National Geographic : 1959 Dec
National Geographic, December, 1959 excellent bands of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, the Marine Band holds a unique dis tinction: It is the only musical group that plays regularly at White House social func tions. Guests arriving for a luncheon, tea, reception, or state dinner find from 10 to 22 of the scarlet-jacketed "President's Own" play ing in the Executive Mansion. The band's nationwide tours began in 1891, under the leadership of John Philip Sousa. This autumn, for nine weeks, it covered the Midwest and Northwest, and in 1960 it will visit the Southeastern and Southwestern States. Proceeds of the concerts go to charity or civic projects, with the sponsors under writing all expenses. Whether playing at the White House or rolling from city to city in comfortable buses, the musicians overlook their grueling schedule to admit that servicemen seldom had it so good. Some of them may be thinking back upon the days when a Marine bandsman's lot was quite different. Fifes and Drums Encouraged Volunteers The earliest Marine musicians spent much of their time tootling and thumping through the muddy streets and alleys of Philadelphia, then the Capital. Mostly they played to en courage recruiting, at the behest of Robert Mullan, an enthusiastic Marine captain who also operated a King Street-now Water Street-pub called Tun Tavern. "Yankee Doodle" was the tune played most often; other favorites were "Rural Felicity," "My Dog and Gun," and "On the Road to Boston." Like the children of Hamelin following the Pied Piper, Philadelphia youths trooped after the fifers and drummers to Tun Tavern. There, after listening to a patriotic speech by Mullan, they signed papers, collected enlist ment bounties, and perhaps enjoyed a tankard or two of the captain's ale. When they woke up in the morning, they were Marines. An act of Congress in 1798 gave official status to a band for the Corps: "One drum major, one fife major and thirty-two drums and fifes...." When the Capital was moved to the new Federal City in 1800, Marine Corps headquarters and the band moved too, and Leathernecks set about building a new home, the Marine Barracks, which still stands in southeast Washington. The "musicks" quickly became the favorites of President John Adams, and made their White House debut at a reception given by Adams on New Year's Day, 1801. The band really came into its own when Thomas Jefferson moved into the White House. The third President, an erstwhile vio linist who loved all forms of music, became known as the godfather of the Marine Band. Jefferson's special fondness for band music launched the Marine Corps upon a venture as bizarre as any in Leatherneck annals. In 1803, though busy fighting the Barbary pi rates and buying 827,000 square miles of Lou isiana Territory from France, Jefferson found time to consider the state of music in the Capital. In his view, it was not good. Jefferson Offended by Sour Notes By then the Marine Band had grown be yond mere fifes and drums to include French horns, clarinets, oboes, and a bassoon. It played loudly and frequently, but perhaps not well enough to suit Jefferson's sensitive ear. The President confided his views to Lt. Col. William Ward Burrows, Commandant of the Marine Corps. He reminded Burrows that the best musicians were Italians. Why not get some from Italy? Then there could be two bands, one American and one Italian. To Burrows the President's suggestion was a command. Soon young Capt. John Hall, Mediterranean-bound in U.S.S. Chesapeake to help quell the pirates, found himself under orders to recruit Italian musicians. Jefferson proved quite correct in his be lief that Italy teemed with talented beaters of drums and blowers of brasses and wood winds. In fact, Hall did not have to go as far as the Italian mainland. At Syracuse, Sicily, he found an excellent military band. But leader Gaetano Verano and his men, sat isfied with their jobs, said "No" to Hall. Verano then referred the captain to Gae tano Carusi, leader of a band at Catania. Here Hall met similar resistance, but after nine months of haggling and wheedling he signed up 14 musicians. The oldest was Ca rusi, 42; the youngest was his son, Ignazio, 9. Another musical Carusi was Samuel, 10. A third son, an infant in arms, also was in- The National Anthem Rings Solemnly at the Robert A. Taft Memorial Last April's dedication of the 100-foot bell tower near the Capitol included a perform ance by the Marine musicians. White-gloved riflemen of the color guard present arms.