Dave Weldon is a proper, straight-laced congressman known more for his conservative and anti-abortion values than for his love of Santana and the Stray Cats.
But at night, the 57-year-old Weldon ditches his navy suit jacket, rolls up his crisp, white sleeves, loosens his tie and straps a bass guitar around his shoulder.
The Florida Republican approaches the microphone, beads of sweat on his forehead, and gazes at the crowd through the eyes of a rock star.
And a 1-2-3-4!
“Well, she was just 17, you know what I mean,” Weldon mouths, singing backup on the Beatles song, “I Saw Her Standing There,” with four other middle-aged lawmakers-turned-rockers, as he strums his bass guitar. “And the way she looked was way beyond compare …”
The ladies scream. Legislative aides raise their martini glasses. Even Katherine Harris, the controversial Florida lawmaker, lets loose _ moving and clapping her hands like a rock ‘n’ roll groupie.
And for half an hour, there is no talk of stem-cell research. Or the energy bill. No CAFTA.
No spin. No slant. Just music.
While they may not be able to agree on much when performing their day jobs on the Hill, Weldon and Reps. Collin Peterson, Jon Porter, Kenny Hulshof and Thaddeus McCotter make up the Second Amendments _ a rock band they say is “politically incorrect and bipartisan. Sort of.”
Peterson, a Minnesota lawmaker and the band’s lone Democrat, is lead singer. Nevada’s Porter plays keyboard, Missouri’s Hulshof is on drums and Michigan’s McCotter plays lead guitar.
The Second Amendments _ a name band members say doesn’t reflect their views on gun ownership _ is the second group Peterson has put together in recent years.
The original band, The Amendments, broke up after their gigs _ like their politics _ became partisan and some of the band wanted to play at a Republican fund-raiser and then at the Republican National Convention.
But this band, Weldon said, plays “purely for fun.” They started jamming together six weeks ago after work in Peterson’s office. And quickly, after a couple of practices, their sound started to come together.
Word spread, and the band was offered its first gig in D.C. In September, at Willie Nelson’s request, they’ll make an appearance at Farm Aid.
At their debut performance last week at a Washington waterfront bar filled with curious congressional types, Weldon _ a doctor turned lawmaker _ closed his eyes, tapped his feet to the beat, and even swayed his head the way rockers do when they’re really feeling the music. His band mates, still in their conservative work attire, danced in their cap-toe shoes.
The band covered songs such as Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight,” Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” and Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Taking Care of Business.”
When the group was done, the crowd screamed for an encore. The band obliged with “Twist and Shout” before heading back to the U.S. Capitol for late-night votes.
“They’re awesome!” Harris screamed after the band signed off for the evening. “I loved it!”
Weldon, confident in his new rock-star persona, agreed: “I think we sound pretty good.”
He was in a garage band as a teenager and dreamed of moments like this.
“I wanted to be a rock singer,” he said. “But I quickly learned I was more pre-med than rocker.”
(Contact Amie Parnes at ParnesA(at)shns.com)