David Bruce: 250 Music Anecdotes — Husbands and Wives, Illnesses and Injuries and Rehab

Husbands and Wives

• When Barbara Brooks, wife of country singer Kix Brooks of Brooks and Dunn fame, fell from a horse, she ended up in a hospital. One of the things she noticed was that a different person would appear each time she had to give a blood sample. The head of the department eventually apologized to her for this. The workers in the department were taking turns drawing her blood because they wanted to see the wife of a famous country and western singer.

• In the documentary Too Tough to Die: A Tribute to Johnny Ramone, Rob Zombie says that Johnny told him that he and his wife, Linda, were walking down a street in New York. Johnny was carrying groceries, but when he saw a fan, he said to his wife, “Linda, take the groceries. I can’t have a fan see me carrying groceries.” Linda said, “F**k you, John. Then leave them in the f**king street.” Rob says, “John was all about cool.”

Illnesses and Injuries and Rehab

• Jazz drummer Buddy Rich was a personal friend of Johnny Carson. When Mr. Rich became severely ill and worried that he might not ever play the drums again, one of Ed McMahon’s friends called Mr. McMahon and said, “Ed, I’m going to make a strange request. Buddy is as down as a man can be. Would you and Johnny consider coming down to visit him? And the sooner, the better.” Ed told Johnny that Buddy was ill, and Johnny immediately thought of a way to cheer him up: He and Ed would visit him and do a sketch with Johnny portraying Carnak the Magnificent. Carnac, of course, was gifted at divining the answers to questions. He would say the answer, and then he would open a sealed envelope that contained the question. As Johnny wanted, the jokes were somewhat bawdy. One example: Carnac stated that the answer was, “Dry hump.” The question was, “What does a camel do after a bath?” The laughter therapy worked: Buddy made an incredible recovery.

• Dee Dee Ramone, bass player for the Ramones, was heavily into drug abuse for a lot of years. (He eventually died of a heroin overdose.) According to a Ramones roadie, Dee Dee would sometimes ask to do cocaine with the roadies. They would lay out five lines of cocaine, but Dee Dee would snort more than the one line laid out for him — he would snort all five lines, then say, “Oops! I slipped.” Dee Dee owned a cat named Orlando at a time when he was smoking lots of marijuana. Eventually, the cat came into the possession of Ramones tour manager Monte A. Melnick, who said that the cat was so high from all of Dee Dee’s marijuana smoke that it was bouncing off the walls for a month before it calmed down. Mr. Melnick says, “Orlando is the only cat I’ve met that has gone through rehab.”

• In 1907, opera singer Enrico Caruso needed to visit a doctor, but he did not want the media to find out about the visit, so he decided to visit the doctor incognito; therefore, Mr. Caruso used the name of his voice coach and accompanist, Richard Barthelemy. Following the examination, the doctor said, “All right, Mr. Caruso, I’ll get you well.” Surprised, Mr. Caruso asked, “You know me then, doctor?” The doctor smiled and replied, “Mr. Caruso, after years on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera, do you present yourself here and expect to pass incognito? Why did you give me the name of your friend instead of your own? Don’t you know that doctors are held to professional secrecy?”

• Russian conductor Vasily Safonov got very seasick while crossing the Atlantic. Violinist Fritz Kreisler’s wife was on board, and she tried to comfort him by singing the Russian national anthem to him, but he begged her, “Please don’t do that, or I shall have to get on my feet.”

***

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David Bruce: 250 Music Anecdotes — Good Deeds (and Bad)

Good Deeds (and Bad)

• The Dutch band the Ex makes odd music. They chose their name because it could be easily written on walls, and they drew straws to determine which band member would play which instrument. In 1983, they made four 7-inch singles about a closed factory in the area where the band formed: the Amsterdam suburb of Wormer. The band does have a sense of humor: For a year, it ran a 7-inch singles club, but the last single they sent out was 12 inches, so it would not fit in the box that held the 7-inch singles. The band is also capable of doing good deeds: It toured Ethiopia, giving free concerts in places where hardly any musicians, including Ethiopian musicians, went. The band members took along amplifiers and generators, but they left them behind for Ethiopian musicians to use. In addition, they gave away many free cassette tapes. Guitarist Andy Moor says, “Everyone still uses cassettes there. We went back to pressing up cassettes, giving them out to taxi drivers all over the place. So at least theyknow what we sound like.”

