The Daft Things Punters Say
(an idea suggested by Ian Royle)


I was recently playing an acoustic gig with banjo, bass, trumpet and clarinet when a punter approached.  "Can you play 'Layla'? " he asked.  Now 'Layla' is a heavy rock song by Eric Clapton which of course requires electric guitar and bass and a battery of drums plus amplified vocal.  When politely informed that we didn't have it in our library, he went away muttering "I'll bet they've never heard of Eric Clapton". - Ian Royle (26/06/05)

A saxophonist in one of the bands playing Greens Playhouse in Glasgow was asked by a  young local lady could the band play something from "No No Nannette". On replying in the negative she asked----" D'ye NO- NO-NO -NO Nannette"? - Harold Troughton (09/08//05)

A person recently at a private gig asked the band, "could you play O'Mahoney". The lads looked at each other because nobody had ever heard of it. It transpired that the person was requesting Alexander's Ragtime Band and what she thought was O'Mahoney is in fact Oh my Honey, Oh My Honey etc. - Bernard Bibby (09/08/05)

Last year on a couple's 80th birthday marquee gig with one of Alan Yates's bands, somewhere in the Handforth/Wilmslow area, the boys had gone to park their cars while I was busy on the empty stand setting up my 5 instruments. To my left, while the dinner guests munched away listening to various speakers praising the couple, the booked single act pianist played slightly amplified but tasteful background music on a separate stage. Suddenly, the affectedly-spoken, tall, upright, elegantly dressed, attractive "birthday girl" - already nick-named the "80-year-old-Barbie-Doll" by the band, approached me in a raised, menacing tone: "Would you please turn your music down!; we can't hear ourselves over dinner!"   I replied using the non-aggressive assertiveness method: "Madam, I am here on my own, not actually playing anything yet. You need to tell that gentlemen", upon which, she promptly spun on her heels, tossing her head in thermo-nuclear disgust. Peace reigned once more.   - Joe Silmon (10/08/05)

Some years ago we (The Banjo Boys) were resident at Diamond Lil's (by Heathrow Airport) and prided ourselves on playing any reasonable request. We had to draw the line at a request "can you play any Led Zeppelin?". The line up was two banjos, trombone, piano, drums & sousaphone. We did however manage "Rock Around The Clock" on occasions though.  -   Charlie Bentley (now 60) 10/08/05

I bet every single banjo player can recount the number of times he/she is asked, "can you play duelling banjos"? - Mick Roddy
Silver Leaf Jazz Band (10/08/05)

I went to see the film O Brother Where Art Thou, shortly after its release. As you probably know, O Brother has a rather good old time country music soundtrack, which is loosely based around the music of people like Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family and the Stanley Brothers. The crowd behind me hadn't a clue what to make of this. As the credits finished rolling and the lights went up, one guy proffered his opinion. He said, "I think it's early jazz". 

I was a mature student at the New University of Ulster in 1978, when the Union there hosted a concert by George Melly and John Chilton's Feetwarmers. The support band came from Belfast. They were called the Apex as far as I can remember, and every last one of them must have been the wrong side of thirty. As they were setting up, a young lad next to me said "I wonder what this lot were doing on VE Night". - Fred McCormick (10/08/05)

This is a brilliant idea of Ian's. Let's hope it will run and run and give us all lots of laughs. Carrying on Bernard's theme of mis-titled tunes, we were once asked for "Oh You Railway Station" (Pasadena), and although I can't claim to have been present at the time, I'm told that a band really was once asked to play "Mood Indignant" by the Duke of Wellington!  I was there, however, when a punter asked Carl Thompson if he could play chords on his trumpet, and as we happened to be recording the session, I still have the conversation on tape.

Also, as you know, clarinet players are plagued with interminable requests for "Stranger On The Shore" . The most memorable one I received was from an inebriated Scouser  who made his wishes known thus:- 

"Ay mayte, can yer play dat  er   #####*****!!!!!!    er   Acker Bilk thing on yer ####******!!!!  er  flute?" -  - Phil Yates (10/08/05)

Like most bass players, I wish I had a quid for every time a punter has asked if I can get my bass under my chin. The stock answer is: "Only if I keep my big mouth shut !" - Keith Allcock (10/08/05)

Two here for you Fred - Do you play requests? Yes, what would you like us to play ? Oh-- anything you like!.
I was once asked," Could you play (some tune or other)?",  So I said to see the pianist (who was sat at the piano). "Which is he?" came the reply - Derek Newton (10/08/05)

A good idea of Ian Royals, here are my contributions. - The New Riverside Jazz Band were on a gig when a bloke asked Alan Duckles if we could play 'Can Your Mother Ride A Bike' Alan was somewhat perplexed and asked the bloke to hum the tune, he then proceeded to hum 'Hiawatha Rag' think about it!

