David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3 — Mishaps, Money


• Jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie played a trumpet with the bell pointed upward. The story is that someone once accidentally sat on his horn, bending its bell. At first, Mr. Gillespie was angry, but then he discovered that he preferred the trumpet that way. Afterwards, he ordered all of his trumpets to be made with an upwards-pointing bell.

• World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma is a busy man — so busy that in October of 1999 he left his $2.5 million Montagnana cello in the trunk of a New York taxicab. Fortunately, he had a taxicab receipt, so police located the taxicab quickly. The cello was still in the trunk — the taxicab driver had not even realized that it was still there.

• While singing for the Metropolitan Opera during the 1950s, soprano Lucine Amara ran into a problem: New York can be a dirty city, and in the days before air conditioning dust settled everywhere in her apartment soon after dusting. She once cried, “I long for home! Even our dust is clean in San Francisco!”

• David Byrne, former front man for the Talking Heads, is a cyclist. In 2008, he crashed on West 14th Street in New York City. Two police officers arrived and asked him two questions: 1) Were you drinking? and 2) Are you David Byrne? Both questions have the same answer: yes.

• Even very good musicians can have an off night. A team of musicians led by jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis once mightily messed up “April in Paris.” After they had “played” the song, Mr. Marsalis announced to the audience that they had just heard “April Embarrassed.”

• While acting in the stage play Brouhaha, Peter Sellers danced a waltz right off the stage and into the orchestra pit, bruising himself badly. Comedian Spike Milligan sent him a telegram, asking, “Are you a member of the Musicians’ Union?”

• Camille (Charles) Saint-Saëns once attempted to accompany a duet sung by two girls who were never together in their vocals. He stopped playing, then asked, “Now tell me, which of you two am I supposed to accompany?”

• Operas may have been more fun in the past than they are today. When George Frideric Handel’s opera Sersewas produced, it was enlivened by Caffarelli, the lead singer, who liked to goose the sopranos on stage.


• Welsh singer Tom Jones is known both for his voice and for women throwing their underwear at him. The first time a woman gave him her underwear while he was performing was in 1968 at the Copacabana in New York. He was sweating, and since people had been eating at the supper club, a couple of people gave him their napkins to wipe his brow with. Then, Mr. Jones remembers, “This one woman stood up — up with the dress, down with the drawers. Took ’em off and handed them to me.” He wiped his brow with them and said, “Sweetheart, watch you don’t catch cold.” Mr. Jones married at age 16 and has stayed married. While he went to London to make it as a singer, his wife worked in a battery factory to support their young son. Mr. Jones vowed to make it big so that she didn’t have to work and so that he could support his family. One of the great achievements of his life was making enough money that his father could retire from working in the Welsh coal mines at age 50. Tom Jones himself could have ended up in the coal mines, but he contracted tuberculosis at age 13 and the doctor told Tom’s father, “Whatever you do, you can’t put this boy in a coal mine because he has weak lungs.” Mr. Jones says, “And the weird thing is, with weak lungs I’ve become a f**kin’ singer.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3 — Buy:

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