Jaime Tatos Maldonado was visiting a Dallas-area supermarket when he encountered a street musician playing guitar and singing an original composition, and he decided to take his phone out and film it. He didn’t expect that he was in for “literally the craziest weekend of [his] life” at the time.
Maldonado ended up capturing a special moment: the musician on the guitar was singer-songwriter Jesse Rya, and just out of the frame at the beginning of the recording is a man in a Philadelphia 76ers jersey, who steps forward and begins accompanying Rya on vocals a minute into the video. Rya begins riffing on lyrics that the man—later identified as Irving resident Howard Mullins—improvises, singing “Tell ’em that I just don’t know” as a refrain. After another minute, another man in a neon green utility vest approaches the supermarket, then decides to stay and enjoy the jam session. The man—whose name is Ron Lashley—sings along with Rya and Mullins for a minute, then drops a nice freestyle. The trio wind down the song after that, and Lashley says to the other two, “I needed that one, man, I appreciate that,” before entering the store.
It’s a nice moment for a few reasons—the primary one being that the song that the three men make up on the spot is pretty good. But it also has some real magic of improvisation to it, the sort of thing that feels like a clip from a movie, but isn’t. (It helps that Maldonado held his phone sideways, to capture the full frame.) There’s a pure joy of music to the three men playing together, and it clearly struck a chord: At the moment, the video has nearly 6,000,000 views on YouTube, and Maldonado—who’s been updating viewers on the experience of going viral on the Internet via his Facebook page—has presumably been swimming in media requests. Rya, meanwhile, used his social media page to explain that the video was not a setup:
Thanx to everyone for sharing my video, and thanks to the person who recorded this. Just for the record… it’s not a Jimmy Kimmel setup and I do not know the other 2 gentlemen in the video. You would be surprised how much music flows in the streets of DFW!
Some media outlets have been skeptical, of course—we’ve all been burned by credulousness in the past—with the UK’s Metro story on the video putting the words “busker” and “strangers” in scare quotes, but we’re choosing to take Rya’s word for it. Especially because, in the days following the video’s viral blow-up, Maldonado has been actively using his Facebook page to track down and identify Mullins and Lashley—which would be a strange smokescreen if this were all a set-up.
At any rate, the video’s success on YouTube looks to be translating to at least some real-world success, as well: Maldonado this morning updated his Facebook page to tag himself, Rya, Mullins, and Lashley all together at DFW Airport, on their way to LAX. Presumably, the trio are going to be on someone’s talk show later this week, and hopefully that appearance will involve another performance.
All of that will be fun to watch, though the more time the three men spend together, the less magic there may be in the moment: the fact that all three men were strangers who happened to convene at the same Kroger as part of the course of their daily lives is what makes the video so compelling, and their admiration for the moment and the music they’re making together is what’s so inspiring about it. The video captures a moment of everyday connection and creativity. Now, perhaps we’ll see if Rya, Mullins, and Lashley can continue to capture that as the Internet watches.