David Bruce: Work Anecdotes

• For a while, Michael Sembello, although he preferred jazz, played guitar for Stevie Wonder. A friend got Mr. Sembello to audition by pretending that they were going to a place to jam, but he did mention that Stevie Wonder would be present. When Mr. Sembello found out that it was an audition, he was ready to leave immediately. For one thing, about 200 people were there to audition, and the wait would be very long to play. His friend, however, waited until no one was looking and erased the first five names on the audition list and put his name and Mr. Sembello’s name first. Mr. Wonder was going in a different, more jazzy direction at this time, and so Mr. Sembello had an advantage on the other guitarists although they knew the Stevie Wonder catalog of hits. Mr. Sembello remembered, “It was kind of like a game show for guitar players: if you hang in there you got to stay, but if you screw up you were eliminated.” Mr. Sembello got to stay. At one point, Mr. Wonder played some songs from an album that had not yet been released, but Mr. Sembello “copped the changes immediately.” When Mr. Wonder asked him how he was able to do that, Mr. Sembello replied that he had a good ear. Mr. Wonder asked if he had heard the new album, and Mr. Sembello replied that he had not. Mr. Wonder asked an assistant, “Is the album out yet?” No, it was not. Next question: “How the hell do you know these tunes?” “I don’t know the tunes. I’m just guessing where you’re gonna go.” “You’ve got the gig.” “I didn’t come here for no gig — I just came here to jam.” Mr. Sembello ended up taking the job. He said about the experience of working for Mr. Wonder, “I had all the technical ability in the world and could play like the fastest guitar player in the West, but he was the one who taught me the most about feel.”

• Arthur Whittemore and Jack Lowe became a two-piano team by accident. In 1935, when Arthur was 19 years old and Jack was 18 years old, Arthur’s aunt invited him to visit her in Puerto Rico. Arthur wanted his friend Jack to come with him, so he told his aunt that he and Jack were a two-piano team and so Jack had to come, too, so they could continue to practice together. His aunt invited Jack to visit, and she arranged a two-piano concert for Arthur and Jack to play in San Juan, Puerto Rico. As soon as they found out that Arthur’s aunt expected them to play a two-piano concert, the two young men immediately began to practice together. They had no music for two pianos, so they transcribed famous musical classics. The concert was so successful that they decided to continue working as a team. This is fortunate for music history because they were so good, and because both were so gregarious that they probably would not have worked as solo piano virtuoso pianists because they would have hated being lonely while traveling on tour. One of their prized possessions was a letter from twentieth-century French composer Francis Poulenc, to whom they had sent a copy of their recording of his Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra— the orchestra was the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Mr. Poulenc wrote, “Your performance of the Concerto, like that of [Vladimir] Horowitz of my Toccata, is the one for posterity.”

• Early in its history, online book seller Amazon lacked money and inventory space. Of course, it needed to order books, but book distributors required that each order contain at least ten books, and Amazon often needed only one book. Amazon found a way to receive one book in an order. It would order a copy of the book it needed, and then add to the order nine copies of an obscure book on lichens that was always out of stock. By the way, early employees worked long hours. One employee spent eight months getting up, biking to work, working, and then biking back home and going to sleep. He completely forgot about his blue station wagon and the city law requiring it to be moved occasionally. After eight months, the employee had time to look at his mail — anything that wasn’t a bill he had put in a pile. He found several parking tickets, a notice telling him that his car had been moved, a few notices from the towing company, and finally a notice that his car had been auctioned off.

• Dawn Foster, who wrote the opinion piece “I hate my job, I hate my job, I hate my job — what many think but won’t tell the boss,” for the British newspaper The Guardian, knows that many people hate their jobs, often for good reason. She remembers being a temp at a company where, on her last day at work, her boss dumped a lot of work involving invoices on her desk and told her that once again she — the boss — was way too busy to do these invoices. Ms. Foster wrote in her opinion piece, “With nothing to lose, I pointed out that she had a large plate glass window behind her, so for the entire length of my temp job, I’d been able to see that she spent most of the day playing Spider Solitaire.”

• The union animators at the Disney studio once went on strike, and of course they wanted people not to see Disney animated movies so they picketed various movie theaters showing Disney’s The Reluctant Dragon. At the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, a uniformed doorman would open the car doors and greet moviegoers. (This was a long time ago.) A chauffeured limousine pulled up, the doorman opened the car doors, and a fabulously dressed couple got out. The chauffeur also got out and handed the fabulously dressed couple a picket, and they joined the picket line. The fabulously dressed couple was Steve and Audrey Busustow, and the chauffeur was Maurice Noble. Steve and Maurice were on strike against Disney. Eventually, the strike was resolved by arbitration in favor of the union.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


Free davidbrucehaiku #13 eBook (pdf)

Free davidbrucehaiku #12 eBook (pdf)

Free davidbrucehaiku #11 eBook (pdf)

David Bruce’s Lulu Bookstore (Paperbacks)

David Bruce’s Amazon Author Bookstore

David Bruce’s Smashwords Bookstore

David Bruce’s Apple Bookstore

David Bruce’s Barnes and Noble Books

David Bruce’s Kobo Books

davidbruceblog #1

davidbruceblog #2

davidbruceblog #3