Bob Mitchell: Musical memories of earlier concerts

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

It’s doubtful that many citizens can remember the Cassville band concerts on the west side of the square that were really pretty regularly scheduled entertainment for the entire community.

In early days there was a difficult time finding a parking space for those who arrived by wagon. Saturday night was especially a big draw for the community. After all, there were groceries to purchase for the week, and there was the afternoon drawing with prizes contributed by merchants and the two banks in town, First National and Barry County banks.

Lynn Mitchell would call out the winning prizes. If it was being held today, the prize might possibly be higher than it was back then, with six banks in Cassville now.

Registration for the Saturday drawing was at any participating merchant, and there was no limit on the number of entries signed for any one week. Adults only were permitted to enter.

Busy Saturday

After conducting their business for the day, it wasn’t unusual for families to find a spot in the shade, perhaps cut a cold watermelon they had placed in Flat Creek or the Ice House earlier in the day for family refreshments prior to the start of the band playing.

Folks brought a quilt or blanket for seating or if they happened to have a folding chair or simply a chair in their wagon or later in their vehicle there were no bleachers or seating provided. Stairs entering the Courthouse and sidewalk curbs were the only possible seating available.

In those days, some businesses would remain open into the night on Saturdays, trying to catch possibly one more piece of business after the concert was finished.

That’s when folks would hitch old Dobbin to their wagon or crank the jitney and head for the hills and home.

Band lasted

The Cassville City Band consisted of musicians that had been reading music for a long time. There wasn’t much problem obtaining members, lots of people wanted to become a member. My dad, Leonard, is pictured as the bass drummer in a number of photos that were available.

Members were resplendent in their uniforms, paid for in a fund raising effort among businesses and music lovers at the time. The director was either the head of the music department at school or one of the senior members of the group.

Filling vacancies were often filled out of the high school music organization or past members who might have lingered in business after completing their schooling.

Youngsters quieted

During the band concerts rowdy youngsters were often cornered and seated in front of the audience where their parents or someone in charge could control them. The Cassville audience and those from elsewhere, were here to enjoy the program and not their noises.

During the Old Soldiers’ and Settlers’ Reunions of early days, political speaking and games such as greased pole climb and money toss for the kids, were those events which would follow short band concerts on a platform constructed for these events.

Stayed at home

The Cassville City Band stayed pretty well on their home stage, due possibly to the work schedules of many of the most talented members on several of the important instruments.

Their program naturally consisted of a heavy number of military marches, rolling into popular numbers of the era, that is when rehearsal time was possible, again due to the schedules of the members.

Few high school concerts

Breakup of the Cassville City Band was followed by a very few years of the Cassville High School Band performing at that same spot on the square. In those days, transportation was modernized and most people had a folding chair they could bring with them for comfort.

Lanola Hodge, high school music director, was the last in memory to provide regular Saturday concerts in town. The high school organizations have played for special events, but nothing like those performed by the regular bands. When they have done so, their ratings were high throughout the community.

Of special interest to audiences were the Stage Bands that existed around the 1970s and competed at a very high successful ranking at each appearance.

I remember one was a noontime short concert in the old Crowe’s Dinner House when the Stage Band under John Knight was squeezed in the main dinning room with nearly 60 Rotarians and “brought down the house” after each number. Adjoining spaces in the business were filled with band followers, parents and interested students.

Many of these members when leaving high school made their way to university organizations. Some became directors of prestigious high school units in metropolitan areas. Others went on up the ladder in education.

Knight and Rusty Robinson went through education processes to obtain their Doctorates in Music and topped university programs in later years. Both have returned to CHS to direct existing music organizations, each presenting original compositions to packed audiences.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.

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