"Please don't shoot the organist; he's doing his best" (1882)
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Bapopik at AOL.COM
Sun Dec 24 00:07:16 UTC 2006
Maybe researchers who have 19th Century U.S. Newspapers or America's
Historical Newspapers or the Dallas Morning News (yeah, I'll have plenty of nothing
when I lose ProQuest in a week) can do better.
“Please do not shoot the piano player. He is doing his best.”
"Please don’t shoot the piano player. He is doing his best” was a sign in
western saloons in the 1880s. Oscar Wilde made famous the sign that he saw in a
saloon in Leadville, Colorado. Sometimes the warning was not to shoot the
fiddle player. Making western music must have been tough!
Yale Book of Quotations
edited by Fred Shapiro
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
Pg. 822 (Oscar Wilde):
“Over the piano was printed a notice: Please do not shoot the pianist. He is
doing his best.”
Impressions of America (1906). The Newark (Ohio) Daily Advocate, 20 Apr.
1883, describes an after-dinner speech made by Wilde in Paris about his
experiences in the United States: “The brightest and best of the many stories he
related was one to the effect that at a ball in Leadville he saw a notice over
the piano which read: “Please don’t shoot the pianist. He is doing his best.”
9 September 1882, Marshfield (WI) Times, pg. 3, col. 1:
A reasonable request: Some one claims to have found this legend written to a
Leadville church: “Please do not shoot at the organist; he is doing his best.
3 October 1882, Atchison (KS) Globe, pg. 2, col. 5,
It is related that a Texas pastor posted the following notice in his church:
“Please do not shoot the organist; he is doing his best.”
20 April 1883, Newark (Ohio) Daily Advocate, pg. 2?, col. 4:
Oscar at the Pen and Pencil Club.
New York Tribune.
Oscar Wilde bobs up again. He was the guest, a fortnight ago, of the Pen and
Pencil club, of Paris, and made an after-dinner speech about his experiences
in America. The brightest and best of the many stories he related was one to
the effect that at a ball in Leadville he saw a notice over the piano which
read: “Please don’t shoot the pianist. He is doing his best.” This
enterprising resurrection of an antediluvian almanac tradition set the
company roaring, gave his hearers a high opinion of Oscar as an observer and
thinker, and removed Galignani to remark that “there is a freshness of originality
about the man that is absolutely fascinating.”
8 January 1886, Fresno (CA) Republican, pg. 13? (illegible), col. 1:
Senator Blackburn is credited with saying that the California Theater
manager who put up the sign saying: “Please do not shoot the pianist, she is doing
the best she can,” expressed the feeling of the Democrats toward Cleveland
29 January 1887, Marion (Ohio) Weekly Star, pg. 2?, col. 2:
The great democratic editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, Henry
Watterson, does not like President Cleveland very well. In a letter from him, which
appeared in Tuesday’s Courier-Journal, and in which he indulges in a
little-goof-natured ridicule of our Nation’s statesmen, he closes as follows: But
this is personal, if not bigamous, and I desist. It was Eustis, of Louisiana,
who said to a clump of brother Senators who were complaining of the
Administration: “Gentlemen, you should, in speaking of the President, bear in your minds
and hearts the legend over the music stand in the Colorado dive: ‘Gentlemen
will please not shoot the pianist. She’s doing the best that she knows how.
24 August 1888, Morning Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), pg. 6, col. 2:
Washington Special (Aug. 6) to Philadelphia Press.
“Chairman Brice,” said a prominent democrat to-day, “ought to borrow the
sign out West, ‘Please don’t shoot the pianist; he is doing the best he knows
23 November 1889, New York Dramatic Mirror, pg. 6, col. 1:
EDWIN ELROY, a comedian, tried to shoot a musician in Chicago on Thursday
evening last, but the bullet (which is supposed to have struck the cheek of the
musician) glanced off without doing any harm. Mr. Elroy expressed the
sentiments of numerous professionals by his nobel action. The motto which hangs over
the piano in every music-hall out West, “Don’t shoot, he’s doing the best
he can,” will now be in order in the Windy City.
23 June 1891, San Antonio Daily Light, pg. 3, col. 1:
One of the saloons here (Blaine City, TX—ed.) has the following request
posted over the music stand: “Please do not shoot the fiddler, he is doing the
best he knows how.”
25 November 1893, San Antonio Daily Light, pg.
The ancient story of the placard “Please Don’t Shoot the Piano—He’s Doing
the Best He Can,” is purely apocryphal.
29 September 1906, Los Angeles Times, “Doing the Best He Can,” pg. II4:
In an Arizona dance hall of the earlier time this legend was conspicuously
displayed: “Don’t shoot the fiddler; he is doing the best he can.”
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