• Quite a number of hit records feature the work of studio musicians such as drummer Hal Blaine, who was inducted into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame in 2000. Often, the studio musicians played all of the music while the stars simply sang. Mr. Blaine played drums on the recordings of the Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?,” the Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man,” the Carpenters’ “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” the Mamas & the Papas’ “Monday, Monday,” Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night.” Nowadays he listens to an oldies station, which has advantages and drawbacks. He says, “It’s an amazing ego trip since I’m on so many of the songs. But it has its drawbacks. Youhear your youth. Ihear a day at the office or a divorce.”
• In 2006, Ben Knox-Miller and Jeff Prystowsky formed the music group Low Anthem. The two men had been friends and a late-night DJ team at the college radio station of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Mr. Knox-Miller remembers “playing jazz records through the late-night shift: 2 a.m.-5.30 a.m. Those are the golden hours for radio. The only people who are listening at that time are crazy people who have psychoses that keep them up in the wee hours, calling in to us and saying some really creepy, strange stuff.” And Mr. Prystowsky says, “They were so desperate for DJs at that hour. If you were willing to stay up, you got the job. We would exclusively play upright-bass jazz solos, for three and a half hours, non-stop. I saw it as our job to aid our listeners in sleeping, and, heck, everyone sleeps through a bass solo.”
• Musicians can be fired for odd reasons.Nicky Byrne of the boyband Westlife, which was started in 1998 byLouis Walsh, who had put Boyzone together, remembers that Mr. Walsh wanted the musicians who worked for him to be professional: “Louis always said he wanted hard workers rather than heart-throbs (or even talented singers).” Mr. Walsh twice fired all the members of Westlife. Mr. Byrne explains why: “He even sacked us twice for messing around; once, very early on, for throwing bread rolls at each other, while strolling in late for meetings. I remember him losing it, shouting: ‘You’ve let it all go to your heads. I don’t work with people like that.’ Thankfully, he listened when we begged him to take us back.”
• Producer Steve “Mr. Mig” Migliore started small with a studio in a room in the home of a friend’s parents in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He and the friend charged $25 an hour to produce and mix songs. But after a friendly music attorney named Brad Rubens introduced him to the major labels, he became big quickly. Mr. Migliore was broke and flipping hamburgers in a food court when he discovered that his remix of LeAnn Rimes’ “How Do I Live” had reached the top spot on Billboard’s adult contemporary chart. He immediately said, “Does this mean that I have a career?”
• Photographer Jim Marshall was using strobe lights as he took photographs of T-Bone Walker, and he asked Mr. Walker if he minded the lights. Mr. Walker replied that the lights did not bother him. He used to play music behind a wall of chicken wire so he and his fellow musicians wouldn’t get hit with bottles and other debris. And one time a guy who had shot somebody came into the bar. The bar manager told them to keep playing, and they did until the shooter passed out and the police arrested him. So, Mr. Walker said, “[T]hem lights don’t bother me none.”
• When Jerry Lee Lewis was still a teenager, he performed for $15 a night, playing from 1 a.m. until dawn at an after-hours bar run by Roy Hall on Commerce Street in Nashville, Tennessee. Jerry Lee was the youngest person there, and patrons let him hold onto their watches and jewelry because they figured that because he was so young, police would not search him if they busted the bar. Sure enough, police busted the bar, and Jerry Lee, who had at least 15 wristwatches on his arms, was the only person who was not searched.
• Jazz guitarist Freddie Green worked for a long time with Count Basie, but Count Basie laid him off when during a period of financial difficulty he went from leading a big band to leading a small group that did not include a guitarist. However, Mr. Green did not want to be laid off. Therefore, he simply showed up for a gig — even though Count Basie had not called him to come back and work. Simply showing up to play had the desired result. Count Basie welcomed Mr. Green back and started giving him a paycheck again.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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