• Music photographer Jim Marshall could be abrasive, but he had many, many friends. In 1983, Steve Goodman was playing with Johnny Cash in Eugene, Oregon. Mr. Goodman, who is famous for writing the song “The City of New Orleans,” a hit sung by Arlo Guthrie, was suffering from leukemia, had lost his hair, and knew that he had little time left to live. Mr. Marshall avoided photographing his friend because of his lack of hair, figuring that his friend would not want his photograph taken, but after the concert, Mr. Goodman said to him, “Hey, Jimmy, I know that you’re not taking pictures of me because of the way I look, but it’s OK, man. I’d like to be in your book someday.” Mr. Marshall promised him that he would be in the book, and a photograph that Mr. Marshall took appears in his first major book, Not Fade Away: The Rock & Roll Photography of Jim Marshall. Mr. Marshall writes about Mr. Goodman, “He was one of the real good guys and a good friend.”

• Taylor Swift learned how to play a 12-string guitar in part because of a bad deed and a good deed — and because of her own desire and determination. Here she explains the bad deed: “I actually learned [to play guitar] on a 12-string because some guy told me that I would never be able to play it, that my fingers were too small. Anytime somebody tells me that I can’t do something, I want to do it more.” A good deed helped her learn how to play. She explains that a computer repairman at her house helped her get started: “In this magical twist of fate, the guy who my parents had hired to come fix my computer [taught me]. I’m doing my homework and he looks round and sees the guitar in the corner and he looks [at me] and says, ‘Do you know how to play guitar?’ I was like, ‘Ah, no.’ He said, ‘Do you want me to teach you a few chords?’ After that, I was relentless. I wanted to play all the time.”

• Pianist Van Cliburn, who did not smoke or drink, did many good deeds in his life, including many before he became wealthy. Once, when his life savings amounted to a little more than $1,000, he donated that money to help buy a much-needed piano for the church he attended in New York City. He also gave up a $500 engagement — when $500 was a small fortune to him — to perform for free at a church banquet. After visiting Russia, he carried back to the United States a lilac bush that a Russian fan of Sergei Rachmaninoff had asked him to plant at the head of Rachmaninoff’s grave in Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, New York.

• For many years, Doc Severensen and his band provided the house music for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Mr. Carson stood up for his band. On one show Ray Charles performed, and on air he yelled to the drummer of Doc’s band, “Pick up the pace!” After the show was over, Mr. Carson went to Mr. Charles’ dressing room and said, “Ray, there’s a drummer in Doc’s band who needs an apology.” Mr. Charles, a man of class, agreed that he had behaved unprofessionally: He apologized to the entire band.

• When opera singer Helen Traubel’s aunt and uncle suffered severe financial losses, she used to put $10 on her uncle’s dresser each day — unasked — so he wouldn’t be embarrassed by asking her for money.

***

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David Bruce: 250 Music Anecdotes — Good Deeds (and Bad)

Good Deeds (and Bad)

• At a concert featuring hardcore group Black Flag, a bouncer unnecessarily roughed up a woman in the audience. Black Flag bassist Chuck Dukowski saw what was happening, did not like what he saw, and hit the bouncer’s head with the end of his bass, resulting in the bouncer going to a hospital to get stitches. After the show, Black Flag’s kick drum was missing, and a different bouncer said that to get the kick drum back they would have to go to the manager’s office. The kick drum was there, and so was the manager — who felt safe because his bouncers were also there. The manager criticized the Black Flag members, calling them “f**kups,” but they got the kick drum. They also learned that the club’s owner had called other clubs that Black Flag was going to play at and told these clubs not to pay Black Flag because they were troublemakers. Unfortunately, at this club and at other clubs women are often not safe at music concerts. In 1984, during a Black Flag concert in Hamburg, Germany, three women in the audience had their tops torn off. Mr. Rollins gave his shirt to one of the women, but his shirt was also torn off her body. Mr. Rollins says, “So much for my good deed.” And at a club in Los Angeles, Mr. Rollins noticed that the security guys were frisking everybody who came in. He says that “[t]he girls got searched extra carefully” because “the security guys [were] getting in a good feel when they could.” One way in which Mr. Rollins — a big, muscular man — is sensitive is that when he notices that he is walking behind a lone woman, he will slow down and let her put some distance between him and her. He knows that often women are afraid that they will get attacked on the street. He also knows that they can be scared by his presence. He says, “I’ve had girls run into stores and wait until I pass before they come out.” Unfortunately, women sometimes have good reason to be afraid of men.

