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


• It seems very unlikely to me that being a drug addict has any advantages whatsoever; however, Ron Asheton, guitarist for Iggy and the Stooges, once received a telephone call from an IRS agent who told him that the band owed a lot of money in back taxes. The story — which is most likely untrue — goes that Mr. Asheton told the IRS agent the unfortunately true statement, “Hey, look, man. We’re all drug addicts. We don’t know where the money is.” The IRS agent supposedly said, “Oh,” hung up the telephone, and did not press them for payment of back taxes. (The truth is probably that Iggy and the Stooges didn’t owe any back taxes; they were far from being a very commercially successful band.)

• When blues music lessened in popularity in the United States, blues musicians such as Howlin’ Wolf started touring in Europe, including communist countries. During one tour, Howlin’ Wolf was paid half in American money and half in the local currency, and he was warned to be sure to spend the foreign money as he would not be able to exchange it for American money. Also, Howlin’ Wolf once said that he didn’t want to buy anything and therefore he wanted to donate his foreign currency to the local YMCA. Unfortunately, the German promoter who had put together the tour was forced to explain that communist countries, due to government suppression of religion, didn’t have any YMCAs.

• T-Bone Burnett has made music over 40 years, and he has found much success, including a 2002 Grammy win for Album of the Year for O Brother, Where Art Thou? Of course, his life wasn’t always easy. In 1970, he became a starving artist in Los Angeles. T-Bone says, “My roommate was a wedding musician, and he’d bring home wedding cake and we’d eat cake for three or four days.” Even though O Brother, Where Art Thou? sold 7 million copies, he is not a commercial artist, and he does not make a ton of money. He says, “Making money isn’t an appropriate goal for making music. If you want to print money, buy a printing press, not a guitar. The guitar is the wrong tool for that.”

• Blues singer Bessie Smith could be earthy, something that occasionally cost her. She once interrupted one of her songs during an audition for Black Swan Records by saying, “Hold on! Let me spit!” Horrified, the president of Black Swan Records told her that she had failed the audition. Of course, being earthy does not mean you can’t sing the blues; if anything, it probably makes you a better blues singer. Musician Bix Beiderbecke, who was white but did not let that stop him from being an artist in jazz music, once threw his salary for an entire week up on stage so Bessie would sing a few more songs.

• Singer Sarah Brightman was happily married for a while to composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, but they divorced, and now they have a good relationship as a divorced couple. In the divorce settlement, Ms. Brightman was awarded £6 million. Of course, Ms. Brightman has done rather well as an actress in Cats and Phantom of the Opera and as a recording artist, so one day she asked her ex-husband about the £6 million, “Look, I’m doing all right. Would you like it back?” He replied, “No, you went through all of that — you keep it.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3 — Buy:

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