I was doing a gig when a bloke asked me if we knew the pigeon song, I was puzzled at this request and asked him to explain what tune he meant and it was immediately obvious, its the song the pigeon sang in The Whacky Races TV cartoon, Tiger Rag. - Barrie Marshall (10/08/05)

Here is a vintage one from the mid fifties when American servicemen occupied Warrington dance halls. Two band sessions were popular in the Casino Club, where the resident dance band shared the gig with a Dixieland outfit, playing the interval spot. A GI staggered up to the stand and in a slurred accent "Can yoos guys play a mambo?. I explained that we didn't play Latin American music, but to ask the house band later. The GI smiled. but remained, though swaying, in front of the band as we played the jazz favourite Muscrat Ramble. On finishing the number, our boozy punter showered a handful assorted coins all over the stage with the memorable quote " Gee- I thought yoos guys couldn't play a mambo" - Harold Troughton (10/08/05)

I always laugh when I think about Pete Staples meeting a member of last night's audience, who told him: "Hey, Pete, you really swang last night" - ( Janet Rodger 12/08/05)

Someone asked us to play "Two little boys" (Rolf Harris) on Saturday at a wedding and a man once asked John our trumpet player to play that "bloody ding dong song" (Chimes Blues)!!! - (Rosie Harrison 14/08/05)

I was chatting to a clarinet player friend of mine and he told me that a girl came up to him in a pub during the bands interval, and asked if she could have a go on his clarinet. He asked her if she could play the clarinet to which she replied, "Oh no, but if you'll just get it going for me". (Andrew MacKenzie 16/08/05)

A lady recently wanted to hear a song called 'Icy Trees', and when he couldn't quite place it she helped him out by saying 'That's the one from the movie 'Good Morning Vietnam'. The one that starts off: Icy Trees Of Green, Red Roses Too...' (quote from David Paquette, the American jazz pianist and supplied by Eric Holroyd) Another one of David's requests was from a Scott Joplin 'fan' who asked if he knew Joplin's 'Make Believe Rag'. Quick as a flash, David replied 'No, but I'll pretend I do!'

I was playing a gig in Bowness and a punter said,' Can you play anything by Robbie Williams?'  We patiently explained that we are a jazz band and it isn't our type of music.  A little while later we had just finished playing 'Summertime' and back comes Mr Punter and says 'I thought you said you couldn't play anything by Robbie Williams'.  ( Lawrence Marshall 19/08/05)

Bob Whetstone, of Melbourne's Maple Leaf Jazz Band had a request from a fan for the band to play the 'Sid James Infirmary Blues!' Another time a patron asked him for 'One of them Duke Eglinton tunes', whilst yet another wanted 'Alexandria's Rag', which was eventually worked out to be 'Alexander's Ragtime Band'. (Eric Holroyd 14/08/05)

Some time ago the Rioters Dixieband were playing at a wedding at the now gone and greatly missed Blundellsands Hotel.We were in the interval when two girls came up to us and asked if we would play 'some Michael Jackson numbers'. With or without the dancing ? we said, though we just couldn't see Jeff Lewis strutting that sort of stuff ! Still it made a change from being asked for Glenn Miller stuff, eh ?  What made the gig memorable as well was watching the married couple taking the floor for the first dance - they were both built like Sumo wrestlers !!! Mind boggling !!!  - (Roy Swift, 20/08/05)

In the early-mid 1960s I was with a Jazz quintet on the USAREUR base (US Armed Forces Europe) at Casserne Lariboissière, Fontainebleau. One evening, the cabaret (which didn't require backing - so we became anchored at the Bar) happened to be the "Daggenham Girl Pipers". On the evening in question, the audience was very small. We, the resident band, were eventually the only ones paying any attention to, and appreciating the expertise of the Pipers - the few Americans present only being concerned with the girls' various contours. 

In the second half of the evening, the DGP did another spot. By now, there were only four Forces' member in the audience; four very relaxed, jovial black men, almost right under the stage, busy playing cards and chatting among themselves totally oblivious to the skirl o' the pipes. At one point, one card-player - in a very loud voice that almost drowned out the monotonous drones - requested the impossible: "Play 'Moanin'! " 

As luck would have it, on this occasion, the piece was not in the DGP's repertoire. - (Joe Silmon 18/08/05)

One of the best 'Daft Things' wasn't exactly what a punter said but something I read in Bill Crow's "From the Bandstand" column in 'Allegro' magazine. A jazz trio was playing at a function in New York and a lady with a strident voice was in full bellow at a table next to the musicians.  During a rendition of "Indiana" the guys decided to get their own back and play 'fours' to her high decibel diatribe. After three choruses they gave up and finished the tune. And she didn't even notice. (Ian  Royle 23/08/05)

Must say I enjoyed reading the funny things people say. A great idea and only regret I can't make an original contribution. But I'd like to know which Liverpool bandleader it was who was asked to play " Buy me a beer, Mr Shane" (Eddie Simpson 08/09/05)

Bondi's Icebergs Club had a jazz band on Sundays for quite some time which included Tim Browne on piano. Tim seemed to attract unusual requests, and in Tim's case a lady wanted 'Saint James In Fernery Blues'. After racking his brains to decide what another patron wanted by asking for the pianist to play 'Barcelona', Tim went to the guy's table to ask for clarification. It turned out he'd wanted the theme music from the Barcelona Olympics. Tim, playing solo piano in a cocktail lounge was somewhat stumped by a late night patron who asked him to play 'something by Pavarotti'. (Eric Holroyd 14/08/05)