• When Count Basie put together his 15-piece Count Basie Orchestra, it took time for the band to jell. They were playing at the Grand Terrace in Chicago, and they were supposed to play a score that the ballroom provided. Unfortunately, many of the musicians in the band could not read music, and they were forced to fake it. Trumpet player Buck Clayton said, “We had to do the best we could, which was nothing. We abused that show every night we were there.” Fortunately, bandleader, composer, and arranger Fletcher Henderson saw the show, realized the musicians were struggling, and helped them. He lent Count Basie his own arrangements for the show, and he helped coach the musicians on how to play his arrangements. Count Basie said, “He was the only bandleader in the business who ever went out of his way to help me. Without his help, we would have been lost.” Of course, the band soon jelled and became famous, and Count Basie helped other musicians, including a young Quincy Jones, whom he had met when young Quincy snuck backstage at a show by carrying under his arm a music instrument case — which was empty. Years later, Count Basie tried some of Quincy’s arrangements and liked them very much — and made popular records out of them. Of course, Count Basie learned a lot while making music in St. Louis, Missouri, where musicians played hours and hours, including hours and hours after the show ended. One song could last a very long time. Pianist Sammy Price remembered those long jam sessions: He played, and then he left for three hours. He said that when he returned, “They were playing the same song.”

• Country singer/songwriter Hank Williams could be very generous. One day he was in a car with guitarist Clent Holmes driving. The car was filled up with various items, including fishing poles, but when they saw a hitchhiking hobo, Mr. Williams told Mr. Holmes to stop the car. Mr. Williams told the hobo, “We’re full up and can’t you take you anywhere, my friend, but here’s some money so you can buy some food.” (Hank Williams fan and biographer Paul Hemphill wrote in Lovesick Blues, “The way he [Mr. Williams] spread the wealth when he had it, you can be sure he didn’t just give the fellow a couple of dollar bills.” By the way, Mr. Williams worked with Fred Rose when recording his music. Mr. Rose helped manage Mr. Williams’ career and once went to Decca and several other labels trying to find the right record company for Mr. Williams. After Mr. Rose walked out of a Decca executive’s office, the Decca executive telephoned Mr. Williams and tried to take Mr. Rose’s place, saying, “What can Fred Rose do for you?” Mr. Williams was loyal and snapped, “He’s got you calling me, ain’t he?” before hanging up.

***

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David Bruce: 250 Music Anecdotes — Friends, Games, Gifts

Friends

• Kinky Friedman once was walking when a Cadillac pulled up beside him and fellow country musician Waylon Jennings told him, “Get in, Kink. Walkin’ ’s bad for your image.” By the way, Mr. Friedman once asked Willie Nelson, “Who were the most unlikely, spiritually weird golf partners you’ve ever had?” Mr. Nelson told him about going to the Bahamas to get away from the world for a while. He went to a golf course and saw John Lennon and John Belushi and played golf with them. The meeting was entirely accidental. All three of them were there to get away from the world, and none of them knew that the others would be there.

• Like many musicians, George Duke stood outside of clubs that he was too young to enter just so that he could listen to the music. Later he became friends with Stanley Clarke, and the two appeared on each other’s jazz albums so often that eventually they stopped charging each other. Instead, Mr. Duke would say to Mr. Clarke, “Look, you play two songs on my record and I’ll play two on yours.”

Games

• Opera singer Nellie Melba occasionally gambled at Monte Carlo. She once lost the money she had with her and asked a friend named Baron Hirsch for a loan of 1,000 francs, which he reluctantly gave her. The next day, she sent him a check to repay the loan. Two days later, she received a gift from him: a diamond brooch. With it came this note: “Dear Madame Melba, You are the first woman who has ever paid me back money which she had borrowed. I am so touched that I have taken the liberty of buying you the enclosed little brooch, which I hope you will accept as a token of my admiration.” Ms. Melba once saw an old woman who kept betting on the number five. She ran out of money and asked someone for a loan to put on the number five, but before she received the money the wheel began to spin. What was the number the ball landed on? Five. And Ms. Melba once saw someone put some money on red and some money on black and said that for sure she would win. The ball landed on zero.

• Four members of the Cab Calloway band — Milt Hinton, Paul Webster, Hilton Jefferson, and Tyree Glenn — used to play pinochle together. At those games they would use vulgar language. But when they started playing bridge, their language became more refined. Mr. Hinton still remembers Mr. Glenn asking, “Sugarloafs, why did you trump my ace?”

