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Not My Job: Trombone Shorty Gets Quizzed On Obscure Musical Instruments


Before we get to our next musical interview, let me tell you that WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME is coming to Philadelphia on July 9 and Louisville, Ky., on September 3. You can find tickets at our website, waitwait.npr.org. Now, today, of course, we are doing an all-musician show. And unlike other shows that host musicians, we do not let them play or sing. It's what makes us special.


BILL KURTIS, BYLINE: If you listen closely, you can hear their frustration.

SAGAL: For example, when Trombone Shorty, born Troy Andrews in New Orleans, joined us at the wonderful Saenger Theater in his home town, he probably felt weird that he was not blowing the roof off with his horn.

KURTIS: Peter started by asking him what he liked to be called.


SAGAL: So first things first, how should we - should we call you Trombone? Should we call you Shorty? Should we call you Troy, which was your birth name? Mr. Andrews? What should we call you?

TROY ANDREWS: Whatever you like. I get called all of them every day.

SAGAL: Really?

ANDREWS: I respond to everything.


SAGAL: So people walking down the street go hey, Trombone Shorty.

ANDREWS: It just happened outside.

SAGAL: Really?


SAGAL: So you started playing when you were really young.

ANDREWS: Really young, 4 years old.


SAGAL: Four years old. And you picked up a trombone when you were 4 years old?

ANDREWS: Yeah I did. And I had to use a trumpet mouthpiece 'cause my lips were so small.

AMY DICKINSON: Oh, my gosh.

SAGAL: I mean - and I read that you were leading your own band?

ANDREWS: Yeah, by the age of 6.


SAGAL: How does a 6-year-old lead a band?

ANDREWS: Well, my brother taught me a bunch of things, and I wanted to imitate him so I got some of my neighbors together, and I put together this brass band, and we would go out to Jackson Square. And then whatever I couldn't play or whatever they couldn't play, and then I learned it and taught it to those guys.

SAGAL: So wait a minute. The other members of the band at this time - the band you're leading when you were six - how old were they?

ANDREWS: Five, four...

DICKINSON: Oh, my gosh. So did you have to take - like on your breaks, did you have like juice boxes?


ANDREWS: No, we actually took the money we made and got us a good Lucky Dog.

DICKINSON: Oh, yeah.


SAGAL: Oh, yeah. I am - speaking as a sometime tourist in New Orleans myself, you must've cleaned up. The other bands down there in Jackson Square must've looked at you guys and said we don't have a chance because the Little Rascals are here playing.

ANDREWS: That's the real name of a band, too.

SAGAL: Really?


SAGAL: Well, what was the name of your band?

ANDREWS: The name of my band - first it was called the Five O'clock Band because we would go to school and...

SAGAL: I thought it was your bedtime.


ANDREWS: No. So we would get out of school at three or four o'clock, and we would walk home and then five o'clock every day, you can catch us practicing and going around the neighborhood. We had that as the Five O'clock Band. And then we turned it into the Trombone Shorty Brass Band as we got a little older and we started to work a bit more.

SAGAL: Yeah, I understand, started booking dates. I imagine the lifestyle for a 6-year-old professional musician is crazy. It's like "Behind The Music" Trombone Shorty got addicted the PEZ, you know.


SAGAL: Let me ask you a couple of basic questions. Can you even remember why you picked the trombone?

ANDREWS: No. But, you know, my brother plays the trumpet. And he's very influenced by Louis Armstrong. Louis Armstrong always had a sidekick trombonist. And I think he was trying to make me that part.


ANDREWS: And, you know, I think other than that, it was probably one of the only other instruments in the house that actually worked.


SAGAL: Right.

ANDREWS: It was cool. I couldn't get all the positions so I would use my foot when I sit down.

DICKINSON: Oh, my God.

SAGAL: Wait a minute, you're telling me that you were so small - you were short - I guess we're getting to the name thing - that you would actually have to sit down, put your foot in the slide of the trombone to get it out for the low notes.

ANDREWS: Yeah. For the low notes. I had trouble getting it back though.

SAGAL: Oh, yeah.


