Music bookings for tonight's "Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together" telethon, which will benefit the American Red Cross' relief efforts for Hurricane Sandy, include Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Bon Jovi, Christina Aguilera, Billy Joel, Sting and -- as of this morning -- Aerosmith.
"It's been the easiest thing to book because everybody wants to be involved," Matt Lauer, host of the telethon and "Today" anchor, told Billboard.biz in an interview this afternoon. He then added with a laugh, "If only booking the show were this easy always!"
The one-hour telethon will air live on the East Coast and tape-delayed on the West Coast on NBC, Bravo, CNBC, E!, G4, MSNBC, Style, Syfy and USA from 8 to 9 p.m. (other networks may still participate prior to airtime.) It's the result of a 48-hour process that kicked off Wednesday morning at about 6:45 a.m. ET, when Lauer spoke with NBC Universal chairman-CEO Steve Burke about the idea. Within four hours, Lauer made the first call to Jersey native Jon Bon Jovi, who was in London at the time and quickly booked a flight. Next, Lauer called Patti Scialfa while "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams reached out to Springsteen. Billy Joel and Sting were committed soon after.
Aerosmith came on board this morning after New York native Steven Tyler knocked on Lauer's dressing room shortly after the band's 5:40 a.m. soundcheck for their "Today" appearance. "He said, 'I want to talk to you about tonight's concert. I want to be a part of it. This is something so important, Joe [Perry] and I will come on and we'll do a song.' So he booked himself," Lauer says. "This has really been an eye-opening and enormously heartwarming experience."
(As for the f-bomb Tyler dropped during a very rare morning-show appearance on "Today" this morning, Lauer said he didn't hear it, though co-anchor Al Roker pointed it out on-air. "Nobody likes when that happens on live TV and we're sorry for it," he says. "In Steven's defense, there was no camera on him nor were we standing near him, so he didn't think we were on the air.")
Lauer also noted that the songs being performed tonight will be "from people who are connected to the region and oftentimes about the region. I think you'll recognize every song immediately without them being too cliché. I've seen Bruce perform at a tribute or benefit function in the past and he usually does it acoustic, so I think people will love it."
Plans to make the performances available for a charitable download had not been finalized, Lauer said, "but that's certainly an idea we'll discuss after this call."
He did give one last show of support to Burke for fast-tracking the event. "At a company the size of Comcast and NBC Universal, for the chairman to get an answer and make this happen within a couple of hours is pretty extraordinary. I think Steve deserves a lot of credit and the support he's given us has been extraordinary."