David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music, Volume 2 — Auditions, Autographs, Automobiles

Auditions

• Soul singer James Brown got his big break after he and his band, the Flames, took the stage without authorization during an intermission in a Little Richard concert in Macon, Georgia, in 1955. They wowed the crowd, and they wowed Little Richard’s road manager, who gave them the telephone number of the man who managed most Mason-based R&B acts: Clint Brantley. Sure enough, they showed up to audition for Mr. Brantley that Saturday. Unfortunately, Mr. Brantley was hung over and at first requested that they leave, but he relented enough to let them sing one song. They sang “Looking for My Mother,” and Mr. Brantley recalled, “Godd*mn, man, them sons-of-b*tches, they looked for her, too. All under the tables, all under the d*mned seats. Everywhere. When they got through, I said, ‘Boys, y’all can sing!’” And, of course, he signed the group.

• Early in her operatic career, Grace Moore sang “Depuis le jour” from Louise at an audition in front of conductor Albert Wolff. After she had finished singing, Mr. Wolff told her, “My dear, you have a beautiful voice, but you don’t know what you are singing about. Go out and live and then come back and sing it for me, and I will tell you what career you shall have.” Years later, Ms. Moore again sang “Depuis le jour” for Mr. Wolff. This time, he told her, “I don’t know what you have done since I spoke to you last, but you have exceeded expectations.”

Autographs

• Joe Moscheo, the pianist for the gospel group The Imperials, met Elvis Presley for the first time at a gospel-music gathering, and of course he asked Mr. Presley for his autograph — he lied and said that the autograph was for his mother, although he actually wanted it for himself. However, he was shocked when Mr. Presley knew who he was. Mr. Presley explained that he studied gospel music extensively and knew much more about gospel than most people thought he knew. Then he said about the autograph, “If you give me yours, I’ll give you mine.”

• Comedian Bill Hicks was backstage during the intermission of a concert by Ray Charles, where he witnessed a woman trying to get Mr. Charles’ autograph although members of Mr. Charles’ staff said that he did not sign autographs. Finally, a member of the staff said, “I sign autographs for Mr. Charles.” The woman said, “You do! Oh, thank you!” Mr. Hicks said, “Hey, I can get you John Lennon’s autograph.”

Automobiles

• Rocker Neil Young loves his cars. In 1966, when he was 20 years old, he drove a Pontiac hearse to LA from Toronto, Canada — 2,000 miles. His choice of a hearse was fortuitous, as the roomy back served as his home for months as he sought to establish himself. He even made appointments with other people to meet him at his home — that is, his hearse. After he became a wealthy rocker, Mr. Young continued to buy and drive interesting cars, including a 1951 Chrysler and a 1956 Cadillac — and even a 1950 Buick Roadmaster hearse.

• Tenor Mario del Monaco liked fast cars, and unfortunately in 1963 he had a serious accident in one, smashing his leg, which ended up several inches shorter than his other leg. Before he allowed physicians to work on his leg, he sang a loud high C to make sure that his voice was undamaged.

• In 1981, a 1971 Detomaso Pantera that had been owned by the late Elvis Presley was sold. The automobile was not in brand-new condition because its dashboard was riddled with bullet holes. After the car had refused to start one day, Mr. Presley shot it several times.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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