As soon as weddings can return to event calendars, a group of Davidson besties will be ready to take center stage once again.
Otis Wedding—the band known as Green Eggs and Jam during the Davidson years—started out playing for fraternities on Patterson Court. Payment came in the form of a couple hundred bucks and free beverages. Today, the group of alumni has played at nearly 20 weddings and half-a-dozen corporate events.
Walker Allen ’13, Peter Askin ’13, Ben Jacks ’12, Clark Davis ’15, John Meyer ’13, Anuj Mukherjee ’13 and George Ramsay ’13 each have careers outside of wedding gigs, but they are deeply committed to growing this side-hobby-turned-business into something bigger. They’ve “doubled down,” so to say, with the launch of a website earlier this year, https://www.otisweddingmusic.com/.
A Zoom conference call with five of the seven members was full of laughs, especially when Askin referred to them all as Renaissance Men. But, it’s true. Only two of the talented musicians majored in music at Davidson, and they met through residence halls, fraternities, involvement in ensembles and quartets and personal jam sessions. Some played a varsity sport. Some pursued careers in finance. Some are entrepreneurs. They epitomize a Davidson College liberal arts education and the way it prepares students for just about anything.
“Davidson encouraged our love for music by giving us rehearsal space at the old depot and hiring us to play at school-sanctioned events,” said Ramsay. “We were students, we acquired a skill and the school supported that. By the time most of us were seniors, we were hired to play at fundraisers and the senior quarry party and more formal events. Weddings were a natural next step.”
A classmate asked if they would play at her wedding in the summer of 2013, and the new business was off and running. Green Eggs and Jam also paved the way for future bands at Davidson, including one created by Davis, who still had a couple of years left after the rest of the group graduated.
It isn’t easy to get the band back together, with members living in New York, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Vermont and Virginia. They are strategic about which requests they accept—those that allow them to fly in and out easily and miss minimal time at their day jobs. But they have agreed to some less convenient locations, too, including a mountainside in Germany.
And practice time? It’s limited. The friends meet up before each event to make sure they are ready, often learning specially requested songs very quickly. “Sweet Caroline” is always in the hopper for Davidson alumni weddings.
“We have some idea of the spring and fall calendar in advance,” said Mukherjee, who works in finance in Boston. “We try to get together in the winter or early spring for a long weekend, and we rehearse for three days straight. But most of the prep happens on our own.”
Ramsay has a successful music career in Charlotte, as a co-owner at Bold Music Lessons, a school with a vision to reinvent music education in the area. The company has added a virtual instruction platform to its offerings and is currently accepting new students all over the world—many Davidson alums are currently enrolled in lessons.
Ramsay’s commitment to Otis Wedding drives his career decisions, as well.
“No matter what opportunities come along, I’m not willing to quit Otis Wedding,” said Ramsay. “We have too much fun.”
Peter Kelpin ’12 and Bess Dickens Kelpin ’13, now married about four years, say having Otis Wedding play was one of the most memorable and meaningful parts of their big day. The couple was one of the first in their friend group to get married, so no one had wedding fatigue, and everyone showed up and enjoyed dancing along to music from their classmates.
“The band members would have been invited to the wedding anyway, so it helped our numbers,” joked Bess. “But seriously, they provided the soundtrack for so much of our relationship at Davidson. Our relationship matured as they became more professional as a band, from Court parties to life after graduation. It just made sense to celebrate together.”
Peter said hiring Otis Wedding was the easiest decision of the entire wedding planning process.
“These guys are exceptionally talented and hilarious, and there’s really nothing better than seeing your friends exercise their talents,” he said. “We trusted them, and we knew it would be so much fun. I could not have imagined our wedding without them. I smile just thinking about it.”