Gifts

• Early in their career, the Spice Girls demanded — and got — attention. Sometimes, they roller-bladed — without an invitation — into the offices of music executives. They also crashed music-industry parties. Ashley Newton, an executive for Virgin Records, remembers, “I’ll never forget the day they burst in here. They caused such a commotion, doing a mad routine in the office, all talking at once and being funny.” The Spice Girls signed with Virgin Records and soon sold millions of records. After they signed with Virgin Records, the Spice Girls threw a party for all of their parents as a way of thanking them for being supportive in the days before they learned their art. And when the Spice Girls met to record “Love Thing,” Geri “Ginger Spice” Halliwell, gave all of her fellow Spice Girls gold rings inscribed with the word “Spice.”

• Comedian Russell Brand became engaged to singer Katy Perry in January of 2010. How did this come about? Partly through an exchange of gifts. During an awards show, they met backstage and liked each other. Mr. Brand later gifted her with a love poem, and she gifted him with a photograph of her breasts.

***

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David Bruce: 250 Music Anecdotes — Food, Friends

Food

• In August of 1975, five-year-old Debbie Gibson, future pop singer and writer of “Lost in Your Eyes,” celebrated her birthday at her favorite restaurant — one that her family ate at twice a year: Christmas and Debbie’s birthday. The restaurant allowed kids under age 12 to eat free, and Debbie ordered a very big, very expensive lobster, which she ate all by herself. She says that she looked a lot fatter walking out of the restaurant than she did walking in. She remembers, “Next time we went back, they had a special kids’ menu. They wouldn’t let little kids order from the big menu anymore — and that was because of me!”

• Run-DMC performed all over the world, including Amsterdam, which has much more lenient drug laws than the United States. In an Amsterdam smoke shop, Jam Master Jay sampled the chocolate chip cookies, which were delicious, so he kept eating more and more of them, since he was not aware that they had a very special ingredient. When DMC noticed what Jay was eating, he told him, “Do you know what those are? Those are space cookies. Magic cookies. You’re gonna be stoned for two days!”

• Johannes Brahms enjoyed good food. One day, his doctor ordered him to stop eating rich food. The very next day, the doctor saw Mr. Brahms in a Viennese restaurant eating a feast of very rich food. After listening to his doctor’s criticisms, Mr. Brahms replied, “Do you suppose I’m going to starve to death just to be able to live a few more years?”

• As a young woman traveling from town to town to make money by singing, Emma Abbott was often forced to eat less than she should. Once, she was so hungry that she sold her long hair in order to get money to buy food. Fortunately, she was discovered by opera singer Clara Louise Kellogg, who helped make her rich and famous.

Friends

• Friends can be a big help when help is needed. While Jimi Hendrix was in the United States Army and stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, some of his fellow soldiers did not like him and even beat him up once. One of Jimi’s friends from Seattle, Washington, where he had been born, was also stationed there: Raymond Ross, the heavyweight boxing champion for the 101st Airborne. Raymond hit a few heads, and Jimi’s fellow soldiers decided not to beat Jimi up anymore. As a young musician in Nashville, Tennessee, Jimi sometimes could not afford to replace his guitar’s strings when they broke. As Jimi was trying to play his guitar without an E string, Larry Lee, a Nashville bass guitarist, gave him an E string. They became friends. When Jimi decided to go to New York City, he lacked a coat; Larry gave him one. By the way, much later Jimi asked Larry to play rhythm guitar for him at Woodstock. Also by the way, an element of luck is involved in becoming a member of a famous rock group such as the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Noel Redding, a white man, became bass guitarist for the group in part because he was a guitarist who had never played bass guitar before and so would not be limited by preconceived ideas about how to play bass guitar — more importantly, Jimi chose him because he liked Noel’s Afro hairdo. Mitch Mitchell and another man were competing for the drummer position — Mitch got it because he won a coin toss.

• When he was a young man, Leonard Bernstein met a man named Adolph Green, who later became big on Broadway and in Hollywood. When they met, each quizzed the other on his knowledge of music. They quickly discovered that neither was a fake and both would admit when they did not know something. Lenny played a few bars of music, said that they were by Dmitry Shostakovich, and asked Adolph to name the piece. Adolph said that he could not name the piece. Actually, the piece was by Lenny himself. Adolph then requested Lenny to play the piece titled Puckby Debussy. Lenny replied that he did not know that piece. Actually, no such piece existed. After the musical quizzing was over, the two became close friends. Betty Comden, who collaborated with Adolph for six decades, was impressed by Lenny when she first met him. She went home and woke up her mother and told her, “Mom, I’ve met my first genius.” Her mother replied, “That’s nice, dear,” and then she went back to sleep.

