Rattle Snakes and Trombone Players

--Informant Info--
Nationality: African American
Age: 57
Occupation: Musician
Residence: Carson, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 21, 2018
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

What is being performed?
DA: There are a lot of musician jokes. Since that has been my career for the past 35 years, I
have heard a lot. Trombone players are usually at the butt of them too.
AA: Why trombone players?
DA: No one ever needs a trombone player so they’re seen as irrelevant.
AA: Oh, wow, well give me a trombone player joke.
DA: Okay. What’s the difference between a rattle snake in the desert and a trombone player?
AA: I don’t know.
DA: The rattle snake was on his way to a gig.

Why do they know or like this piece? where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to
them?
AA: Why do you like this piece?
DA: I’ve been hearing it for a long time now and it’s kind of just this insider between musicians
everywhere. It’s a way for us to laugh at how hard and stressful it is to actually get a gig and
say, “well at least we’re not trombone players.”
AA: Where did you learn this from?
DA: I can’t remember but it’s pretty old. I definitely heard it on tour a long time ago.
Context of the performance- where do you perform it? History?
Delward Atkins tells this joke to his musician friends and most notably remembers telling it while
on tour. He doesn’t share this joke with many people outside the community or with many
trombone players. The trombone players he has told, however, have seemed to laugh.

Reflection
I really like this joke but I also understand that I would not be able to understand it if it was not
explained to me first that trombone players have an especially hard time finding work. I see this
as a unifying thing for the musician community, but for me it’s just a good laugh.