David Finnaker (band manager): The late 1800s: the worst era in human history. Bushy beards and the occasional motor carriage. Wide-brimmed hats and stupid umbrellas. Dysentery. It all sucked. So what do you do when you’re not happy on the road? You party your ass off! And that’s just what we did while we toured the United States as the hardest-partying eighty-piece marching band in history. I’m surprised I remembered any of it.
John Philip Sousa (composer/director): I used to pay the chief mouthpiece scrubber an extra five dollars a week to be in charge of my spare hotel key. The only ladies allowed in my room were the real lookers with heavily ruffled bell-shaped skirts.
Frederick August III (3rd trombone): After a show, a fan passed out in the elevator car of our hotel, naked with his pants around his ankles. He had just relieved himself in the corner. He had my trombone in one hand and his manhood in the other. I don’t know how he got a hold of my trombone, but someone said he had dysentery.
William T. Fletcher (1st sousaphone): About two months into the tour, I found out a newborn baby can fit snugly inside a sousaphone. I also found out it’s extremely difficult to get a newborn baby out of a sousaphone.
Elden Ripple (2nd baritone): I didn’t show up for rehearsal once, so Sousa sent over some band members to the Transatlantic Hotel to retrieve me. They found me and three women, passed out, naked, and covered in valve oil. I remember waking up on stage in the middle of performing “El Capitan.” I was later reprimanded.
J. P. Sousa: A young music producer was telling me about this silly idea of bullshit wax cylinder records. He disagreed with my view of recorded music being a fad that will never take hold since people only like live music. Before he could leave, I grabbed the discs and started breaking them over his head and continued flinging them at him as he ran away. This made the band laugh and brought great levity to our tired group that day.
Eldon Bicklin (3rd clarinet): I staged a contest to see which of the ten clarinetists could go without bathing the longest and still sleep with our groupies. It wasn’t as fun as we thought when they vomited on us. Herbert Simon won with sixty-three days. And he got dysentery.
James L. Holt (1st baritone sax): Being in the Sousa band got us all laid because most of us had an incredible full nose-to-ear mustache, a military-looking uniform, and some snazzy chaps. You add that to a flip folder gripped by a fancy lyre and we could make sane women do insane things.
J. P. Sousa: We ran into our despicable rival Henry Fillmore and his band. We snuck into their storage car and tea-bagged their mouthpieces and reeds. They did not take kindly to that.
David Finnaker: We gave the entire Fillmore band dysentery.
Rex Tomlinson (2nd flute): I was nothing in my hometown, just another homely lad with an engraved silver Three Star cornet. But on the road with this marching band, I lived the life of a pornographic star.
James Wilcrumb (1st cornet): I got married to my third, much younger wife while on tour. Instead of “The Bride Elect” march, the band mockingly played “High School Cadets” to poke fun at our age difference. Then I snorted some cocaine and gave an incoherent speech while my nose bled. I kissed my bride, got blood all over her face, and smashed a champagne bottle over my head. We’re still together and have twelve kids.
David Finnaker: I couldn’t wait until my contract was over. The antics were too much, no one took the marches seriously, and I grew tired of the dysentery. I still dream of being a manager for a small group of four or five musicians. That seems like a more laid-back lifestyle.
J. P. Sousa: I should have gotten into jazz.