Monday Night Football just got a lot more swing - specifically "Rockabetty Swing" by Connecticut's own Shiny Lapel Trio.
SLT will star in the musical opener to the Dec. 10 Houston Texans-New England Patriots game on ESPN. In the post-Hank Williams Jr. "MNF" football world, ESPN is airing a series of different geocentric openers to this season's games. (ESPN dropped Williams, the longtime star of the "MNF" opener, last year after Williams compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler on television's "Fox & Friends.") Georgia's Charlie Daniels Band opened a September game in Atlanta between the Atlanta Falcons and the Denver Broncos; Texas' Los Lonely Boys kicked off last month's match-up between the Chicago Bears and the Dallas Cowboys.
In similar fashion, SLT's intro will feature the band performing "Rockabetty Swing," a new original song, at the very New England-y Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook, complete with a delegation of local swing dancers.
While this isn't the band's first foray into television - Kohl's department store featured two SLT covers in holiday commercials in 2007 and 2008 - SLT singer Thomas "Tiger" Marion is reeling from the whirlwind turn of events that started in Deep River.
"The band has always been this fun thing we get a kick out of," he says. "We're well past the chasing-the-brass-ring stage of our life, so it's so funny when things like this happen."
And more than a little kismet comes into play here. SLT was first approached by ESPN about six months ago when Marion says he received a "random" email from a network music producer. The producer, who'd heard the band's music, asked for some sample songs and expressed his interest in putting the band on "MNF."
Months go by, no word back.
It was at a first-time gig about four months ago at Deep River's Red House restaurant and bar that "MNF" vice president of production and producer Jay Rothman happened to be in the audience. Rothman liked what he heard and got in touch with SLT guitarist James Alio and said he wanted the band for "MNF." Cautiously thrilled, the band continued work on its fourth album - its first collection of original songs - and waited for further word from ESPN.
A few months later, it's officially go-time. Even better, ESPN wants to use one of SLT's new original songs, as opposed to a cover of a standard for which the band is known.
"Here we are, this weird, novelty cover band headed into the studio to do an album of originals at same time ESPN wants an original, too," Marion notes, still marveling at the timing.
Drummer Rich Talarczyk agrees, noting that a national television audience is quite the ideal launch-pad for a brand-new original tune.
"At the very least, a few million people who didn't know who we were will know us now," he says.
Talarczyk describes the band's sound as "Stray Cats meets Johnny Cash meets Michael Buble," but hesitates to categorize it further. In the end, he notes, that versatility and stylistic blend makes the band enjoyable to several flavors of music fans.
"They know it's something special when we start to play," he says.
A tentative video shoot date is set for Dec. 4, and the band is at work modifying the lyrics to "Rockabetty Swing" for a football audience (Charlie Daniels and Williams Jr. did the same). As the band prepares and continues its regular gig schedule, production of the new album is delayed. Marion hopes to get it out early next year. To him, it's a fair enough trade off.
"There's moments when I downplay it in my head, and then I'm like, 'Wow! 30 million people!" he says of MNF's estimated viewership. "Someone in the Philippines will see us on TV! Wow!"
"Monday Night Football" airs at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.