David Bruce: 250 Music Anecdotes — Work

• Frank Churchill and Paul Smith wrote beautiful music for Walt Disney, and they won Academy Awards for their music. One day, Mr. Disney was showing some guests — Charlie Chaplain and H.G. Wells — around his studio, and they all walked into the room where Mr. Churchill and Mr. Smith were supposed to be writing the music for Snow White. Apparently, the two composers were taking a break from music; instead of composing music together, one composer was setting on fire the other composer’s fart.

• Krissi Murison was the first female editor of NMEmagazine, aka New Music Express. When she was 15 years old, she was into music in a big way, and put green dye in her hair and tried to play guitar and sing in a band. She certainly looked the part of an indie music chick, but she admits, “I had absolutely no musical talent. I played a bit of really bad guitar and I tried to sing. I was so bad at guitar that when we played gigs they would just turn my mic down so I would just look the part.”

• In 1960, jazz guitarist Jim Hall couldn’t afford a telephone. Jazz tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins was reclusive and didn’t want or have a telephone. Nevertheless, they communicated. A note by Mr. Rollins appeared in Mr. Hall’s mailbox one day. Mr. Hall then put his own note in Mr. Rollins’ mailbox. They exchanged notes for a while, and when Mr. Rollins decided to start playing jazz in public again in 1961, he offered Mr. Hall a job playing in his pianoless quartet.

• The early punk rock group Television wanted to play music at CBGB’s, so they asked owner Hilly Kristal for permission. He asked what kind of music they played, and in return they asked what the sign “CBGB-OMFUG” meant. Hilly told them it meant “Country, Bluegrass, Blues, and Other Music for Uplifting Gourmandizers.” The members of Television then lied and said that that was exactly the kind of music they played.

• Chicago tenor saxophonist Von Freeman started playing professionally at age 12. When he showed up for his first day at work, he gave this note from his mother to the nightclub manager: “Don’t let him drink, don’t let him smoke, don’t let him consort with those women, and make him stay in that dressing room.” The nightclub manager told him to do something to make himself look older, so he drew a mustache on his face.

• Harry “Sweets” Edison played jazz trumpet for Count Basie, but he almost quit shortly after being hired. The band played mostly without written music, and Sweets wasn’t sure what notes to play. He told this to Count Basie, who knew that Sweets could play and who told him, “If you find a note tonight that sounds good, play the same d*mned note every night!”

• Communism has some major faults, including giving way much power to petty bureaucrats. One city official insisted that musicians paid to perform in a park must play for eight straight hours with no intermissions. When the musicians protested, the official stated, “The Government knows best what is and is not possible.”

• For various reasons, people decide to make their living creating music.The Mississippi Sheiks’ Walter Vinson, who used to work as a field hand, had a very good reason for quitting and taking off with his guitar to play country blues: “I’m not going to spend the rest of my life behind a mule that’s farting.”

• Marian Anderson was a famous singer of opera and African-American spirituals. Occasionally, someone would tell her that they would do anything to be able to sing like her. She would smile and then ask, “Would you practice eight hours a day?”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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