***

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David Bruce: 250 Music Anecdotes — Fathers, Food

Fathers

• Wynton Marsalis wanted to make his living as a musician, but many, many people advised him not to try. They told him, “Don’t major in music because it’s too difficult to make a living. You need a ‘real’ profession to fall back on when the dream dies.” Fortunately for music lovers, Wynton followed the advice of his father, a man who knew firsthand how hard it is to make a living as a musician. Wynton writes that his father is “a great musician whom I had seen killing himself to make barely enough to take care of his family.” So what is his father’s advice? His father said, “Make sure you don’t have anything to fall back on … because you will. This is not for the faint of heart.”

• As of September 2013, Tori Amos had sold 12 million copies of her 13 albums. Her father was a pastor in Maryland, and when she was 13 years old, he knew that she would benefit from getting experience as a live performer of music. One day, he told her to dress in such a way that she looked older than she was, and then he took her to some bars in Georgetown in Washington, D.C. to look for a place that would allow her to perform. Tori remembers, “Mr. Henry’s, a gay bar, gave me my first opportunity. My dad got flak from some parishioners, but he told them, ‘I can’t think of a safer place for a 13-year-old girl than a gay bar.’”

• Walter Damrosch came from a musical family. His father was the famous conductor Leopold Damrosch. Walter once met in Germany a Royal Highness who was the niece of Emperor William. She knew about his father and asked him if he were “the son of the great Doctor Damrosch.” Walter replied that yes, he was. She asked, “He played the viola, did he not?” Walter replied, “No, your Royal Highness, the violin.” She said, “No, the viola.” Walter wrote in his autobiography, My Musical Life, “This taught me that royalty must never be contradicted, even if they know ‘facts’ about your own father of which you are not aware.”

• When Roseanne Cash was 18 years old, she started to learn to play the guitar and sing country music. Her father, Johnny, heard her and sat down and wrote a list of “100 Essential Country Songs,” including songs by Woody Guthrie, Jimmy Rodgers, the Carter family, Hank Williams, and Carl Perkins. He gave her the list and told her that to be a completely educated country musician she needed to learn those songs.

• Not everyone likes modern classical music. As a teenager, caricaturist Sam Norkin was playing Jean Sibelius’ First Symphony when his father demanded to know how the record player got broken. After that experience, Mr. Norkin played Sibelius only in the basement.

Food

• Iggy Pop is an open interviewee. In a 1997 interview, he talked about his diet, which he does not regard as especially healthy: “I eat steak, I like a lot of butter on my toast, I like a lot of eggs, and I fart constantly, all day.” However, Iggy does practice chi kung, which are Chinese exercises. By the way, his chi kung teacher is in many ways a regular guy. In the same interview, Iggy said, “It’s funny because everyone expects him to be a vegetarian and very holy, but he’s not. He liked to get f**ked and eat steaks, and he likes money — a lot. He’s a guy, you know. He can also kill you in 800 different ways, but he’d rather just take your money legally. He’s like that.”

• Southern Culture on the Skids (aka SCOTS) is a band that often asks audience members to come on stage and dance for fried chicken. The genesis of this came when the owner of a club they were playing in gave them a bucket of fried chicken. The chicken was on the side of the stage as they played, and a homeless man came into the club, saw the fried chicken, and started eating it. The band members told him, “Hey, that’s our dinner, and if you want some of it, you at least have to get up here and dance with us.” The audience loved this, and SCOTS kept it in the act. Bass player May Huff says, “It’s good to feed a hungry crowd.”

***

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David Bruce: 250 Music Anecdotes — Fans

Fans

• Matt Groening, who is most famous for his long-running series of panel cartoons Life in Helland for TV’s Simpsons, is a music lover. As a young man, he loved some kinds of music that drove other people away. He says, “If my friends and I could drive people from the room when we put a record on, that was great.” Another favorite activity was attending punk concerts, sitting in the balcony, and watching the audience: “To this day, there’s nothing funnier than watching people being outraged by being bumped into while everybody else is slamming.” For a while, he worked as a music journalist. He would recommend albums that no one would buy, and eventually he started making up band names and reviewing non-existent albums. One of the band names he invented was Chatter­box Punch Gruffy.

• When author Wilborn Hampton was a young person, he and some kids from the neighborhood played Elvis Presley’s new RCA record “Heartbreak Hotel” in a backyard. He and the neighborhood kids danced to the music. Suddenly, a neighbor lady opened her door and yelled, “Jezebels! You should all be ashamed of yourselves! That music is evil!” Then she went back inside. Wilborn and the others turned down the volume of the music a little and kept dancing. Certainly, people — especially females — reacted to Elvis strongly. Very early in Elvis’ career, Mae Axton, a publicist for Colonel Thomas A. Parker, asked a girl who had been jumping up and down and squealing while Elvis sang, “Honey, what is it about this kid?” The girl replied, “He’s just a great big beautiful hunk of forbidden fruit.”

