David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3 — Rehearsals, Revenge, Success


• Violinist Bronislav Huberman would not rehearse with conductor Pierre Monteux. Just before a rehearsal, he would send Mr. Monteux a telegram saying, “You know it, I know it, the orchestra knows it; will see you at the concert!” Actually, Mr. Huberman was correct. He, Mr. Monteux, and the orchestra had worked together so much that they knew the music they would perform together, and so the concerts always went well.

• Conductor Arturo Toscanini was passionate about music and wanted all of his musicians to put their blood into their work the way he did. At a rehearsal, he told his orchestra, “Put your blood! I put my blood!” (By the way, Arturo Toscanini enjoyed listening to music on records — while listening, he had a habit of holding his baton and conducting.)


• Jazz musician Louis Armstrong ran into prejudice while performing in the Jim Crow South. On one concert tour, the white wife of his manager did the managing and traveled with Mr. Armstrong and his band. She arranged for the buses they traveled in, and she always ordered a bus with a soft back seat for Mr. Armstrong. Once, a bus she had ordered in Memphis arrived, but it did not have the soft seat she had ordered, so she began to argue. Somehow, the police showed up. They saw a white woman and a lot of black men, so they arrested the black men. The Memphis police chief said that one way to get out of the difficulty was for Mr. Armstrong and his band to perform on Memphis radio, and the black musicians had to agree although they had done nothing wrong. Mr. Armstrong got a measure of revenge, however, by dedicating a song to the Memphis police chief: “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal, You.”

• These anecdotes fall into the category of dirty tricks rather than harmless pranks. Alfred Hertz was forced to use a cane when walking very far. As conductor of Wagnerian operas at the Metropolitan Opera from 1902 to 1915, he used to leave his cane at the side of the orchestra pit, then walk to the podium. Musicians who disliked him would get his cane, then grease it. And in 1968-1969, youths threw eggs at several opera-goers at Milan. Why? The opera-goers were very well dressed, and the youths wanted opera to be democratized.


• Hillary Scott is one of the vocalists of Lady Antebellum (the other members are Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood), and she and the band are making a success — and she is grateful for it. On April 15, 2008, the band’s self-titled debut album came out. At 3 a.m., Ms. Scott was in a Wal-Mart in Nashville, watching as the band’s album was stocked in the new-releases section, in between James Otto and Mariah Carey. She even started to cry. Ms. Scott says, “I was so overcome with emotion. Not only because I had worked my whole life for this, but because of how much we’d worked since we got together. These songs were our babies. I can’t tell you how overwhelming this was. I just lost it.”

• Eminem got his big break because Interscope Records executive Jimmy Iovine left Eminem’s EP titled The Slim Shady EP on his garage floor. Rapper and music executive Dr. Dre visited Mr. Iovine and saw the EP. He liked the cover, insisted on hearing the EP, and was impressed by what he heard. Dr. Dre says, “In my entire career in the music industry, I have never found anything from a demo tape or a CD. But when Jimmy played me this tape, I said, ‘Find him. Now.’” Of course, Eminem has had enormous success as a rapper, but he says that he is prepared if he ever stops being successful in music because he can go back to his first job: washing dishes.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3 — Buy:

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