The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3: 250 Anecdotes


  • Some American towns are wet (they allow alcohol); other American towns are dry (they don’t allow alcohol). During his 1885 American tour, Colonel James H. Mapleson had the misfortune to stop in Topeka, Kansas, a dry town. His opera troupe had drunk all the wine available on their train, and they were very displeased when water was placed before them while they dined at their Topeka hotel; in fact, Colonel Mapleson’s baritone drew his knife and said that unless he had something suitable to drink soon, he would not perform that evening. Hard pressed, Colonel Mapleson sought a physician and explained the situation to him. The understanding physician wrote a prescription in Latin, Colonel Mapleson took it to a pharmacist, and the pharmacist filled the prescription by giving him three bottles of something much more stimulating than water.[1]
  • People who drink to excess are found throughout the world — even in the high arts. At a production of Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème at the Dublin Grand Opera Society, the tenor was drunk, but he managed to make it to the intermission. During the intermission, the audience speculated on whether the tenor would be able to continue the part. As the intermission grew longer and longer, the audience then speculated on what excuse would be given for the tenor’s non-appearance. Eventually, a man appeared in front of the curtain and announced that the tenor had just returned from West Africa and was suffering from malaria. A member of the audience shouted, “I wish I had a bottle of that!”[2]
  • Good things can come out of evil. Someone once put LSD in Richie Ramone’s drink. He had a very bad reaction to it, and he had to be carried away in a strait jacket. However, he wrote the great Ramones’ song “Somebody Put Something in My Drink.” Of course, Richie gets the credit for writing a very good song. Whoever put the LSD in his drink gets a ticket to h*ll — or at least a few more hundred years climbing the Mountain of Purgatory. By the way, the Ramones insisted on canned soft drinks in their dressing room. Yoohoo chocolate drink was also a favorite dressing-room tipple.[3]
  • Conductor Luigi Mancinelli, a conductor at the Metropolitan Opera in the early 20th century, used to dine often at a restaurant and order a $5 bottle of Italian wine (quite expensive at the time), which was brought to him by his favorite waiter. One evening, his favorite waiter was ill and at home, so Mr. Mancinelli ordered his favorite bottle of wine from a new waiter. He was shocked to learn that his favorite wine cost only $1.50 per bottle — his favorite waiter had been deliberately overcharging him for months.[4]
  • Rolling Stones Keith Richard and Ron Wood attended a party hosted by Dudley Moore and Peter Cook at the Cobden Working Men’s Club in London. The party was upstairs, over a bar, and so when Mr. Richard and Mr. Wood felt like getting a pint, they went downstairs. Mr. Richard talked with some of the people in the bar, and one of them asked, “What do you do?” Mr. Richard replied, “I’m in a band.” “Which one?” “The Rolling Stones.” “Oh, yeah. I think I’ve heard of them.”[5]
  • During the days of Prohibition, tips sometimes consisted of something other than money. Besides being a radio announcer, Glenhall Taylor was also a pianist. Once in a while, a bootlegger would call him up to request that he perform “Twelfth Street Rag” on the radio, then the bootlegger would send over a fifth of gin to show his appreciation.[6]
  • Young rappers tend to be pretty crazy. Older rappers can settle down. Beastie Boy Adam Yauch went to a health-food store to buy a present for his parents one holiday season, and he said that he wanted a carrot juicer. The health-store employee recognized him and said, “So I guess you guys don’t drink forties anymore?”[7]
  • John King owned the music studio where Run-DMC and many other hip-hop groups did their recording: Chunking Studios. So many hip hoppers worked there in the 1980s and 1990s that Mr. King took the soft drinks out of the soda machine and replaced them with the hip hoppers’ beverage of choice: Olde English 800.[8]


  • People in opera sometimes gamble. At the Chicago Opera, Geraldine Farrar sang in Königskinder, in which a bunch of trained geese play a role. At the farewell performance, a poker game as usual was going on backstage, and thinking that the trained geese would no longer be needed, the players quickly used them as stakes in the game. Of course, the geese were taken home that night and eaten by the winners. However, Ms. Farrar’s popularity was so great that another performance of Königskinder was given by popular demand, and this time Ms. Farrar had to sing not with trained geese, but with untrained geese which honked at all the wrong times and which flew around the stage.[9]
  • Noël Coward once wrote a song titled “Chase Me, Charley” for two cats. When the song was sung on television, the BBC insisted that the lyric “Bound to give in” be replaced with “Waiting for you.” Mr. Coward commented, “I think it is very silly. Apparently the BBC thinks that the idea of a cat giving in is more likely to create immoral thoughts in listeners’ minds than the idea of a cat waiting to achieve its objective.”[10]

[1] Source: Colonel J.H. Mapleson, The Mapleson Memoirs, p. 221.

[2] Source: Hugh Vickers, Even Greater Operatic Disasters, p. 19.

[3] Source: Jim Bessman, Ramones: An American Band, pp. 133, 177.

[4] Source: Rose Heylbut and Aimé Gerber, Backstage at the Opera, pp. 154-155.

[5] Source: Richard Young, Shooting Stars, pp. 160-161.

[6] Source: Glenhall Taylor, Before Television, p. 29.

[7] Source: Alan Light, The Skills to Pay the Bills: The Story of the Beastie Boys, p. 155.

[8] Source: David E. Thigpen, Jam Master Jay: The Heart of Hip Hop, pp. 71-72.

[9] Source: Grace Moore, You’re Only Human Once, pp. 139-140.

[10] Source: Dick Richards, compiler, The Wit of Noël Coward, p. 85.

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