Dec 17, 2014, 21:08
Wedding musicians can’t be late to sound check. Songs must be learned. Sound adjustments must be 
made. Wedding coordinators must feel in control.

That’s why first-call Atlanta saxophonist Sam Skelton politely explained to me that, as much as he would 
love to play on the track I was producing for Coca Cola, he wouldn’t risk being late to his wedding 
gig by recording on a Saturday afternoon. 

Naturally, I plugged my ears and obsessed only about making my client happy. Remember when Coca Cola 
first started running TV spots in movie theaters? Well I had the privilege of being the first 
composer to work with Coke on the concept. And as much as the Lenny Kravitz knock-off I initially 
wrote wowed Coke’s Generation X creative director, management deemed it too heavy metal for movie 
theaters. Back to the drawing board. And no…the deadline couldn’t move. Work it out, music boy. 

So as a replacement I wrote a Kenny Loggins knock-off. And instead of face-melting guitars the track 
featured happy trumpets and happy trombones. And on the last 32 bars of chart – mostly out 
of laziness and contempt- I just scrawled “ad lib sax solo.” 

Deep down Sam knew that my engineer and I would – as with all musicians – nit-pick 
his performance, change our minds about creative direction, take breaks to troubleshoot broken gear 
and generally make the whole thing all about us. That’s why he knew he would be late to his sound 

“30 minutes…tops,” I lied. “We’ll take what we can get. I’ll write parts that aren’t too crazy and 
we won’t be all anal about stuff….(add Hollywood agent inflection)…You’re the best, baby. We’ll have 
you out of there in no time.”

Sam agreed to do the date, knowing I was full of crap. That’s why he arrived at the session wearing 
his wedding tuxedo with a look in his eye that said “Try to keep up, mother f%&*@rs. I have places 
to be.”

Back in those days, even the best session players needed a couple passes to really internalize a 
track. Engineer Pete Hauenstein and I were rarely at a loss for constructive criticisms to make; it 
was just a question of which ones to say first. 

So when Sam – while sight-reading the chart and glaring at his watch – ripped through this alto sax 
solo on his very first take, we were stunned. 

Listen to “My Mutant Power is Saxophone”

Until that moment I wasn’t even aware the instrument could even make those sounds in the altissimo range. After he finished, Pete and I stared through the glass partition, slowly reached up to press the talk back button and 
dumbfoundingly muttered, “That’s cool, man. I think………….I think we’re good here.” That performance is one my favorite memories from the jingle days. 

Sam continues to gig all over Atlanta; and not just on alto sax, but virtually every woodwind 
instrument there is. He has been featured on over 250 CDs and recorded for 
Elton John, Matchbox 20, The Gap Band and The Ohio Players.

Hats off to my respected colleague & fellow GSU grad, Sam Skelton, for recording such a kick-ass sax solo. Well done, friend.


Mike Bielenberg is a professional musician and co-founder of, a production music marketplace with over 28,000 tracks online where media producers, video producers, filmmakers, game developers, businesses and other music buyers can license high-quality, affordable royalty-free music from an online community of musicians

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