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Joe Venuti's (in)Famous Practical Joke!

05 Oct 02 - 12:18 PM (#797429)
Subject: Joe Venuti's (in)Famous Practical Joke!
From: Rick Fielding

Joe Venuti, the great jazz/blues fiddler's name came up in another thread (well OK, it was ME who brought it up) and it reminded me of this famous musician's story. It still makes me laugh to this day, although it really WAS mean, and Joe payed for it big-time. I'll just cut and paste from this website:

"Everyone knows that Bass players
always work, even bad ones; and particularly on New Years Eve. Joe
Venuti, knowing this, decided to play yet another grandiose practical
joke. He called every bass player in the Los Angeles Musician's Union
book, to book them for a gig on one New years Eve!!

He told each and every one of them to meet him on the corner of
Hollywood and Vine a few hours before!

They all did!! Can you imagine the horror?? That New Years Eve, every
bass player in LA was out of work! I heard that Joe had to pay a huge fine
for that practical joke!!"*********************************

He did indeed pay a huge fine, and apparently it took him years. Somewhere there is a picture (taken by Joe himself) of the gathering of bass players but I've never seen it.

Actually there is another famous Venuti story about him giving Roy Rogers' horse trigger an erection(!!) but I'll let someone else find that one.



05 Oct 02 - 12:28 PM (#797437)
Subject: RE: Joe Venuti's (in)Famous Practical Joke!
From: The Shambles

Rick where and what exactly was Roy Roger's horse trigger? *Smiles*

05 Oct 02 - 12:37 PM (#797444)
Subject: RE: Joe Venuti's (in)Famous Practical Joke!
From: Rick Fielding

Well OK goes....
Apprently Roy Rogers, America's greatest movie cowboy star, was doing a variety show (as was Venuti) and was waiting in the wings, mounted on 'Trigger the Wonder Horse'. Venuti was standing behind Trigger and started "tickling Trigger's testicles" with his violin bow (!!)

When Roy was announced, he triumphantly rode onstage and (just like in the movies) Trigger reared upward towards the sky while Roy waved his white stetson.

Apparently everyone in the audience was transfixed by what TRIGGER was waving, and nobody even NOTICED the white stetson!


05 Oct 02 - 01:43 PM (#797476)
Subject: RE: Joe Venuti's (in)Famous Practical Joke!
From: The Shambles

Thanks Rick but why was it referred to as Roy's Roger's horse trigger? .........Did Dale call it that?

05 Oct 02 - 07:35 PM (#797546)
Subject: RE: Joe Venuti's (in)Famous Practical Joke!
From: McGrath of Harlow

I just typed Joe Venuti + Roy Rogers into Google and up came that site with the stories.. Amazing.

Well, even if they don't sing too often, horses are great performers.

05 Oct 02 - 09:00 PM (#797562)
Subject: RE: Joe Venuti's (in)Famous Practical Joke!
From: GUEST,Ramblin' Sid Rumpo of the Bailey

That's droll Shambles. Surprised that Brother Fielding didn't get it the first time.

One of the regular Mudcatters has a reputation in the business as an inveterate practical joker.


06 Oct 02 - 10:58 AM (#797629)
Subject: RE: Joe Venuti's (in)Famous Practical Joke!
From: Rick Fielding

Venuti must have had a lot of 'cojones' himself to do that with a mere violin bow. That's gettin' pretty close to a horse's ass if you ask me.

And no, Ramblin' Sid, I DIDN'T get it at first....Shambles caught me on a slow day!!



06 Oct 02 - 12:17 PM (#797655)
Subject: RE: Joe Venuti's (in)Famous Practical Joke!
From: Jeri

Dear Ramblin' Sid, do tell!

I've heard stories about some people, but I'm sure you're much more knowledgable about what they might have pulled off.

Most stallions would, I believe, kick your 'lights' out if you tickled their nuts with a violin bow. I'd love to see a photo of Joe Venuti cornering the market on bass players. You know there's a song in there somewhere...

06 Oct 02 - 12:48 PM (#797662)
Subject: RE: Joe Venuti's (in)Famous Practical Joke!
From: Little Hawk

Well, one thing for sure...if you have ever seen a stallion with an erection, you don't forget it. I was surprised the other day to see a bull nimbly hopping up on a cow as I drove by the field. I had no idea they were that agile, but where there's a will, there's a way.

Rick, here's an idea...why don't you phone up all the accordion players...and bagpipe the Toronto Musicians' Union, offering a lucrative gig (of course), and have them show up at the front lawn of the Ontario Parliament buildings at Queen's Park, 5 O'clock sharp on a Monday. It would be an awesome sight, and would probably attract the Toronto riot squad in no time flat, giving the Toronto Sun an undreamed-of opportunity for a great front page photo and headline! This idea is too good to pass up, I think. Don't use your own name, though, use a psuedonym. "Gurney Titmarsh", for instance, would be a good one...or maybe Bernie Finkelstein or Art Snider.

