David Bruce: 250 Music Anecdotes — Fathers, Food


• Wynton Marsalis wanted to make his living as a musician, but many, many people advised him not to try. They told him, “Don’t major in music because it’s too difficult to make a living. You need a ‘real’ profession to fall back on when the dream dies.” Fortunately for music lovers, Wynton followed the advice of his father, a man who knew firsthand how hard it is to make a living as a musician. Wynton writes that his father is “a great musician whom I had seen killing himself to make barely enough to take care of his family.” So what is his father’s advice? His father said, “Make sure you don’t have anything to fall back on … because you will. This is not for the faint of heart.”

• As of September 2013, Tori Amos had sold 12 million copies of her 13 albums. Her father was a pastor in Maryland, and when she was 13 years old, he knew that she would benefit from getting experience as a live performer of music. One day, he told her to dress in such a way that she looked older than she was, and then he took her to some bars in Georgetown in Washington, D.C. to look for a place that would allow her to perform. Tori remembers, “Mr. Henry’s, a gay bar, gave me my first opportunity. My dad got flak from some parishioners, but he told them, ‘I can’t think of a safer place for a 13-year-old girl than a gay bar.’”

• Walter Damrosch came from a musical family. His father was the famous conductor Leopold Damrosch. Walter once met in Germany a Royal Highness who was the niece of Emperor William. She knew about his father and asked him if he were “the son of the great Doctor Damrosch.” Walter replied that yes, he was. She asked, “He played the viola, did he not?” Walter replied, “No, your Royal Highness, the violin.” She said, “No, the viola.” Walter wrote in his autobiography, My Musical Life, “This taught me that royalty must never be contradicted, even if they know ‘facts’ about your own father of which you are not aware.”

• When Roseanne Cash was 18 years old, she started to learn to play the guitar and sing country music. Her father, Johnny, heard her and sat down and wrote a list of “100 Essential Country Songs,” including songs by Woody Guthrie, Jimmy Rodgers, the Carter family, Hank Williams, and Carl Perkins. He gave her the list and told her that to be a completely educated country musician she needed to learn those songs.

• Not everyone likes modern classical music. As a teenager, caricaturist Sam Norkin was playing Jean Sibelius’ First Symphony when his father demanded to know how the record player got broken. After that experience, Mr. Norkin played Sibelius only in the basement.


• Iggy Pop is an open interviewee. In a 1997 interview, he talked about his diet, which he does not regard as especially healthy: “I eat steak, I like a lot of butter on my toast, I like a lot of eggs, and I fart constantly, all day.” However, Iggy does practice chi kung, which are Chinese exercises. By the way, his chi kung teacher is in many ways a regular guy. In the same interview, Iggy said, “It’s funny because everyone expects him to be a vegetarian and very holy, but he’s not. He liked to get f**ked and eat steaks, and he likes money — a lot. He’s a guy, you know. He can also kill you in 800 different ways, but he’d rather just take your money legally. He’s like that.”

• Southern Culture on the Skids (aka SCOTS) is a band that often asks audience members to come on stage and dance for fried chicken. The genesis of this came when the owner of a club they were playing in gave them a bucket of fried chicken. The chicken was on the side of the stage as they played, and a homeless man came into the club, saw the fried chicken, and started eating it. The band members told him, “Hey, that’s our dinner, and if you want some of it, you at least have to get up here and dance with us.” The audience loved this, and SCOTS kept it in the act. Bass player May Huff says, “It’s good to feed a hungry crowd.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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