• Joey Ramones, lead singer of the Ramones, was very likeable. In Japan, he went backstage at a Bob Dylan concert, and at that time people obeyed a backstage rule that stated, “Don’t even look at him.” Supposedly, people were required to stay away from Mr. Dylan and definitely not make eye contact. Best was simply to go into a room and shut the door if you saw Mr. Dylan coming down the backstage hallway. However, when Mr. Dylan saw Joey, he walked over to him and said, “Hey, Joey, my kids love your music.”

• Small things can make a fan happy. Jazz enthusiast and photographer Duncan Schiedt was once in a Fifty-Second Coffee Shop in New York when Sidney Bechet, who played clarinet and soprano saxophone in jazz groups, sat beside him, listened to the jukebox, and asked, “What’s the name of that tune they’re playing?” Mr. Schiedt answered, “Dill Pickles.” Many years later, Mr. Schiedt says that “etched in my mind is the small pride I carried away from the event!”

• All copies of the December 1989 issue of Sassy, a magazine for North American teenage girls, contained a flexidisc of R.E.M. covering the song “Dark Globe” by Syd Barrett. Sassyeditor Jane Pratt walked by Tower Records and was happy to see that every copy of Sassyhad been sold — until she noticed a trashcan filled with copies of Sassy. R.E.M. fans had bought Sassy, thrown away the magazine, and kept the flexidisc.

• YouTube allows viewers to press a button to indicate whether they like or dislike a video. For example, when a video of the excellent A Touch of Class pop song “I’m in Heaven (When You Kiss Me)” was given over 1,500 likes and 24 dislikes. ATC fan Gemgurllove has a very plausible explanation for the 24 dislikes. She commented, “24 people were [so] busy pressing the replay button they pressed the wrong button!”

***

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David Bruce: 250 Music Anecdotes — Family

Family

• Katy Perry’s real name is Katie Hudson, but she changed her name to avoid confusion with Kate Hudson, who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Almost Famous. “Perry” is Katie’s mother’s maiden name. (Katy did record her first album, which was self-titled and categorized as Christian/gospel, using the name Katy Hudson.) The road to the top was difficult. Some record companies dropped her before her first non-Christian album, One of the Boys, hit record stores on 17 June 2008; of course, it was a hit. Among its singles were “Hot N Cold” and “I Kissed a Girl.” Katie’s parents are evangelical Christians, and they have always supported her career. In the music video for “Hot N Cold,” they play the roles of Katie’s character’s parents. Even with a hit album, Katie had to work hard. She performed outside during the Warped Tour, and at a concert in Maryland the weather was so hot that her shoes melted on stage. By the way, when Katie was a little girl, she was not allowed to watch any television episodes of The Smurfs. When she got a job doing voice work for the 2011 movie titled The Smurfs, she called her mother and said, “Guess what, Mom — I’m Smurfette!”

• When Frank and Gail Zappa got married, he did not give her a ring; instead, he bought her a ballpoint pen — one that cost ten cents and was inscribed “Congratulations from Mayor Lindsay” — and pinned it to her dress. As you may expect, Frank was the parent who named their children. When Gail was pregnant with their first child, she asked Frank what to name the baby. He replied, “You can name her Moon or Motorhead.” When Moon Unit was in the 6th grade, a classmate asked her, “Why did your parents name you Moon?” She replied, “Why did yours name you Debbie?” Another child is known as Dweezil, which is also the pet name Frank gave to one of Gail’s toes. Another child is named Ahmet, after an imaginary servant the Zappas had when they lacked real servants. They used to snap their fingers and say, “Ahmet? Dishes. Coffee, please.” (Ahmet’s other name is Rodan, after the Japanese monster.) And Diva got her name because she screamed when she was an infant. You may not believe this, but some of the Zappa children wanted to change their names when they were young. Moon Unit wanted the name Beauty Heart, and Dweezil wanted the name Rick.

• Stevie Wonder — “Superstition” and “I Just Called to Say I Love You” are among his many hits — is blind, and when he was small, his young brothers thought that he needed more light in order to see, so they set a fire in a trash can and nearly burned down the house. Stevie remembers, “I know it used to worry my mother, and I know she used to pray for me to have sight someday, and so finally I told her that I was happy being blind, and I thought it was a gift from God, and I think she felt better after that.” Stevie’s mother was Lula Mae Hardaway, and his name at birth was Stevland Hardaway Judkins. The story is he acquired the name Stevie Wonder when he was discovered as a young boy and someone said, “That kid’s a wonder!” Mr. Wonder once appeared on a poster for M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). Under his photograph appeared these words: “Before I ride with a drunk, I’ll drive myself.”

