David Bruce: 250 Music Anecdotes — Family


• Katy Perry’s real name is Katie Hudson, but she changed her name to avoid confusion with Kate Hudson, who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Almost Famous. “Perry” is Katie’s mother’s maiden name. (Katy did record her first album, which was self-titled and categorized as Christian/gospel, using the name Katy Hudson.) The road to the top was difficult. Some record companies dropped her before her first non-Christian album, One of the Boys, hit record stores on 17 June 2008; of course, it was a hit. Among its singles were “Hot N Cold” and “I Kissed a Girl.” Katie’s parents are evangelical Christians, and they have always supported her career. In the music video for “Hot N Cold,” they play the roles of Katie’s character’s parents. Even with a hit album, Katie had to work hard. She performed outside during the Warped Tour, and at a concert in Maryland the weather was so hot that her shoes melted on stage. By the way, when Katie was a little girl, she was not allowed to watch any television episodes of The Smurfs. When she got a job doing voice work for the 2011 movie titled The Smurfs, she called her mother and said, “Guess what, Mom — I’m Smurfette!”

• When Frank and Gail Zappa got married, he did not give her a ring; instead, he bought her a ballpoint pen — one that cost ten cents and was inscribed “Congratulations from Mayor Lindsay” — and pinned it to her dress. As you may expect, Frank was the parent who named their children. When Gail was pregnant with their first child, she asked Frank what to name the baby. He replied, “You can name her Moon or Motorhead.” When Moon Unit was in the 6th grade, a classmate asked her, “Why did your parents name you Moon?” She replied, “Why did yours name you Debbie?” Another child is known as Dweezil, which is also the pet name Frank gave to one of Gail’s toes. Another child is named Ahmet, after an imaginary servant the Zappas had when they lacked real servants. They used to snap their fingers and say, “Ahmet? Dishes. Coffee, please.” (Ahmet’s other name is Rodan, after the Japanese monster.) And Diva got her name because she screamed when she was an infant. You may not believe this, but some of the Zappa children wanted to change their names when they were young. Moon Unit wanted the name Beauty Heart, and Dweezil wanted the name Rick.

• Stevie Wonder — “Superstition” and “I Just Called to Say I Love You” are among his many hits — is blind, and when he was small, his young brothers thought that he needed more light in order to see, so they set a fire in a trash can and nearly burned down the house. Stevie remembers, “I know it used to worry my mother, and I know she used to pray for me to have sight someday, and so finally I told her that I was happy being blind, and I thought it was a gift from God, and I think she felt better after that.” Stevie’s mother was Lula Mae Hardaway, and his name at birth was Stevland Hardaway Judkins. The story is he acquired the name Stevie Wonder when he was discovered as a young boy and someone said, “That kid’s a wonder!” Mr. Wonder once appeared on a poster for M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). Under his photograph appeared these words: “Before I ride with a drunk, I’ll drive myself.”

• Rufus Wainwright grew up in a musical household: His mother is Kate McGarrigle, and his father is Loudon Wainwright III. After he was born and his mother was taking him home from the hospital, she stopped by her studio. No crib was there, so she laid him in a guitar case. Because of experiences such as this, Rufus says that he had no choice but to be a musician. Even as a child, he sang. At parties, his mother would have him stand on a piano and sing “Over the Rainbow.” Rufus says, “I became aware at a young age of the power to sober up drunk people with my voice.” Of course, Rufus has sacrificed for his music. In an interview with Laura Barnett, he points out that he has sacrificed “Rufus Wainwright the hausfrau. After so many years of being in hotels and backstage areas, I’m horridly inept at cleaning up after myself.”

• When he was growing up, Garth Brooks’ family used to have a weekly night they called “Funny Night.” Members of the family would sing, do imitations of famous people, put on skits, or do something else to entertain. This worked out well for Garth, who became a very famous country music star. While accepting an award for being 1991’s Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year, as the first President George Bush and his wife, Barbara Bush, were in the audience watching, Garth said that two famous Georges — George Strait and George Jones — were his inspiration, then he added, “No offense, Mr. President.”

• Joan Oliver Goldsmith is a volunteer singer in a chorus. Her father had taught her, “When bored in the symphony, watch the timpani,” and so when she did not have to look at the conductor, she watched the percussionists. Once, she asked a member of the percussion department of the Minnesota Orchestra, “Isn’t it awfully stressful? I mean, if the cymbals come in at the wrong place, everybody knows.” He replied, “Yeah, but what are they going to do? Shoot you?”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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