The Miami Band
In 1838, Miami began under the name of Greenville, and music was confined to churches and parlors. Organs, music boxes and caged canaries were luxuries. After the War Between the States, musicians traveled throughout the country, often playing at political rallies or ice cream socials. Music abounded in Saline County and elsewhere when the Miami Band formed with no people of color and no women, although famed ragtime composer and pianist John William “Blind” Boone, a black man, was born in 1864 near Miami, and talented women regularly learned and taught piano and violin.
A 1910 photo of the Miami Band with John G. Guthrey Jr. conducting shows with horns that might have included cornets, flugel horns, tenor horns, baritones, trombones, euphoniums, bass horns and tubas.
Percussion was provided by traditional bass and snare drums, drum kits, bongos, congas, cymbals, timpani, glockenspiels, xylophones, gongs and chimes.
The Miami Band musicians were town boys and farm boys. The bandstand was built for them in 1908, and the band offered weekly concerts with eclectic programs of marches, waltzes, and show tunes (Friends, Twilight Hour, Come Where the Lilies Bloom, The Right of War).
Before his marriage to Clara Bell Kile, John G. Guthrey Jr. (1871-1948) had been a musician with the Lemon Brothers Circus that originated in Argentine, Kan. He was from a respected Miami farming family and one of the founders of the Marshall Municipal Band. Less is known about John Frank Webster (1842-1916), who in 1904 took the Miami Band to the World’s Fair in St. Louis. There was fierce competition among bands from all over the world to land a slot at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition when average life expectancy in the U.S. was 47, average annual income was $300, only 14 percent of homes had a bathtub, only 8 percent had a telephone, and Teddy Roosevelt was due to be re-elected. Two chosen bands played at six locations. Bands also played at the Plateau of States, the Administration Building, and in the Philippine Reservation and Government Indian School.
U.S. military bands played at the Government Building. If you count the palaces and pike, the fairgrounds covered 1,272 acres. Hundreds of bands entertained Monday through Saturday. Bands were everywhere.
Clarence E. Hisle was 14 when he wrote “Miami Boy Visits the Fair.” He said, “The illumination is a grand sight and one not soon to be forgotten. I think everyone who has a chance ought to go to the fair for there are so many things to see that one may never see collected together again.”
The Miami Band went on to play at the Saline County Fair in Marshall, at Bosworth in Carroll County, and in 1920 at the State Fair in Sedalia for the Missouri centennial.
At the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Frank Webster
gets a hand.
At the State Fair in Sedalia, John Guthrey takes
They make a sound so grand
The town builds them a stand.
They may be gone but they play on — the
Sources: Friends of Miami, Inc, Dorothy Clements, Kile P. Guthrey Jr., Lucille Hisle, History of Saline County by A. H. Orr, The Marshall Democrat-News, Marshall Public Library Genealogy Staff, The Miami News (1882-1920), www.1904worldsfairsociety.org. Chanted to the chorus of the song, “Meet Me In St. Louis.”
This story (revised 2018) first appeared in the Marshall Writers’ Guild book, “Notes and Notables of Saline County” (©2014.) Sidney Sullivan is current president of MWG and longtime member.