Skeleton Crew: Meet the Band Who Beat a Young Beyoncé on Star Search
On "***Flawless," off her surprise self-titled album, Bey bookends her call for female empowerment with an audio clip of the fateful performance, including the moment the show’s judges announced that her group Girls Tyme, a predecessor to Destiny’s Child, had lost.
In a video interview accompanying the album’s release, Beyoncé called the loss “a defining moment of [her] childhood.”
“At that time,” she explained, “you don’t realize you could work super hard and give everything you have – and lose.”
But what did the moment look like from the other end of the stage? PEOPLE caught up with Skeleton Crew, 20 years removed from their Star Search appearance, to find out.
When did you find out you were on the album?
Chris Badynee (bass/harmonica): Someone told me that Kanye West tweeted a Skeleton Crew insult. I didn’t realize it was for Beyoncé’s video. I thought the Star Search episode was being brought back up.
William Pilipchuk (lead vocals/percussion): I was eating breakfast. It came to me in an email from another media outlet asking for an interview.
What was your reaction?
Pilipchuk: The potential magnitude of it all hasn’t quite sunk in yet. I’m sure I will have some latent euphoria and bliss somewhere down the line.
Did you keep up with Girls Tyme and Beyoncé after Star Search?
Dan Hess (keyboards/rhythm guitar): Once we realized that Girls Tyme was Beyoncé’s group we kept our eyes on them. Filming Star Search was so campy, you felt camaraderie with not only the performers, but their families. Of course, you root for everyone you performed with!
What was your Star Search experience like?
Hess: Even though we turned down Star Search twice, we ended up having a blast the entire time we were down there. We met Beyoncé’s father at the weekly meet and greet. He told us “My girls are gonna beat you.” We later asked Beyoncé at a rehearsal if she was enjoying Disney World. She replied that her father wasn’t letting them visit until after they beat us.
Pilipchuk: That Star Search pitted five grown men against six cute little 12-year-old girls remains baffling to this day.
Badynee: Girls Tyme did their sound-check by singing a gospel song. I packed my bags and was ready to go home. Then they changed their routine for the show’s taping. I was confused, but comfortable with Skeleton Crew’s strategic decision to perform a very deep ballad.
What happened next?
Badynee: The band got a record deal and made one of the first enhanced CDs that included photos and videos. Skeleton Crew and the Rolling Stones introduced that format. I’m pretty sure we were signed as a media experiment. The record label fell apart.
There are many more famous Star Search losers than there are winners. Do you think that’s a coincidence, or is there something there?
Pilipchuk: Research who did the judging on the show – hairdresser Jose Ebér comes to mind – and ask yourself if they were “qualified” to evaluate musical talent. Shows like The Voice have talented musical artists judging, which to me lends the end result far more credibility.
Hess: The music industry as a whole processes talent much differently than a small panel of judges on Star Search.
Badynee: Fate controls the universe, and all we can do is wander through it.
Do you see this shout-out helping the band’s career?
Badynee: I’ve always said that Skeleton Crew will remain a footnote in the career of Beyoncé. Now in light of all this newfound attention, it appears that “footprint” may have gotten a lot bigger.
Greg Tyler (drums/percussion): We don’t have any grand illusions. This is Beyoncé’s story, and obviously our “destiny” was to play a part in it. If that experience helped to shape her and make her into what she is now, then what more can we ask?
• With reporting by MELODY CHIU
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