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1956, 1957 a college friend seemed to have an endless supply of shaggy dog musician jokes.
He’s glad to be able to pay rent, but he does have one regret: he really really wants to lead, at least once in his life. He tells his agent, “Get me a gig where I lead. Never mind scale, never mind venue, I just wanna lead”.
The agent says “I’ll keep my eyes open, but nobody hires a bass as a lead. Meantime, here’s a bar mitvah in the Bronx”.
Finally the guy tells his agent he won’t take any more jobs if he can’t lead. The agent keeps calling him for a while, then he hears nothing. He calls the agent. No, no, no: years pass.
Finally the phone rings, his agent has a wedding in Westchester, he can lead. Budget is for only a duo, there’s this kid, trombone, won’t mind an older bass leading. Weird, bass and trombone, but there it is.
Guy jumps for joy. He’s nervous, so excited, he gets there two hours early, sets up: puts his bass on the stand, walks around, looks from different angles: it’s a bass, all alone.
the trombone shows up. Oh goody, he can tell him what to do. Here, help me check the sound, set the levels: I’ll play, you walk around over there, report.
Trombone walks around, comes back, says “It’s too much bass”.
Bass says, “Here, you play, I’ll walk over there, see what I think”.
He comes back: “You’re right: it’s too much bass”.
Famous musician joke: one of the first I ever heard:
“How do I get to Carnegie Hall?”
“Practice, Man, practice”.
This one needs a small explanation: Decades ago theaters would group short plays by W. Somerset Maugham. The impresario might title the entertainment by chamber music diction:
Cat pauses the other cat: “Hey, man, we ought to catch these cats before they disband”.
Once upon a time I read a nice essay on jazz etymology, deriving term after term from the West African mix of languages: jazz, jive, hip, bug … I think “cat” was one of the terms that sounded recent (in 1950) but had entered “English” centuries earlier.