David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music — Fans, Fathers

Fans

• Enrico Caruso was so popular that audiences kept applauding him long after he wished to leave the opera house, thus forcing him to come up with hints for the members of the audience to go home. He sometimes appeared at the final curtain carrying his wig in his hand — or dressed in an overcoat, with his hat and his walking stick in one arm and a lit cigar in the other hand. He was so famous that whenever he went for a walk, he was forced to have a car follow him so that he could be driven away if mobs of admirers tried to surround him.

• Tom Jones, the male sex symbol and singing star, once was on tour in Mobile, Alabama. A limousine with a woman driver picked him up and drove away. They drove and drove, but the nightclub where he was to perform was still not in sight. Finally, Mr. Jones asked the driver, “Where are you taking me?” She replied, “I’m taking you to my house.” She wasn’t kidding. When they arrived at the driver’s house, 25 of her women friends were waiting to meet Mr. Jones.

• Susannah Cibber sang at the first performance of George Frideric Handel’s Messiahon April 23, 1742, in Dublin. Her emotion as she sang was overwhelming, and after she finished singing “He was Despised,” the chancellor of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dr. Patrick Delany, shouted, “Woman, for this, be all thy sins forgiven.” (According to music historians, Ms. Cibber had quite a few sins to be forgiven for.)

• Herman’s Hermits was a very popular pop group in the 1960s, recording such hits as “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” “Dandy,” and “I’m Henry VIII, I Am.” In 2000, they performed before nostalgic audiences often consisting of women in their 40s and 50s. According to lead singer Peter Noone, “Girls used to throw underwear at us. We still get some, but it’s bigger than it used to be.”

• There was so much screaming at the early Beatles concerts in the U.S. that the Beatles couldn’t hear themselves play. Once, the Beatles were discussing their performance after a concert. When the name of a certain song came up, Ringo said, “We didn’t play that song tonight.” The other Beatles looked at each other, and then said, “Wedid.”

• After singing the part of Sieglinde in Wagner’s Die Walküre, American soprano Olive Fremstad was cornered by a fan who told her, “I used to be so confused by Wagner, but tonight I really believe I understand it all!” Ms. Fremstad replied, “You are more fortunate than I, who have given my whole life to the study and still know so little.”

• At a party given by George Gershwin, the composer spent a lot of time talking about himself. During a pause in the Gershwin monologue, Oscar Levant asked, “Tell me, George, if you had to do it all over, would you fall in love with yourself again?”

Fathers

• Songwriter Sammy Cahn (“Love and Marriage,” “Three Coins in the Fountain,” “Call Me Irresponsible,” and “I’ll Walk Alone”) remembers attending Yom Kippur services with his father. Like the other Jews, his father was beating his breast and saying the Al Chet, a long list of sins that is recited on Yom Kippur. Suddenly, his father, who was not known to be a funny man, turned to him and whispered, “I don’t know why I’m beating my breast. I haven’t done anything.”

• Early in her career, Melissa Etheridge was given a lot of support by her father. She picked up early experience singing in bar bands, and her father would sit all night at whatever bar she was performing in because young Melissa was underage.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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