- LH

06 Oct 02 - 02:44 PM (#797730)
Subject: RE: Joe Venuti's (in)Famous Practical Joke!
From: Herga Kitty

Apparently, Joe Venuti also said you could find a piano's true pitch by throwing it out of the window from an upstairs storey ..... (thanks to MCP for passing that one on).


06 Oct 02 - 03:37 PM (#797764)
Subject: RE: Joe Venuti's (in)Famous Practical Joke!
From: The Shambles

They say that a joker called Joe
Could do great things with his bow
When he touched Roy's trigger
It got bigger and bigger
And made his reputation grow

06 Oct 02 - 04:29 PM (#797800)
Subject: RE: Joe Venuti's (in)Famous Practical Joke!
From: Art Thieme

When trigger was born the horse only had one eye lid. A rabbi was called in and Trigger was circumcised. The piece of skin was grafted onto the horse's face. It worked pretty well but now he's a bit cockeyed.

Art Thieme

07 Oct 02 - 03:03 PM (#798417)
Subject: RE: Joe Venuti's (in)Famous Practical Joke!
From: GUEST,Old timer

Art, that joke was funny when I first heard it fifty years ago. But Trigger wasn't involved then.

No Joe Venuti jokes, but I just want to say he was one of the greatest improvising musicians who ever lived. His records with Bix are memorable.

07 Oct 02 - 05:22 PM (#798482)
Subject: RE: Joe Venuti's (in)Famous Practical Joke!

The full piano story (more or less) is that he made bets with other musicians that a piano had a definite key of its own and he could prove it. After making the bets, he took some of them round to a friend's upper storey appartment where he had them grab the friend's piano, manhandle it to the window and throw it down to the street below. Not unsurprisingly, it smashed apart with a great cacocophony, whereupon he said "No you're right - it doesn't, handed them their money back and left the dumbfounded friend".


07 Oct 02 - 05:30 PM (#798483)
Subject: RE: Joe Venuti's (in)Famous Practical Joke!

Also if you have a modern restored version of Venuti with Bix doing the novelty version of Barnacle Bill The Sailor, at the end of the song (the type that record companies liked them to do for the popular market, but not what the musicians wanted to play) you can hear perfectly clearly now what was only a muddy sound on the original as Venuti sings the song out with "It's Barnacle Bill the shithead".


07 Oct 02 - 06:00 PM (#798493)
Subject: RE: Joe Venuti's (in)Famous Practical Joke!
From: Art Thieme

Jokes, like folksongs, favorite old garments and booze, only get better with some age on 'em. This is Cockeyed Joke #77 in the monumental work of collecting done by Child (Julia's stepdaughter--once removed. No relation to Francis James Child.)

And they are still funny. ;-)

Art Thieme

07 Oct 02 - 08:56 PM (#798562)
Subject: RE: Joe Venuti's (in)Famous Practical Joke!
From: Willie-O

I think I know what happened right after the bass players prank...
interesting it doesn't say anything about jazz violinists.

Title: The Day The Bass Players Took Over The World
Lyric: (E. Kaitz)
The day was very subtle, everything was low-key,
The sky it was so overcast that you could barely see,
And everything slowed down to a slower frequency,
The day the bass players took over the world.
Well, they came pouring out of symphonies, orchestras and bands,
And every other kind of combo that was ever known to man,
And although it was spontaneous, you'd think it was quite planned,
The day the bass players took over the world.
Now one day the bass players, they decided to uprise,
They were tired of being sidemen to all those other guys.
So they kidnapped the horn section,
They put drugs in the drummer's drink,
And they tied up all the guitar players
With their big ol' flat-wound strings.
And on that day the world it was finally set free,
All the creatures they hung out together and interacted fretlessly,
And the air began to vibrate with such a deep tonality,
The day the bass players took over the world.

23 Apr 19 - 10:08 AM (#3988707)
Subject: RE: Joe Venuti's (in)Famous Practical Joke!
From: GUEST,nomad

17 years later....

I found an image of a followup prank that some of the bassists played on Venuti. According to the article, the prank was in Hollywood in 1928 and it was 38 bass players at Hollywood and Vine.

The image shows Venuti surrounded by several bassists with their instruments and the subtitle reads:

"Joe Venuti, premier jazz violinist and infamous practical joker, had the tables turned on him Septebmer 21 when he came into Rick's Cafe American in Chicago to begin a three-week engagement. The versatile octogenarian found twenty-two Chicago area bass players waiting for him in Rick's with a sign saying "Hey Joe! Is this where the GIG is?" The gag was a twist on a practical joke Venuti played on thirty-eight bass players back in 1928 when he told them all to assemble at Hollywood and Vine for a gig. Of course, no one was there except thirty-eight bass players and their instruments. The internationally renowned violinist, whose credits include appearances with Eddie Lang, Paul Whiteman, the Boston Pops, and most major symphonies, performed at Rick's through October 9. Rick's, one of the city's hottest jazz rooms, is located in the Holiday Inn Lake Shore on Shore Drive."