Seventy Seasons of Superior Sounds
For the last seventy football seasons the Dublin High School Band has supplied the sounds which epitomize the atmosphere of football on Friday nights. As one of the oldest high school bands in the state, the Irish musicians have proved themselves to be champions on the football fields, the parade avenues and concert halls throughout the state and nation. The tradition of superior sounds all began on an autumn evening seventy years ago this week.
Actually Dublin’s first marching band was organized in 1901. Local sponsors would hire band directors to a one year contract to mold young men into a band of talented troubadours, who would entertain during local parades and concerts. In reality some of the musicians were students, while many were adults. The Dublin Military Band was organized under the direction of Professor Carl Leake of Jackson, Mississippi. The band dissolved, only to be resurrected in 1908 by conductor Paul Verpoest. Verpoest built the organization into one of the state’s finest marching bands. The Dublin band represented the State of Georgia at the reunions of the United Confederate Veterans in Little Rock, Arkansas, Macon, Georgia and Richmond, Virginia in 1911, 1912 and 1914.
In 1936, the Dublin Green Hurricane was enjoying a resurgence. School officials decided that what the team needed was a band to spur the football team on toward greater success. The first unofficial marching band performance occurred on October 23, 1936 during a football game with Eastman High School. During a football game in Vidalia on November 20, 1936, the first uniformed Dublin High School Band took to the field under the director of James Wilhelm Wiggins.
The first to join the band were alto saxophonists Anthony Lewis, James Hamilton, Charles Horton, and James Carroll; tenor saxophonist McGrath Keen, trumpeters Luther Word, Pat Roche, Isadore Bashinski, Clifford Harbour, Bill Jones and Frank Hancock; trombonists Menzo Barron and Joe Grier, Trombone; percussionists Billy Keith, Edith Mae Tindol (Allgood) and Alma Grace Harbour. Thomas Curry, Jr. played the French horn, while J.L. Perry carried the bass line on tubas. Other early members of the band were Paul Watson, Cecil Waters, James Carroll, Ivan Prim, Jimmie Burnam, Ed Thomas, Mary Jean Jernigan, Charles Horton, Moffett Kendrick, Milo Smith, Gene Scarboro, Barbara Bedingfield (Shuler), Lester Porter, Clarence Burch, Majeed Jepeway, Blanche Coleman, Robert Thompson, Cliff Prince, Jr., Hymie Stinson, Buford Page, Betty Page, John Griffin, James B. Hutchinson, Blakely Parrott and Zeke Etheridge. Tragically Luther Word, James B. Hutchinson and Blakely Parrott would all be killed in World War II.
Money for uniforms was scant at best in the last years of the Great Depression. The Dublin band’s uniform consisted of white trousers and shirts, adorned with a green tie, draped with a green cape and topped with a white military style hat with a green band and shamrock on top. The girls wore white dresses. Moffett Kendrick and his fellow band members paid ten dollars for the hat and cape. The band mothers sowed two-inch green stripes down the side of the band to top off the outfit. “We thought we were hot stuff,” Kendrick said. These uniforms were used until after World War II when the traditional military style green and white uniforms were worn.
Bands were high in demand for almost any occasion. Moffett Kendrick remembered traveling over to Bartow to play in a parade. The festivity was organized to salute the first planting of Sea Island cotton in Middle Georgia. “There was great fanfare, high-sounding speeches and much jubilation. Politicians were everywhere,” he said. The effort proved to be fruitless as the much heralded variety of cotton never thrived in the area.
During the late 1930s and early 1940s, music was a big part of teenage life. Billy Keith, a veteran swing musician, joined Kendrick, Paul Watson and Zeke Etheridge in a quartet which played popular favorites along with special versions of New Orleans style ragtime selections before the morning chapel programs. Like many of us Kendrick put down his instrument after high school. His first trombone was an “el cheapo,” costing him a relatively high price of $30.00. Later he bought a Bundy trombone for which he paid $110.00. In 1947, he hocked it for $20.00 to buy a tuxedo for a fraternity dance. To this day, he regrets that mistake. Thirty-two years ago I laid my tenor saxophone down. Oh how I wish I still could play the instrument that my father deemed to be , “the best $350.00 he ever spent.”
During the latter years of World War II, the band program was put on hold. The following directors have led the Dublin band since the early 1950s; Henry Tate (1949-50), Brett Hope (1950-1952), A.M. Adkinson (1952-53), B. Sinkus (1953-54), John Huxford (1954-1957) John Hambrick (1957-1966), Ruth Odom (1963-65 ), Jim Willoughby (1965-1969), Paul Carpenter (1966-1969), Robert Dowdy (1969-1970), Gary Dawson (1969-1970), Johnny Williams (1970-1972), Charles Molnar (1972-73), Boston Harrell (1973-1985), John Boles (1973-74), Cecil Pollock (1975-1991), Stuart Stanley (1985-94), Carlos Hand (1987-1991), Sammy Hawkins (1989-1990), Kerry Rittenhouse (1991-2004), Bob Clardy (1994-1997), Johnny Shumans (1991-2004), John Richard (1998-99 ),James Nuss (1999-2007), Greg Minter (2000- 2002) , Roger Etheridge (2002-2003), Lewis Foster (2003-2007) and Reginald Ferguson (2004-2007).
It was during the term of John Hambrick that the Dublin band rose to the vanguard of high school bands in Georgia and throughout the nation. Known as “The Dixie Irish Band,” the band was cited as one of the best bands in the South, performing in bowl games and parades and festivals throughout the Southeast. The band performed its signature song “Dixie” as it took the field. With the consolidation of Dublin High School and Oconee High School, the song which once thrilled everyone in the stands, was dropped in consideration of the feelings of new members of the band and the student body.
For the last seventy years many of Dublin’s finest young people have joined the band. Many former band members have gone to achieve many remarkable accomplishments after they left the marching fields and concert halls. Musical programs in the schools help to encourage and foster the attributes of dedication, competition, leadership and teamwork. In the words of novelist Pat Conroy, “life without music is a journey through a desert.” So support the band and music programs in your local schools, now, frequently and forever.