He once threatened a critic of his daughter’s singing
Harry Truman was a student of the piano and a lifelong lover of music. This passion was reflected in his daughter Margaret, who desired a singing career. In 1950 Margaret performed a recital at Washington’s venerable Constitution Hall, which was reviewed the following morning in the Washington Post. The reviewer, a gentleman by the name of Paul Hume, was not impressed and said so in his review.
He described her voice as being “…of little size…” and commented that her singing “…has not improved in the years we have heard her…cannot sing with anything approaching professional finish.” Truman the President chose to respond as Truman the incensed father in a letter to the Post dated December 6th.
Truman called it a “…lousy review…” and informed the critic that he was an “…eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay.” Truman informed the writer, “Someday I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose…” It is an indication of the character of both men that years later they exchanged somewhat more cordial letters and between them the incident was forgotten, although as President Truman was the recipient of much criticism over the letter.
Truman’s love of music also got him in trouble with his wife Bess on at least one occasion. Truman, then Vice President, was at the National Press Club on a Saturday in February 1945. During the war, the Club was open to servicemen on Saturday nights. Actress Lauren Bacall, not yet a big star, was there too. Truman was attracted to a piano in the ballroom and sat down to play, to amuse both the troops and himself.
Enterprising photographers in the room convinced Bacall to sit on the top of the piano as Truman played, which she did, lounging across the top of the piano and smiling down at the grinning Vice President, both obviously enjoying themselves. The photos ran in papers across the country the next day and Bess was livid by all accounts. Bess informed the soon-to-be President that on no condition should he ever play the piano in public again. Although he did play in public again, albeit it rarely, his piano was always thereafter unadorned.