Being a person of absolutely no musical talent, I feel qualified to make a bold statement: There is no finer musical instrument than the tuba. The tuba is the Mount Everest of musical perfection. If the Mona Lisa were a musical instrument, she would be a tuba. If a tuba were a pizza it would be double pepperoni with everything but anchovies. The tuba is to musical instruments what puppies are to dogs with the sizes reversed. Tubas are inherently lovable. Tuba players are admired by all persons with ears. To be the life of the party, show up with your tuba and blast out “When the Saints Go Marching in” while marching around the dining room table. Every one in the room, including the most beautiful women, will follow a tuba layer anywhere.
For a moment let us consider the origin of the tuba species. Unlike Athena, who sprang fully grown from the head of Zeus after a bit of cranial surgery with an ax by Hephaestus the Black Smith, the tuba evolved from an earlier instrument called the ophicleide, which was a fancy bugle with keys. The original tuba patent was granted in 1835 in Prussia. Since then, tubas have delighted music fans for nearly 200 years.
Despite the majesty of the tuba, all is not well in Tuba Land. There have been a rash of tuba thefts, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. The thefts are not particularly surprising due to the inherent beauty of the tuba. The surprising thing is how difficult it would be to steal a tuba and make off with it unseen. A tuba is not a musical instrument that you can purloin and hide in your pocket like a harmonica, a kazoo or a comb with wax paper. Tuba’s are the Arnold Schwartzneggers of the music world. They are big, bulky and hard to hide when you are lamming away from the scene of the tuba crime.
Case in point – the recent theft of a tuba from New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band. This fine instrument is four feet long and weighs about 38 pounds according to the Wall Street Journal. Tuba thefts are becoming more common with high school band rooms being hit in Los Angeles and Greensboro. Some tubas can be worth over $12,000, which is nothing to sneeze at. Sgt. Joe Friday advises that hot tubas are being pawned or sold to Mexican bands. If you have a tuba, never let it out of your sight.
But enough tuba crime reporting. Tubas are inherently funny. If you put a tuba on the cover of a comic book, it is sure to be a best seller. In a cursory search of the Google (which will result in me getting multiple ads to buy stolen tubas), I found endless tuba covers to illustrate this point. Woody Woodpecker is shown unsuccessfully trying to blow a tuba with his niece and nephew hiding the tuba. Mickey Mouse is blowing a tuba that is flying his nephews’ kites. Little Dot is blowing bubbles out of her tuba. Fred Flintstone has a prehistoric bird perched in the top of his tuba. Blondie’s dog Daisy is blowing a tuba and her puppies are being blasted out along with a tune. Nancy’s friend Sluggo is walking in the rain with an umbrella stuck in his tuba on his way to band practice. In keeping with the rain theme, Yogi Bear is carrying his tuba while Huckleberry Hound is using it as an umbrella. Porky Pig is blowing a tuba which is causing his nephew’s whirligig to spin. Tom is trying to play a tuba while Jerry is holding a hose pouring water into the tuba resulting in water squirting out of Tom’s ears. Batman is shown catching a crook by crashing a tuba over said crook’s head while saying those immortal words, “Tuba or not tuba, that’s the answer.”
There is even a zombie playing a tuba on the cover of Z Nation graphic comic. This stretches the tuba metaphor a bridge too far. We all know that zombies don’t breathe, which means actually playing a tuba would be beyond the reach of any zombie. Perhaps the most famous tuba is Tubby the Tuba who has his own movie and book deal. My personal favorite tuba cover is from Candy, America’s favorite teen girl. Candy and her Canadian boyfriend are sitting together encircled by a tuba. Boyfriend uses the world’s greatest pick up line on Candy saying: “There’s nothing like learning to play an instrument to make a fellow popular with the girls, eh, Candy?”
So what have we learned today? Ask not for whom the tuba blows. It blows for thee. A tuba by any other name would smell as sweet. You can lead a tuba to water but you can’t make it drink. All that glitters is not a tuba. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have tubas thrust upon them. If you don’t blow your own horn, who will?
Photo by Nathan Bingle on Unsplash