David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music, Volume 2 — Awards, Bathrooms, Big Breaks


• Ellen Zwilich is the first woman ever to win the Pulitzer Prize in music; in 1983, she won for her composition Symphony No. 1: Three Movements for Orchestra. Afterward, she was surprised by the number of people who asked her, “How does it feel to be the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in music?” Her usual reply was, “I hope it’s the last time gender is more important than creativity.”

• Harlan Howard, Roger Miller, and Willie Nelson had a wonderful time one year at the BMI Awards dinner in Nashville. Each and every time a winner was announced, the trio would jump up and run to accept the award, causing mass amounts of confusion until the real winner appeared on stage.


• The pediatrician of opera critic Patrick J. Smith was very good at giving his own criticisms of bad productions at the New York Metropolitan Opera. He once stated about a certain production, “It needs a collective glycerine suppository up the rear.”

• Louis Armstrong had cards made up with his picture on them — the picture showed him sitting on the toilet. Celebrity interviewer Joe Franklin says, “He was the only guy I knew who gave out cards like that.”

Big Breaks

• How did one get to be a member of the Beatles, perhaps the most famous and influential band in rock-and-roll history? John Lennon became a member simply by starting his own musical group as a teenager. He started a group called the Blackjacks, which became the Quarry Men, and through a series of personnel changes eventually became the Beatles. John invited Paul McCartney to join the Quarry Men because of his superior musicianship — Paul could tune his guitar, which is something none of the Quarry Men could do. George Harrison idolized John, but was invited to join the Quarry Men mainly because his mother was willing to let the Quarry Men practice at her house. Ringo Starr joined the Beatles after Pete Best was forced out of the group, allegedly for either sub-standard drumming or for being the best-looking Beatle. According to speculation, aka vicious gossip, Paul wanted to be the heartthrob of the group, and he felt threatened by Pete’s good looks. If that is true, Ringo may have been asked to join the Beatles just before they became rich and famous simply because he could drum and had a big nose. Of course, the group became very big very quickly. When they landed at JFK Airport on February 7, 1964, for their first visit to the United States, their fans made so much commotion that the Beatles thought that either Elvis Presley or the President of the United States was landing at the same time.

• B.B. King got a lucky break early in his career in Memphis. Bluesman and radio host Sonny Boy Williamson made a mistake and agreed to sing at two different clubs at the same time, an obvious impossibility. Therefore, he decided to let B.B. sing at one of the clubs — the one that paid less. However, he knew that the owner of that club, Miss Annie, was tough and would not let B.B. play at her club unless he could bring in some customers. No problem. Sonny Boy knew how to make B.B. a celebrity in a hurry — he simply put B.B. on his radio show and had him play some music. Miss Annie and lots of potential customers were listening, and B.B. brought in a bunch of customers when he played at Miss Annie’s club. Another early job that B.B. had at about the same time was selling a popular all-purpose tonic called Pepticon. He played his guitar and sang and then sold Pepticon. For a long time, he wondered why Pepticon was so popular, then he discovered that it was 12 percent alcohol.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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