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Emmett Chapman: Stick Ball

Emmett Chapman

In the fall of 1974, Emmett Chapman appeared on the television show What’s My Line? while a panel of wisecracking celebrity guests attempted to guess what he did for a living. They couldn’t. “It broke everyone up, how the line of questioning went,” Chapman says. “They figured out that I had produced something artistic, that it produced sound. But then they went off in a different direction. They wondered if it produced little puffs of white smoke.”

What Chapman did then is what he still does-building and performing music on an instrument he invented, the Chapman Stick, which turned 30 last year. It’s been adopted by thousands of musicians and is in some respects an advance over its ancestor, the guitar. But if Chapman appeared with Stick on a resurrected What’s My Line tomorrow, he’d get the same jokes and blank looks.

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