and the “Bernard Purdie Half-Time Shuffle”. He’s played drums for many legends like The Beatles, James Brown, and BB King. He also acted as Aretha Franklin’s Music Director for 5 years. To sum it up, you’ve been listening to him play drums on some of your favorite tracks your entire life, you just never knew it!”
Well, once my band mates name dropped Aretha Franklin, I was done!!! Aretha is one of my biggest influences and favorite artists’ to cover! I DIED and knew I needed to make an impression!!!
However, being the rambling-word-fumbling girl that I am, I was way too nervous to go talk to him at first…so I did what any woman would…I got chummy with this girlfriend, Celia, first!
Once I mustered up the courage to meet Bernard himself, he was one of the most endearing and humbling men I have EVER met! He complimented my performance style way beyond what a man of his status needed to, and while I can’t be certain as I think I was having an out-of-body experience, he even compared my sassy presence and gritty vocals to ARETHA herself! WHHHHHHAT!!!? I’m DEAD!
As the cruise went on and we were all able to control our gitty nerves, I had the opportunity to really get to know him and his hilarious New Jersey family. And before I knew it, he was on stage sitting in as our drummer for some of the most famous songs that he himself is responsible for bringing to life.
Yes, this cruise was definitely one for the books and I’m happy to say that I have stayed in touch with him and Celia over the years! That experience reinforced the golden rule of performing and the importance of always giving it your ALL at all times, cause you NEVER know who’s in that audience!!!
Do you have an amazing work or vacation story of your own? I’d love to here about it! Leave a comment below…