David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music, Volume 2 — Children, Christmas, Clothing


• Sir Thomas Beecham, the world-class conductor of classical music, once was staying at a rented house when he was disturbed by the noise made by a local boys’ band. Sir Thomas suggested that the boys practice further away, and one of the boys told him, “You don’t appreciate good music.”

• Music critic Warren Zanes’ son was greedy for mother’s milk after he was born; in fact, Mr. and Mrs. Zanes referred to him as “The Milk Pig.” They even speculated for a while that their son would devour his mother the same way that many people devour a chicken dinner — they start with the breast.

• Poly Styrene, the pseudonym of Marian Elliot-Said, was a well-known British female punk rocker who started writing protest songs when she was only five years old. She explains, “Our dinner lady used to make me eat meat and I didn’t want to so I wrote a song about it.”


• Mark Evanier, a blogger at <newsfromme.com>, ate frequently at the Farmers Market in Los Angeles. One day near Christmas, as a group of four young people were strolling around and singing carols, he noticed Mel Tormé, aka the Velvet Fog, sitting at a table eating an English muffin, drinking coffee, and reading The New York Times. Therefore, he motioned the carolers to come to him and told them that Mel Tormé was sitting at the nearby table. Because they were so young, they didn’t knew who Mel Tormé was, so he explained that Mr. Tormé was a co-writer of “The Christmas Song,” which begins with “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire ….” After hearing this, the carolers approached Mr. Tormé’s table and started to sing “The Christmas Song.” With a big smile, Mr. Tormé got up to sing a few lines near the end of the song. The head of the carolers had a worried expression on his face as he wondered whether this short, fat, elderly man could sing, but of course the Velvet Fog sang perfectly. Everyone sang the last line of the song together, and nearby auditors broke into spontaneous applause. The leader of the carolers told Mr. Tormé, “You know, you’re not a bad singer.” Of course, Mr. Tormé realized that the leader of the carolers had little idea who he was, so he said, “Well, I’ve actually made a few records in my day….” “Really,” the leader of the carolers said. “How many?” Mr. Tormé replied, “Ninety.”

• In 1993, around Christmas, country music superstar Garth Brooks saw a man and woman carrying their one-year-old daughter and some bags of groceries. He gave them a ride to their home, during which he learned that the young couple’s car had broken down, and they could not afford to have it fixed. Mr. Brooks returned in an hour to give them the keys to a 1986 Chevrolet Caprice Classic. (He gave them the car, too.) The woman thought she recognized him and asked if he was Garth Brooks, but Mr. Brooks said only that he was a fan of the popular country singer.


• Atomic Records, an independent record store in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, gave away lots of free T-shirts to band members. Rich Menning, owner of Atomic Records, says, “In the early days, we’d give them away like candy just for the thrill of maybe seeing them in a photo later on.” Giving the T-shirts away did result in a few thrills. Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins wore one for the artwork of their compilation album Judas Iscariot. A member of Teenage Fanclub wore one for the artwork of their “Norman 3” single. Dave Abbruzzese of Pearl Jam wore one while performing on Saturday Night Live. Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick wore one for their encore at a concert on Milwaukee’s lakefront. Mr. Menning, however, admits, “I’ve always figured the wearing of the Atomic t-shirt thing was more a matter of hygiene for touring bands and not so much a show of love. … I figured the bands only wore them because it meant they could go one more day without having to stop and do their laundry.” Unfortunately, Atomic Records closed in 2009.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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