Blindfolded on her 30th birthday, it only took Lauren Finch seconds to realize something was strange when the sexy voice singing “Happy Birthday” sounded nothing like her beloved husband, Hyrum.
“I’m sitting there for like three or four minutes and I’m sitting there like, ‘OK, I’m nervous,’” recalled Lauren, 30, of Townsend. “I was waiting and I didn’t know what was going on or who was coming. Once I heard a man singing ‘Happy Birthday,’ I lifted up the blindfold, saw cowboy boots and I was dying inside. I pulled the blindfold off and pretty much just screamed and gave him a big hug.”
In front of the birthday girl stood her favorite country singer, Smyrna’s own Chuck Wicks, right there with her in a private room at Cantwell’s Tavern restaurant in Odessa, around 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 19.
Night with Chuck
Surrounded by 20-plus close friends and family at the restaurant — many of whom were also surprised by Wicks’ appearance — Lauren enjoyed the singer’s two-hour acoustic set in the intimate setting.
Like at most of his shows, the Nashville, Tenn.-based Wicks — who was accompanied by a fellow guitarist — began with “All I Ever Wanted” and wove in a handful of his other tunes including “Old School,” “The Whole Damn Thing,” “Lucky Ones” and his all-time classic, “Stealing Cinderella.”
“His show he did for me was amazing, just an unforgettable performance,” smiled Lauren, who teaches third grade at Bunker Hill Elementary in Middletown.
She had attended four Wicks shows prior to the birthday concert, the first being his benefit show for the Smyrna Clayton Boys & Girls Club at Smyrna High School in October, while the last was at the Bottle & Cork in Dewey in June. But the private concert was much different for both Lauren and Hyrum, who has attended two of the four shows with his wife.
This time around, the couple got the chance to sing “Lucky Ones” on stage with Wicks, as well as see him perform an all-acoustic set for the first time.
Initially Hyrum and Wicks were singing the tune together, and rocking the crowd, until Lauren had to steal the spotlight.
“If he was up there, I had to get there, too,” justified Lauren of why she needed to climb on stage.
While Hyrum acknowledged sharing the stage with Wicks made him feel like a rock star, he said the most memorable moment of the concert was when the singer performed an exclusive song, unofficially titled “Sexy Mouth.”
“The best part of the show was when he did an improv song where he wrote a song on the spot and he had us think of two words,” explained Hyrum, 32, owner of DryClean Central in New Castle. “He said, ‘Somebody shout out a word.’ Somebody shouted out ‘sexy.’ Her aunt shouted out the word ‘mouth,’ because that was Lauren’s nickname growing up. So he made up a song on the spot using ‘sexy mouth.’ Just between him and the guitar player, they just kind of looked at each other and did a little improv song, which is cool, because it showed his songwriting skills.”
Page 2 of 3 - Surprise appearance at ‘Sports Zone’
After the concert, and signing autographs and taking photos with Lauren’s friends and family, as well as with her, Wicks transported the event to the Sports Zone in Smyrna, which was hosting its country night. Surprising most of the adoring guests at the venue that night, Wicks had spoke to the Sports Zone’s management earlier in the day about performing a surprise show there, Hyrum said.
He performed about “six to eight songs” for a large crowd, before calling it a night, Lauren added.
On the down low
Pulling off Lauren’s surprise party required Hyrum to exude serious patience, do a ton of hoop-jumping and play it cool, despite a few internal panic attacks.
To begin, he inquired about booking Wicks back in March. Hyrum went about accomplishing this by getting in touch with a point-person via the Chuck Wicks Street Team Delaware page on Facebook.
In order to secure Wicks, Hyrum was informed by the facilitator that he needed to send an itinerary that included booking three hotel rooms at a reputable hotel (for Wicks, his road manager and guitarist), three airplane aisle seats (in which the singer and his crew would be flown from Tennessee to Philadelphia), finding a chauffeur and getting commercial insurance so “Chuck was covered if something were to happen” while traveling with the chauffeur, Hyrum said.
About two weeks later, Hyrum created his itinerary and forwarded it to Wicks’ point-person.
He didn’t hear from them for about 10 days. After trading emails about other specifics regarding the private concert for about a month-and-a-half, Hyrum was then asked to cut a check for the show around May, to secure the concert.
In the meantime, Hyrum didn’t have any assurance the surprise concert would even pan out, considering he never had the pleasure of meeting Wicks’ facilitator in person to discuss the private event. No firm handshakes had taken place. Not to mention, he had to book hotels and make travel arrangements with funds from his company bank account, not the joint account he shared with Lauren for fear of spoiling the big surprise.
Plus he had to add Lauren’s father, Doug Ennis, of Wilmington, to his company’s payroll, a logistical move that allowed him to designate his father-in-law as a qualified driver to serve as Wicks’ chauffeur, said Hyrum, who added his father-in-law to his commercial insurance.
“It was tough,” Hyrum recalled. “I wasn’t a hundred-percent sure, either. I’m sending a check out there. This could backfire. Honestly, until I saw [Wicks] walk up the stairs with the birthday cake, I wasn’t 100-percent sure he was even going to come.”
Page 3 of 3 - From Lauren’s perspective, however, Hyrum was as cool, calm and collected as normal.
“I would’ve never known because you didn’t seem stressed about it,” Lauren said to Hyrum.
“Oh, I was,” Hyrum quickly remarked.
As for the cost to book Wicks for the concert, Hyrum said he’s going to keep it confidential since he’s not sure if Wicks would like that information to be publicized. In fact, Lauren is still in the dark on how much he paid for the performance, he added.
Nonetheless, Hyrum was able to mention that Wicks gave him a hometown discount.
Furthermore, he said he lodged Wicks and his crew at the Best Western Smyrna Inn and flew them to Delaware via coach.
Still glowing from the experience of hanging out with Wicks at the birthday concert, Lauren and Hyrum are already looking forward to paying the singer a friendly visit at one of his concerts, which could be as soon as September.
“I just hope now Chuck will remember who we are,” beamed Hyrum. “That’s going to be nice when we go to his next concert.”