The Music Man Cometh
Our band didn't exactly have seventy-six trombones. Four was all we had. There weren't one hundred ten cornets right behind either. But, we did have six. The Dublin Band wasn't the biggest band around, but from 1911-1915, the twenty or so piece marching band was regarded as one of the state's best - so much so that during that half-decade period, Dublin's brass band represented the State of Georgia at the national United Confederate Reunions around the South.
The band's rise to preeminence began in the summer of 1908 when the Dublin City School Board hired Paul Verpoest, a thirty-three-year-old, Belgian-born music professor from Ottumwa, Iowa. As you will see, Paul Verpoest was no Harold Hill, the fictional con artist/music professor made famous by another Iowan, Meredith Wilson, in his immortal play, The Music Man. Shortly after the school term began, Professor Verpoest began to reorganize the pride of the city, the Dublin Military Band. With the aid of his wife Loretta, the French-speaking professor expanded the music program the following year by organizing an orchestra at the school.
The citizens of Macon, Georgia had set their eyes and hung their hopes on securing the 1912 national reunion of the aging Confederate veterans. To boost their cause, Macon enlisted the aid of its largest nearby neighbor. Music, especially the toe-tapping, ear-ringing, flag-waving music of a marching band was just the right instrument to lure the comrades of the United Confederate Veterans to bring the next year's gathering to Macon along with the tens of thousands of dollars in trade such a Southern pride event would bring.
Macon Chamber of Commerce president E.H. Hyman had heard Dublin's band before while he was aiding the Emerald City in the establishment of its own chamber. Hyman recommended the Dublin musicians to accompany the Macon delegation to the national reunion in Little Rock, Arkansas in May of 1911. With the envious invitation in hand, two-hundred Dublin boosters decided that they would tag along and boost their rapidly growing city as well.
Before the band, known as "The Baby Band of Dublin" for its inordinate number of young members, left town, it treated the hometown folks to a concert at the Opera House. The band entertained the crowd with John Phillip Sousa's Semper Fidelis March, Maryland, My Maryland, My Old Kentucky Home, America and the obligatory Dixie, ironically one of Abraham Lincoln's favorite songs and written by Daniel Emmett, of Ohio in 1859. This ensemble of musicians wasn't your typical small-town band with a repertoire of a dozen songs. The boys were well rehearsed and highly proficient in some sixty classic selections.
The band who went to Little Rock was composed of Cornets: George W. Fuller, Henry Blinn, J.D. Tharpe, Robert Powell, Landrum Page, and Melville Tarpley; Alto Saxophone: Mirabeau Arnau; Clarinets: Weyman Tarpley and Arthur Crafts; French Horns: Robert Smith and Jeff Lifsey; Baritone Saxophone: Ramsay Fuller; Trombones: William Brunson, Palmer Currell, Murphy Smith, and R.C. Keen; Tuba: J.T. Hinson; Drums: Louis Thomas and Ullie Peacock; and Cymbals: Lytton Stanley.
To show their pride in their hometown, the members of the band donned armbands with the word Dublin over a shamrock. Brassards were passed out to all those who accompanied the band on the 36-hour ride to Little Rock to show everyone there where Dublin, Georgia was located. Will Underwood led the band in a white flannel uniform with the words across his chest, "Macon for 1912." As the band traveled to Little Rock on a thirteen-coach special train, it played concerts at all stops to promote Macon for the next reunion.
The choice of the Dublin band helped Macon secure the 1912 reunion. To show it's gratitude, the host city gave the Dublin band a handsome loving cup. When Professor Verpoest attempted to express his appreciation, his band burst into a rousing rendition of the crowd pleasing anthem Dixie. The band was just as appreciative for the invitation to tag along on such a memorable trip. Verpoest left the band in 1912 and eventually taught music at Meridian College in Mississippi. He was replaced by E.L. Barton, of Douglas, in the spring of 1912.
The Dublin boys were the first to open the musical festivities for the 1912 reunion. Under the direction of Director Barton, the band played in the band stand at Central City Park to welcome the early arrivals. Herschel Whitehurst and Ben Rogers joined the trumpet section. Owen Bennett replaced Weyman Tarpley on clarinet. Aurice Keen and Marvin Page succeeded R.C. Keen and Murphy Smith on trombone. Felder Kreutz, Clyde Mattox, and Lee Smith were the new alto sax players. Albert Diffenworth played tenor sax. Samiel Daniel was the band's new E Flat bass player. M.C. Moffett took over for Louis Thomas on trap drums.
Dublin was joined by bands from the host city of Macon and the capital city of Atlanta, as well as many from across the South. In addition to several hundred Dubliners in attendance, the newly formed boy scout troop decided to make the trip on foot. Yes, they hiked the entire 54-mile trek to Macon, where they camped in Central City Park.
In 1913 and for the third straight year, the Dublin band represented Georgia. This time it was held at Chattanooga. Two dozen cars of Dublin people joined the band and the two local boy scout troops on a special train. Once again the band was reorganized, this time under the direction of George Chase, of Atlanta.
J.H. Taylor, also of Atlanta, became the band's fourth director in four years in 1914. After a one-year absence, the Dublin band returned to represent Georgia at the 1915 Reunion in Richmond, Virginia after being nominated by Georgia governor John M. Slaton. They were joined by bands from Macon and Moultrie.
Prof. Verpoest returned to Dublin in 1916. Many members of his original band were still playing. The 1916 band was composed of S.D. Daniell, J.D. Tharpe, R.A. Jacobs, Willard Barton, Palmer H. Currell, Talmadge Cowart, W.H. Blinn, H.U. Peacock, Maurice Baggett, George Currell, Pasco Phelps, Roy Callaway, D.G. Daniel, F.G. Kreutz, Guy McNeely, Marion Peacock, Grady Daniel, Ray Lewis, Hal Thomas, Dupree Bishop, J.T. Hinton, Frank Ray, O.B. Overstreet, A. Ausbacher, Smith Dixon, Waddell Jordan, and Fred Jones.
On this Confederate Memorial Day, look away and imagine if you will, you can still hear the sounds of cymbals clanging, drums drumming, and brass blaring the heart-pumping marches and snappy strains of one of the best bands in Dixie land as they proudly marched through the streets of the largest cities of the Old South nearly a century ago.