David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music, Volume 2 — Competition, Composers

Competition

• During the 1950s, Jamaican bar and dance-hall owners traveled throughout the United States looking for the best records to play. In these battles of the sound systems, a system owner with a good record would try to keep it secret from other system owners. Often, the system owner would either scratch the name of the producer and the title of the song off the record label or would paste a false label with a false name and a false title over the original record label.

• Roy Henderson once sang with a small-town choral society in Yorkshire. At the end of the concert, the conductor asked what he thought of the choir. Of course, Mr. Henderson replied that it was a very good choir, and the conductor said, “Aye, an’ I don’t mind tellin’ ee that we ’ad four basses ready to taak thy part if tha’d conked out.”

Composers

• John Philip Sousa composed “The Stars and Stripes Forever” in 1896, while returning from a European tour. While he was on board ship, it seemed as if a band were playing in his head, and when he reached land, he wrote down the music the band had been playing. He felt strongly about the title — when his music publisher wanted the title to be “Stars and Stripes,” Mr. Sousa insisted that the word “Forever” remain in the title. Of course, this became his most famous composition, and it remained a part of his concerts until the end of his life. Paul Bierley, an expert on Mr. Sousa’s life and music, says, “He would have been tarred and feathered if he didn’t play it. When the March King came to town, you had to hear ‘The Stars and Stripes Forever.’” On March 6, 1932, Mr. Sousa conducted a concert in Reading, Pennsylvania. The last composition his band played was, as you would expect, “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” Later that day, at age 77, Mr. Sousa died.

• Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham wrote a number of R&B hits of the 1960s, including “I’m Your Puppet,” “Dark End of the Street,” and “Sweet Inspiration.” They worked hard, but their method of delivering their songs to the musicians was unusual — they wrote late until the night and early the next morning, then they left the pages on which they had written their songs on the floor for the musicians to pick up later. Mr. Penn says, “It was kinda like, take that! We worked hard, we wrote a good song, now there it is! You pick it up! Bend over!”

• Composer Giuseppe Verdi, composer of La Traviata, Aida, and Otello, was greatly loved by the Italian people. When he was old, he entered a buffet at a railroad station, and all present stood up with their hats off until he sat down. After he had finished his meal, all present stood up again and lined his path to the train with their cloaks, which Verdi stepped on as he bowed and acknowledged his countrymen’s compliment.

• Famous bandleader and musician Tito Puente once guest-starred on The Simpsons. When he met Alf Clausen, who conducts the music for The Simpsons, Mr. Puente immediately asked, “What I want to know first is, am Igoing to tell you what to do or are you going to tell me what to do?” Mr. Clausen said, “Well, I’m a really good listener,” and Mr. Puente replied, “All right, you tell me what to do.”

• Bullies are common in English boarding schools. Edward Elgar showed up for his first day at school when a bully asked him for his name. He replied, “Edward Elgar,” but the bully snapped, “Say ‘Sir’!” So he said, “Sir Edward Elgar.” Later, after becoming a world-famous composer, he was knighted.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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