How often has this happened? There’s no authoritative or complete listing of the shows he has performed in his 60 years as a professional. Author Morten Reff lists as many of the international shows as he could find and it is a bigger number than I care to count—well over 500. But I can make some reasonable (and I think reasonably conservative) estimates. Let’s assume that from 1955 until 1961 he did an average of 200 shows a year. That makes 1200. Let’s say that from 1963 until 1971 he worked a little harder—say 225 a year. That’s another 1800. Then comes his “Ding a Ling” and even more work—let’s say 750 shows over three years. We’re up to 3750. Then let it cruise at 125 shows a year for the next 10 years. That’s probably conservative, but it’s now 1986, and we’re at 5250 shows. But he’s only 60 and still going strong. Let’s assume 100 shows a year until he turns 70, 75 a year until 75, 50 a year till he turns 80, and then slow him down to something like 25 shows a year when he enters his 80s. By my reasonably well educated (and carefully manipulated) fantasy count we’re at 7000 shows and counting.
It’s guesswork on my part, but you get the idea. The man has worked. This isn’t some superstar who plays golf 300 days a year and then regroups for a tour every ten years to refill the coffers. The man worked, and still does.