SAGAL: We heard you once actually got in trouble for busking too loudly - for playing too loudly in Jackson Square. You got busted?

ANDREWS: Well, they - yeah we got busted.


ANDREWS: They, like, brought us downtown.

SAGAL: Did they - how old were you when this happened?

ANDREWS: I think I was 10.

SAGAL: You were 10 years old.


SAGAL: So you're sitting there, you're 10 years old, you're in central jail in New Orleans.

ANDREWS: No, no.

SAGAL: Murderers are there like what are you in for? And he's like, playing trombone too loud.


ANDREWS: By the time we got there, we actually just walked in, and they walked us out. We had a lawyer there by the time.

ROY BLOUNT JR.: How old was he?


ANDREWS: I think, overall, they were just making an example. But then, you know, we had like I think - 'cause when we were really young, and we were making a lot of - we were making like $300 or $400 a piece. We were so small that we couldn't put it in our pockets. And I remember once they arrested us, we didn't know - I think they called it a protection arrest or something. Then after all of that, the guy asked us did we need a sax player.


SAGAL: The cop who arrested you? 'Cause, of course, it's New Orleans. He plays the saxophone.

ANDREWS: Right. And I think some of our money came up missing.

SAGAL: Oh, really? That's terrible.

ANDREWS: No Lucky Dog that day.



SAGAL: Trombone Shorty, Troy, we are delighted to talk to you, but we have invited you here to play a game we're calling...

KURTIS: Trombone Shorty, You Can Call Me Sackbut Billy.

DICKINSON: Oh, my God.

SAGAL: You love the trombone so much you took it for your name, but what do you know about other more obscure musical instruments like the sackbut of the Renaissance?


SAGAL: Answer two of these questions - these three questions - you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, the voice of Carl Kasell on your voicemail. Bill, who is Trombone Shorty playing for?

KURTIS: Alex Flavor of New Orleans, La.


SAGAL: All right. Here's your first question. British inventor David Cranmer makes innovative musical instruments such as which of these? A, the Water Megaflute, that's a Coke bottle 30-feet tall you fill with water and the blow over the top of; B, the Badgermin, which is a theremin built into the body of a stuffed badger; or C, the foam-a-flute, which is 18 pool noodles stitched together, and you blow in one end?


SAGAL: You're going to go for C, the foam-a-flute?


SAGAL: You ever played in the pool with a pool noodle?


SAGAL: You've never done that?


SAGAL: You ever blown - that's what normal children making music do.


SAGAL: It was actually the Badgermin. You can see it online with the theremin. All right, here we go. You have two more chances here so you can still win this. Some instruments were actually dangerous, such as which of these? The Auto-Harp, which was a stringed instrument you play by holding it against passing cars; B, the Windrush flute, which was played by the flow of air created by jumping off a high place - concerts were very brief; or C, the Pyrophone, a gasoline-powered calliope, which used internal combustion to generate pressure?


SAGAL: The audience says C. Yes it's the pyrophone.


SAGAL: Calliope needs air pressure, why not use a gas engine to make it? All right. This is the last one. If you get this right, you win. An Australian musician created a new instrument. It's very complex. It uses rolls of paper running past oscillators to make sounds. That's not what we're going to ask you about. We're going to ask you what he calls the instrument. Is it A, the Cross-Grainer Kangaroo-Pouch Tone Tool; B, The Wagga-Wagga Wagger; or C, The Argy-bargy-flanger manger?

ANDREWS: I'm going to have to get a little help from them. C again?

SAGAL: You're going to go for the - you're really going to go...


SAGAL: You're going to go for the Wagga-Wagga Wagger?

ANDREWS: What do we think? A.

SAGAL: A. You're going to go for A?

ANDREWS: I think.

SAGAL: You're right. It's A.


SAGAL: Someday, some kid is going to play that at a young age and regret his nickname for the rest of his life.


SAGAL: 'Cause he's going to be known as cross-grainger kangaroo-pouch tone-tool shorty. Bill, how did Trombone Shorty do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Well, the city loves Shorty, don't they? He won. Two out of three.



SAGAL: Trombone Shorty, thank you so much for joining us. You are the best.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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