Friday, July 27, 2012

John Phillip Sousa and his Band. You often hear recordings of his band, but who was conducting it?

John Phillip Sousa and his Band. It was world famous and of course seen in many parts of the world. Starting in the 1890's the band was recorded by every major recording company. Sousa made a great deal of money from his recordings. Too bad he was not there to make them.

 There seemed to have been a love hate relationship between Sousa and recording. Sousa would always have his Concert Master conduct at recordings. He was never there!  He would write articles on "Canned Music" as he liked to call records. He was not at all favorable to recording.  Funny he would complain about it and then of course get the money from the recordings.  He was also notoriously cheap and lost a lot of talent due it. Perhaps his greatest loss was Arthur Pryor.

 Pryor was his concert master for several years and conducted a great deal of Sousa's early recordings. Till Pryor was frustrated by Sousa's cheapness and soon formed his own group called the Arthur Pryor's band. This would rival Sousa's and be as successful as Sousa's. In fact Pryor would make as many recordings as Sousa... or should I say who ever was conducting Sousa that is.

In the period of WWI, Jazz made it first appearance. Sousa had nothing good to say about it. In fact he and his friend Thomas Edison would get together and look in disgust at Jazz. He felt that the saxophone was not made for jazz. It was very suggestive and made a mockery of good music.
It is really quite interesting to see how little Sousa was interested in music outside his sphere and of course it got more severe as he grew older. From the 1890's to around 1925 Sousa never conducted his recordings.  It was not till the last years of his life that there were actually recordings made of him conducting.
Of course the Band would play just as it would for the record as it would for Sousa, but I have always found it odd that the man for whom the band was named was never there.  I guess he could never allow himself to be a "Canned Conductor" to his "Canned Music".  

So the next time you hear a recording of Sousa's Band, remember that Sousa wasn't there. Just on the sidelines waiting for the cash.