This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
{ Click on the image to expand the photo }

Trick or Treat?

31 October 2014

Ya like our tunes? Don't squawk or holler.  
We'll take a pie, a jug, a nickle or a dollar.

Whatcha ya got? We ain't picky.
We got plenty more songs to set your feet a'tappin'.

Each one worst than the last.

So pay up now or we'll keep on playing!

(And take no mind to our cannon!)

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Not every band could afford fancy uniforms and some deliberately chose rather unflattering costumes. This band of yokels left a few clues on the the back of the torn and creased postcard which dates from 1905 to 1920. Evidently they kept high musical standards to be known as Bland's Symphony Orchestra though obviously they are just a 10 piece brass band (with a token clarinetist). We can discover where they were from because the photographer left a stamp with his name:

The Violet Ray Studio, Lakeside, ...
C. H. Geyer, Prop.

An internet search turned up just a single match for another postcard by C. H. Geyer, Proprietor. It shows a rail car from the train line to Lakeside, OH, a private community on the shore of Lake Erie about half way between Cleveland and Toledo and just across the bay from Sandusky, Ohio. Lakeside was founded in 1873 as a holiday resort for members of the Methodist church and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The musicians are dressed in country bumpkin outfits that were typical of a Rube Band. Musical clown groups like this started in the 1890s as a variation on the minstrel shows and featured a marching band of hayseed musicians who had more enthusiasm than polish. Though originally a type of traveling troupe associated with comic vaudeville theater, the rube band style became popular with Masonic and Fraternal Societies since musicianship was optional. Back in 2013 I wrote about a photo of the Zanesville Rube Band which was a similar but larger clown ensemble with the Fraternal Order of Eagles of Zanesville, Ohio.

Because of its background as a religious retreat, Lakeside was one of the first communities to join the Chautauqua movement which was a circuit of summertime fairs that brought preachers, scholarly  speakers, theatrical and musical artists together for a few days of wholesome family entertainment. Though Chautauqua events were temperate and educational, they were not without humor so this group might have been part of one.    

Sandusky OH Star Journal
August 7, 1901
This report from 1901 appeared in the Sandusky Star Journal and offers a good description of a band similar to Bland's so-called Symphony Orchestra.

From Marion Render Some Very Choice Music

   An excursion composed mostly of Marion Elks came to town today bringing along a Rube band. And that musical organization would bring to the most unimaginative mind pictures of ploughed fields and country cross roads, with a nice big hay stack thrown in for scenic effect.
   The Band struck town this morning and started up Columbus avenue playing "A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight." The slide trombone player was the leader and the others followed him as best they could. The marching order was original, the bass drummer making himself a sort of rear guard, the tuba player on the right flank and the remaining members of the organization tooting manfully somewhere in the vicinity. The uniforms were suggestive of harvest time and the boots of the bass drummer seemed strangely out of place on a paved street. They looked homesick for the springy loam in the wake of the plow.

   The band rendered several selections at the foot of the avenue, among which was "Say Au Revoir." This number brought tears to the eyes of the cigar store Indian on the West House corner. After this selection the band retired to the ice water barrel on the post office corner.

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The idea of costumed bands has been around since ancient times and continues with the parade celebrations for the New Years, Mardi Gras, and Carnaval holidays. Sadly the Rube Band with its now unfamiliar rural farm roots has lost appeal in America, but it is still a tradition in Kamloops, British Columbia which has maintained one for many years. Perhaps Canada treats its unsophisticated country rubes with more respect and dignity than in America.

Here is a short video of a Canadian parade with a band
where costumes, clowning, and fun are more important than the music.

[Click this video link to watch it on YouTube]
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This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
click the link and dig in!

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Wendy said...

I think the news reporter could have found a spot in the band if they were short on humor. His report was as funny as he thought the band was.

Anonymous said...

Making music and having fun what more could you ask for. I loved the drum on wheels. But I was very confused by this word Rube. Google didn't help much until I went to a dictionary and found that a rube is an unsophisticated person from a rural area or a hick then everything fell into place. A most entertaining post.

Alan Burnett said...

As always, quite fascinating. I love the idea of the run-down symphony orchestra - I would have paid good money to see them. And I love the final trick. The whole post was a treat.

Deb Gould said...

Never heard the term "Rube Band," but love the concept! We've got variations of that up here in Maine, especially one called "The Wicked Good Band," which isn't.

Bob Scotney said...

Entertaining as usual, Mike. I'm sure the band was too.
The video did not show up for me.

B. Rogers, Living in Black Mountain said...

Never heard of a rube band...wonder if it's related to a rube golberg invention...thanks for making me smarter a little bit.

Sharon said...

I have no idea how you did it but I love what you did with that last photo!

Doug Peabody said...

The gentlemen in those old photos could be the "Motley Crue" of the day. i enjoyed your post!

La Nightingail said...

I love the supposed threat: "Pay up now or we'll keep playing." Gave me a good chuckle! Fun post.

Kristin said...

Wow! A town near where I lived in Michigan had a clown band but it was sophisticated compared to this band.

Lorraine Phelan said...

Is the bloke standing back left holding a clarinet? I don't recognise the instrument.

Jo Featherston said...

All but one of the band members look downright haggard and not at all happy, but I guess that was all part of their act. Very interesting, as usual.

Little Nell said...

Great fun, especially the surprise the boys gave us at the end. I enjoyed the newspaper report - tears in the eyes of the cigar store Indian!


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