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 }

Piccolo and Bass

31 May 2019

They make an unlikely pair of buddies.

One is very short and handles the highest musical pitches.

The other is very long and sounds the lowest of notes.

 And sometimes the musicians who play them
don't match the size of their instruments.

It's what makes a musical bond
between the shrill piccolo
and the deep bass tuba
so comical.

 * * *

The first duo are two U. S. Navy bandsmen,
a diminutive tuba player not much taller than his instrument,
and a tall gangling piccoloist whose hand span
is as wide as his instrument is long.

The were identified on the back of their postcard
as Mutt & Jeff of the Passage Band.

There is no U.S. Navy ship named Passage
so it may refer to a place.
Mutt & Jeff refers to
a popular syndicated comic strip
created by cartoonist Bud Fisher in 1907
with two mismatched characters,
Mutt the tall one and Jeff his short sidekick.
My guess is that the photo dates from 1910 – 1930.

 * * *

The second disparate pair are
two U. S. Army or National Guard bandsmen
standing in front of a military canvas tent.
The taller man has a piccolo
and the much shorter fellow
is wrapped up inside a sousaphone.
Both wear the standard issue Campaign Hat M1911
given to America soldiers in World War One.

This postcard was likely taken 1910 – 1918.
It was signed on the back.

John Matteo + John Rosenberger
12 ft - fill 50 Kuez (?)


 * * *

The next duet is also posed outside a large tent
but they are U. S. Navy bandsmen
apparently on shore duty.
Again the taller sailor has a piccolo,
but the shorter bandsman is standing with a string bass,
an instrument that once was commonly used
by military bands in concerts
where the band performed seated.

This photo is a not a postcard
but a very small 2" x 3" image.
As the sailors are wearing leggings,
I would date them to the 1910 – 1930 era.

 * * *

The last musical pair are two members
of the Washington National Guard
who were featured in my story in February 2019 entitled
The Band at the Old Campground.
The two postcards, a full frontal photo and a comic backside,
date from 1910 when a professional wind band from Seattle
was engaged by the Washington National Guard
for its bi-annual maneuvers at American Lake near Tacoma,WA. 
The tall piccoloist was Sergt. Fred Graef, the drum major.
The short man swallowed by a helicon,
a precursor to the sousaphone,
was actually a clarinettist
named was Frank Avanzo or Aronzo.
Both were pretending to play
the two extremes of musical instruments
for humorous effect.

The long and the short of it is
that these four photos of army/navy bandsmen
show that the 8 octave difference
between a tuba's (or double bass's)
thunderous low notes
and the piercing trills of a piccolo
were never a hindrance
to making real friendships
in a military band.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where smoking is only permitted in the smoking car.


Kat Mortensen said...

Terrific post, Mike! It's fascinating to see not just the men, but the instruments themselves. Is the helicon the instrument itself, or merely a part of same? Where do you find these great photos?
Really enjoyed this!

Molly of Molly's Canopy said...

Wonderful post and take on the prompt. I particularly like the last photo because it show's the "audience" -- fellow servicemen who appear to be enjoying the joke. Many of your band photos are more formal, making this one unique in capturing the moment Instagram style long before the Internet was even dreamed of.

Kathy said...

What a fun take on the prompt. These fellows with their mismatched sizes and instruments made me smile.

SusanK said...

I love these pairs. I kept thinking I bet they'd make good characters for a movie.

La Nightingail said...

The unique pairings of these bandsmen both instrumentally and height & breadth wise is a hoot and a half. Fun! :)

Wendy said...

These are hilarious.


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