• Rufus Wainwright grew up in a musical household: His mother is Kate McGarrigle, and his father is Loudon Wainwright III. After he was born and his mother was taking him home from the hospital, she stopped by her studio. No crib was there, so she laid him in a guitar case. Because of experiences such as this, Rufus says that he had no choice but to be a musician. Even as a child, he sang. At parties, his mother would have him stand on a piano and sing “Over the Rainbow.” Rufus says, “I became aware at a young age of the power to sober up drunk people with my voice.” Of course, Rufus has sacrificed for his music. In an interview with Laura Barnett, he points out that he has sacrificed “Rufus Wainwright the hausfrau. After so many years of being in hotels and backstage areas, I’m horridly inept at cleaning up after myself.”

• When he was growing up, Garth Brooks’ family used to have a weekly night they called “Funny Night.” Members of the family would sing, do imitations of famous people, put on skits, or do something else to entertain. This worked out well for Garth, who became a very famous country music star. While accepting an award for being 1991’s Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year, as the first President George Bush and his wife, Barbara Bush, were in the audience watching, Garth said that two famous Georges — George Strait and George Jones — were his inspiration, then he added, “No offense, Mr. President.”

• Joan Oliver Goldsmith is a volunteer singer in a chorus. Her father had taught her, “When bored in the symphony, watch the timpani,” and so when she did not have to look at the conductor, she watched the percussionists. Once, she asked a member of the percussion department of the Minnesota Orchestra, “Isn’t it awfully stressful? I mean, if the cymbals come in at the wrong place, everybody knows.” He replied, “Yeah, but what are they going to do? Shoot you?”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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David Bruce: 250 Music Anecdotes — Education, Fame

Education

• Steve Baker taught English and drama from 1997 to 2002 to Alex Turner, who became the lead singer of the Arctic Monkeys. After Mr. Baker discovered that Alex had a band, he went to the band’s website and wrote, “Well done, lads. I always thought you’d do something creative.” Mr. Turner wrote back, beginning his message with “Hello, sir.” Mr. Baker says, “Six weeks later, Alex got voted Coolest Man on the Planet by the NME[New Musical Express, a magazine about music], so ever since, I’ve started all my training sessions with the words, ‘The coolest man on the planet calls me sir.’”

• At age 84, the jazz saxophonist and flutist James Moody was still learning, the necessity of which he had learned early in his career and life. Part of the learning comes from practice, and part comes from books and advice. About practice, he says, “People would be improvising and I’d say, ‘Boy, how did they know to do that?’ Well, they practiced it.’” About other forms of learning, he remembers, “One day when I was with the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet, I looked at Dizzy and I said, ‘Diz, I wish I would have studied music.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Moody, you ain’t dead.’”

• Conductor Pierre Monteux taught at a school for conductors, where a student conducted the prelude from Tristan and Isoldewith very little feeling. Mr. Monteux stopped the romantic music and asked the student, “Tell me, young man, were you ever on the Grand Canal in Venice, on a beautiful moonlight night, with a beautiful young lady, with a beautiful décolleté, lying in your arms?” The student replied, “No,” and Mr. Monteux said, “Too bad! Continue!”

• Enrico Caruso once took up the flute. After he had taken a few lessons, a man asked him to play into the horn of a phonograph, and he made a recording of Mr. Caruso and then played the recording for him. Mr. Caruso asked, “Is that how I sound?” The man replied, “Yes. Can I sell you the record?” Mr. Caruso replied, “No. But I’ll sell you the flute.”

Fame

• Fame can be a big negative. Courtney Love wrote the song “Teenage Whore” for her Pretty on the Insidealbum. The song contained the line “I’d give good money not to be ignored,” but she soon started singing live the line “I’d give good money just to be ignored.” Ms. Love sometimes has done things that cause her not to be ignored. Someone once said to her, “I remember you. You were on that plane ride from San Francisco to LA, and you were giving pills out to everyone with cool hair!” Ms. Love admits, “I couldn’t remember it, but I knew it was true.” She pursued Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, whom she eventually married, through the press. Whenever she did an interview, she asked if the interviewer was interviewing Nirvana the following week. If the answer was yes, she would give the interviewer a message to pass along: “Will you tell that Kurt Cobain that I have a hugecrush on him?” Of course, the interviewer would think that she was crazy — sometimes she would add, “And tell him that I’m pregnant … and my Daddy’s mad about it.”

