• The Ramones were an odd-looking group to many people in the American Midwest. On one tour, they had been in a van for hours, and when they finally got out — somewhat bedraggled — and went into a Texas gas-station mini-market, the gas-station attendant turned to tour manager Monte A. Melnick and said, “It’s so nice of you to take care of those retarded boys.” Other people grouped the Ramones with such bands as the Sex Pistols because they played punk rock. Of course, the Sex Pistols were loud and crude in their personal lives, and they trashed motel rooms. In the 1970s, in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Ramones stayed in a motel where the Sex Pistols had stayed, and Mr. Melnick saw this note behind the desk: “Watch out for the Ramones. They are dangerous.” Actually, the Ramones didn’t trash many motel or hotel rooms — they simply weren’t making enough money to pay for the damage. Not making much money led to some creative cost-cutting maneuvers. They discovered that in exchange for a few autographed photographs, they could often get free meals at such restaurants as the Cracker Barrel, and so they carried around a lot of autographed photographs just for that purpose.
• Americans have an international reputation as litterbugs. An example: The German pianist Walter Gieseking was riding on a train to Cleveland when he bought an apple from a boy and began to peel it. Soon he had a couple of feet of peel hanging from the apple and nowhere to dispose of it. Taking thought, he threw the peel under the seat, then told his companions, “Like the Americans.” Another example: Oberlin College accompanist W.K. Breckenridge was traveling in Switzerland when an American companion threw some litter on the ground. Immediately, a Swiss boy picked it up and stuffed it into his pocket. “You don’t want that, do you?” asked the American. “No,” answered the Swiss boy, “but I don’t want you to get arrested.”
• Jerry Clower used to tell funny stories at meetings at which he sold fertilizer. At one meeting, someone in the audience taped him, then sent the tape to MCA Records. The people at MCA telephoned Mr. Clower and told him that the next time he was in the vicinity of Los Angeles to come in and talk with them about recording for them. Mr. Clower replied, “I ain’t never gonna be in that vicinity. Fellow, you don’t leave Yazoo City, Mississippi, and just drop by Los Angeles.” However, Mr. Clower kept talking, and he discovered that MCA Records had contracts with country singers Loretta Lynn, Bill Monroe, Jeannie Pruett, Ernest Tubb, and Conway Twitty, so he signed a five-year contract, and 30 days later he had his first gold record.
• As general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, Edward Johnson sometimes led by having good spirits. Once, when the Met was on tour and leaving Bloomington, Indiana, on a train on a rainy morning with nearly everyone’s spirits low, Mr. Johnson brightened everyone up by going from car to car in the train singing, “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’.”
• Gioacchino Rossini had a ready wit, which came in handy for defeating bores. A bore asked him to look at two songs he had written and recommend one for publication. Mr. Rossini looked at the first song, then told the bore, “I’d print the second one. It couldn’t possibly be worse than the first.” Another bore asked him to listen to two piano pieces he had composed and tell him which one he liked better. Mr. Rossini listened to the first piece, then said, “Never mind playing the second. I like it better already.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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