Last week, while playing with Shep's Banjo Boys on a new massive TESCO superstore promotion in Burnage, Manchester, a young lady asked us  "Could you play some Rat-Pack music? ..."  One witty member of the trio answered "We would do, gladly, but unfortunately, neither Messrs. Sinatra, Martin, Davis Jr, Lawford, Riddle & Boys nor the others were at the pick-up point on time when the band coach left, ... and they had the pad with them anyway ..."     (Joe Silmon 25/09/05)

We (Shep's Banjo Boys) were in the ATV TV studios in Birmingham for a live performance in The Golden Shot one Sunday.
We had finished a camera run and sound check and were in the "Green Room" having some light refreshment. There is a TV monitor in the green room and a camera had been left on on the studio floor. Whilst watching, one of the TV floor men decided to have a go on the drum kit not knowing we were all watching upstairs. John our drummer went downstairs and approached the man asking him for his car keys. When asked why, John said well if you are going to have a go on my drums. I would like a "spin" round the block in your car. You could see the embarrassment on the man's face for miles. Of course we all fell about as John was only joking.  (Charlie Bentley 27/09/05)

Here's another dubious one, but it's worth including anyway! The lady came up to ask the pianist if he knew how to play 'A jazz chord'. 'Sure do!' said our hero, and played a really hip handful of notes. 'That's not what I mean,' she said. 'It's a real song'. 'Sing me a bit then,' said the pianist. 'A jazz chord, to say I love you,' she sang, sounding not at all like Stevie Wonder. (Eric Holroyd 12/12/05)

Some time during my flash-in-the-pan London Jazz career (1960s), I came across a Metropolitan Police Traditional Jazz outfit, playing on a bandstand in some park near the Centre - I can't recall where. They were quite good musicians, generally, although the Jazz content was, perhaps a little contrived, i.e., a bit stilted, not natural, leaving plenty to be desired. The bandsmen all remained standing during the entire session. Everyone made comments on how exceptionally tall the officers all were, and almost all of them were of even height. Quite remarkable. Altogether too neat for Jazz!, I thought. So I closed my eyes and just listened ... 

I suddenly overheard a group of foreign tourists ask the bandleader officer if they had to pay to listen to the band. The bandleader responded: "Not at all, Sir, we're all paid 'by the Yard' ". (Joe Silmon 12/12/05)

13/05/18 -

Village Hall somewhere in central England.
I had set up Alto, Tenor and Baritone saxes in ascending order of size.
At the interval, a lady of a certain age who had been at the front & had been applauding all the solos with enthusiasm, approached me and said "OOOH,   I've always loved saxophones and clarinets. Which of these is a clarinet?"

Howard Murray.

15/05/18 -

The waiter approached the band and said "The couple at the front table has requested that you play Come Rain or Come Shine. Either one will do."

Tony Dunlevy was informed that some visitors from Malta were in and " Did the band know any Maltese tunes?"
Tony said "How about 'I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself Valletta."

Howard Murray.

15/05/18 -

I told Roy Gregory (Banjo-Guitar), that I'd read that Hitler had hated jazz but realised that he just couldn't stop it. Therefore he imposed many restrictions :-

Double Basses were to be bowed not plucked because black people played pizzicato. Measured in numbers of bars, a maximum duration of drum solos, if any at all, Everything to be in 2/4 time because Bavarian marches were all in 2/4 and most of all,  everything had to be played in a Major key because most Jewish music was in Minor keys.

Roy took a very few seconds to reply "Well, it didn't do him any good. Did it?"
Me: "Er..Why's that?"
Roy: "He still got a flattened 3rd Reich!!!

Howard Murray.

19/05/18 -

The New Riverside were playing at the Wagon and Horses, a guy came to request a tune, he said, "Can you play Can Your Mother Ride A Bike", we were rather perplexed, we asked him to to sing the tune, it was Hiawatha Rag! Try it.

Barrie Marshall

19/05/18 -

My favourite, the busking group where playing on Market Street in Lancaster, a woman stood to listen to us, when we finished the tune she came to chat, she said will you play at my dads funeral, of course we said yes, she asked for a contact number, we gave her one, we asked when the funeral was, she said I don’t know he’s not dead yet.

Barrie Marshall

21/05/18 -

I’m probably not the only clarinet player this has been said to -  somebody comes up to you and all they say is Acker Bilk or Benny Goodman.

Barrie Marshall

27/05/18 -

In the early eighties I led a resident quartet playing a regular weekly dinner-dance gig at a restaurant in Norden, Rochdale. The line-up was guitar, piano, bass and drums.  For the first session we were given the freedom to play jazz while the punters were dining but for the following two sessions we were expected to play purely for dancing. 

On one occasion we were into the early part of the second session when a punter came up to the band and said in a rather aggressive manner “Can you play something my wife can dance to?”

The guitarist looked at him for a moment and said “How do you expect us to know what your wife can dance to?”

Back came the reply in an even more indignant manner “She can dance to anything”

Gerry Tomlinson


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