• Flutist Donald Peck stopped by a bar, where he saw Leonard Bernstein and some of his friends. Obviously, other people had noticed him — and sent over drinks — because in front of him were 10 drinks. A friend of Mr. Peck was in Mr. Bernstein’s group and offered to introduce him to Mr. Bernstein, but after speaking to Mr. Bernstein, the friend became embarrassed and then explained to Mr. Peck that Mr. Bernstein did not want the bar patrons to know his identity and therefore he could not be introduced to him. This amused Mr. Peck, who writes, “Now, really — did he think the customers in the bar had sent those ten drinks to him as a complete stranger?”

• Scottish singer Paolo Nutini says, “It’s surprising what you find out about yourself when you become famous.” For example, when he was walking into a bar he heard a woman call his name, but he thought, “I’m not turning round.” She called his name again, but he thought, “Nope, I’m going to keep walking.” He then heard the woman say to a friend of hers, “It’s not him anyway — he’s not got that big an arse.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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David Bruce: 250 Music Anecdotes — Education

Education

• The young Leonard Bernstein studied how to be a conductor under Fritz Reiner at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father, Sam, gave him $40 a month to pay expenses — this was not enough money. Fortunately, conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos did the very good deed of sending Leonard a check for $225. Leonard did study hard, and Maestro Reiner respected him, but Leonard once made a mistake and called Maestro Reiner “Fritz” in class. Maestro Reiner responded — frostily — “Yes, Mr. Bernstein?” Maestro Reiner was known for having a temper. About him it was said, “Any day on which he failed to lose his temper was a day in which he was actually too sick to conduct.” By the way, Leonard often missed classes while he was a student at Harvard, where he went to school before attending Curtis. On the top of a page of class notes, he once wrote, “hollow empty stupid dull uninteresting.”

• One of opera singer Clara Doria’s teachers when she was young was Ignaz Moscheles, who had some definite ideas about playing the piano. Whenever a student had a finger improperly placed, he would catch the finger as if he were catching a fly. He also disliked the wearing of rings while playing the piano. Whenever a student wore a ring during a lesson, he would remove the ring and deliver a lecture on why piano players ought not to wear rings. The result, of course, was that his young students would borrow as many rings as they could so that they could wear them during lessons. Another very human trait he had was that he liked his own compositions. He once told his students, “Why do you spend your time in studying this meretricious modern stuff? You should confine yourselves to Bach, Haendel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Me.”

 • One of the things that David Amram learned from fellow musician Miles Davis is that jazz has no wrong notes. Mr. Ashram explains, “By that he did not mean to play anything — he had the most beautiful selection of notes imaginable. But he meant anything that you have can move to something else if you have a right path.” For example, early in Mr. Amram’s career he was playing French horn with Charlie Mingus, and the cash register went off while he was playing and it bothered him. Mr. Mingus said, “Next time that happens, play off the cash register. Use that as part of the music. If you’re playing, the piano player is going blockity-block, the drum is going buckita-bucka-ding. Put that into the music and answer it. Go bita-boo-boo-bum and answer the cash register. Make that part of the whole experience.”

• While still in school, Elvis Presley was occasionally bullied, although he did have friends. When he was in the 8th gradewhile living in Tupelo, Mississippi, some bullies cut the strings of his guitar. However, his friends pooled their money and bought him new guitar strings. He and his family moved to Tennessee, where he attended Humes High School. He wore his hair long, which was unusual for males at the time, and when he tried out for the football team, some conforming bullies ganged up on him in the locker room, held him down, and were going to cut his hair. He was rescued by football star Red West, who became a lifelong friend. (A few days later, the football coach kicked Elvis off the team because Elvis declined to cut his hair.)

• World-renowned concert pianist Byron Janis is also a teacher of music. He once had a gifted student, but she lacked artistry, and he needed to find a way to free her. By chance, one day he asked her if she always walked the same way when she went home after a lesson. She replied, “Yes.” Mr. Janis then advised her to try different routes when she walked home: “You’ll make new discoveries. It will be fun.” The results were excellent. Mr. Janis says, “Within a month, I heard signs of the artist emerging. That simple suggestion seemed to touch the right nerve and her playing started showing signs of freedom. I was amazed. Strange — teachers never can predict what works.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

250 Music Anecdotes (Kindle eBook: $1.99):

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