David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music, Volume 2 — Wit, Work


• Blues musician B.B. King spent a lot of time on the road, a fact that contributed to some failed marriages. Therefore, he was not as eager as some of the women he dated to get married. He once said, “It really hurts me when a lady says, ‘We’ve been to dinner three times. What are your intentions?’” In one case, a woman gave him an ultimatum, saying that if he didn’t marry her then she would marry someone else. He replied, “Go ahead. I’ll bring my guitar and sing at your wedding.”


• Chip Dayton took a lot of photographs of the Ramones, many of which appeared in this book: Ramones: Photographs by Chip Dayton. He had “access all areas” status, and he was privy to much of what the Ramones did backstage. One thing that impressed him was that the Ramones would meet backstage to perform a ritual before performing. Tommy would drum on a table or on a little drummer pad. Johnny and Dee Dee would strum their guitars. Joey wouldn’t sing, but he would go “D-D-D-D-DUN, D-D-D-D-DUN.” The Ramones would be really intense about this ritual, and definitely no talking was allowed in the dressing room while they went through it. Mr. Dayton says that it is obvious why they did it — “so they’d be a groove when they walked out [onstage] and plugged in. I never saw another band do that.”

• Nina Simone started out as a classical pianist, and she hoped to become the first African-American concert pianist; however, she started to play music in a bar in Atlantic City to make money, and she became a singer through an accident. Harry Steward hired her to play at the Midtown, and he enjoyed her piano playing her first night on the job; however, when he had hired her, he had thought that he had hired a singer, so after he had complimented her on her piano playing, he asked her to sing the next night. When she told him, “I’m only a pianist,” he replied, “Well, tomorrow night you’re either a singer or you’re out of a job.” She did sing the next night, and she was immediately popular.

• According to Meredith Willson, author of The Music Man and at one time a piccolo player with Mr. John Philip Sousa’s band, every member of the band was an accomplished musician — with one exception. The exception was a man who played second bass clarinet in the band for five years. Everything went fine until the musician who played first bass clarinet became ill. As soon as the second bass clarinet was asked to play first bass clarinet, he quietly and quickly packed his bags and left town. It turned out that the musician couldn’t play a note, but no one ever noticed because a bass clarinet has a mild tone, was placed in a noisy section of Sousa’s band, and second bass clarinetists don’t play solos.

• As a 23-year-old musician, Branford Marsalis got to play with some true jazz greats, including pianist Herbie Hancock, drummer Tony Williams, and bassist Ron Carter. Mr. Marsalis was in awe of these musicians, but unfortunately, his awe badly affected his playing ability. Mr. Carter even told him, “We’re delighted by the fact that you’re in awe of us. But we’re playing you money to play, and you ain’t playing!” The talk helped, and Mr. Marsalis started playing better — and the next time he played with these greats, he was able to hold his own. This time he said, “I felt like a peer, not a subordinate.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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