Rumors abound in the music business. They seem to spring from everywhere, adding confusion to an already confusing business. These rumors must come from someplace, although individuals rarely admit to starting them.

One way rumors get started is when a number of people hear and repeat a story with each person adding a little imagination to the story. With each re-telling the story gets more and more bizarre.

Example: Ask 10 people to sit in a circle. One person whispers a story (or joke) to the person next to him. He, in turn, whispers it to the next person. When the story goes all around the circle it returns to the first person. In most cases the story has been added to and changed in its trip around the circle. The first person is usually amazed when he hears the story he started. It bears little or no resemblance to the story as he originally told it.

This illustrates that even well-meaning people will alter what they hear. This is the result of careless listening and more careless re-telling. As a friend of mine put it, “Most people just repeat what they thought they heard.”



There are people who, because of jealousy, anger and envy, will deliberately start rumors to hurt another person. Politicians, during the heat of a campaign, are famous for this. However, at least this is done publicly.

The sneaky and most dangerous rumors are the ones that circulate quietly. The person about whom the rumor has been started rarely has the opportunity to defend himself. This is sad because rumors can hurt a person’s career, and the people who spread these rumors are cowards.


Rumor Helpers

Some individuals mean no harm, they just always want to be first with the “inside” story. In their haste to impress others they usually never check to see if a story is true before spreading it all over town.

These people get a vicarious thrill by repeating negative stories. They love to pretend that they know what’s happening. “Did you hear the latest about so and so?” is their opening line to catch your curiosity.

By not checking their facts before talking, they can do as much damage as the envious person who started the rumors.


Good News Is No News

Bad news and trouble sells newspapers and gets TV ratings on news shows. “Plane lands safely” doesn’t get much attention. However, “plane missing . . . all aboard feared dead” will get the attention of many people.

Even if the next day the news is “all aboard found safe,” the damage has been done. Relatives have had their lives disrupted by irresponsible news reporting.

Although I’m not criticizing newspapers or newspeople, it does happen. In their haste to be first, problems can be created. Believe me, if it can happen in news reporting, it can and does happen in the music business. After all, the only thing anyone has to do is start whispering, and the phenomenon of “bad news travels fast” is in motion.


Dealing With Rumors

If someone tells you something that you find difficult to believe (especially if it is negative), ask some questions. Ask the person, “How do you know this to be true?” “Were you there?” or “Who told you this story?”

The last question will tell you a lot. If the person says, “I can’t say,” be suspicious. If the person volunteers a name that you think is false, be careful.


Think Before Speaking

I’ve heard stories about myself that are truly amazing. One guy told me (he didn’t know who I was) that “Roy Burns had a twin brother who played drums better than Roy and that was where he got his ideas.” He hold me that “Roy Burns’ twin brother is in a mental hospital and Roy Burns stole his style from him.” The truth is that I have a younger brother who is perfectly healthy and who has never played drums. In fact, for a time he was a professional bowler.

I asked this person how he knew this story and, believe it or not, he said, “I’m a friend of the family.” I then introduced myself and the guy got very embarrassed. His excuse was, “That’s what someone told me.” I said that next time he should check the facts before repeating negative stories.

When I was in Las Vegas a few years ago I was introduced to another drummer. He said, “Are you Roy Burns the drummer?” I replied yes. He looked very concerned, and I asked him why. He said, “I heard you were dead!” That one made me feel a little scared. I remember thinking, “What next?”

Some Last Thoughts

When you hear weird rumors about someone, check them out. Call some other people and ask,” Have you heard anything unusual about so and so?” If no one else has heard anything, don’t repeat the story. Simply forget about it.

If a person is continually telling you negative stories about others, avoid him. Just tell him, “I don’t want to hear it.”

You may not be able to stop someone else from starting or repeating rumors, but at least you won’t be adding to the problem. Just remember, such strange stories are usually greatly exaggerated or, more often than not, simply not true.