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Copyright © 2000, 2001 by Richard I. Schwartz

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Well-known Soloists from All Walks of Life

Benjamin C. Bent

(b Barnesley, England 31 Aug 1847; d New York 30 Dec 1898)

Taking his first lessons on the cornet from his father, a fine cornetist himself, Benjamin ran away with a circus band at ten years of age. This must have been one difficult job for such a young man. The music is always fast, loud, and unpredictable in terms of starts, stops, and cuts. If the performer is lucky, a circus conductor will have time to give some indication of a preparatory beat. It may have been different in Bent’s time, but the odds are certainly against it. He was an extremely talented and hard working young musician, having become cornet soloist at twenty years of age with the Royal Artillery Band and special soloist in 1871 with Howe’s Great London Circus Band. In 1872, Bent joined Harvey Dodworth’s Thirteenth Regiment Band of New York and Dodworth’s Ninth Regiment Band. He performed with Gilmore’s New York Twenty-second Regiment Band from 1875 to 1891 (Bridges [1972], 5). He was the consummate loyal musician, having stayed with Gilmore for almost two decades and survived the many personnel changes and professional disagreements. Herbert L. Clarke was extremely impressed by Bent’s artistic playing, singing tone, clean technique, and serious attitude (Noble 1964, 19).

At a concert given by Gilmore’s Band in St. Louis, prior to 1878, Charles Seymour, a famed conductor of bands in St. Louis, asked Bent why he sat with his cornet on his lap during the entire concert. He responded that he was hired to play only when Arbuckle took a rest, and there was nothing else for him to do. Arbuckle apparently had some resentment against Bent for preparing for his position. It has been said that Bent did not play one note during his entire first season with Gilmore (Schwartz 1957, 90). In 1878, three years after he joined Gilmore’s Band, Bent was promoted to section leader to the certain dismay of Matthew Arbuckle. In the same year, Ben married Louise Linden (a fine saxophone soloist), and they gave concert tours whenever they could. Bent could not make Gilmore’s trip to London in 1878, and was replaced on tour by Ezra Bagley on first chair, and Arbuckle by Walter Emerson on solo cornet. After the tour, Bent returned to first chair and remained there until either 1890 (Schwartz 1957, 116) or 1891 (Bridges [1972] 5). Bent may have resigned because Gilmore refused to give Bent a raise to $350.00 a week, since Bent’s salary was already at $300.00 a week. Bent then accepted the position of first chair and cornet soloist with Innes’ Band. It is interesting to note that Bent played with false teeth for years, and was still one of the best soloists ever heard by Herbert L. Clarke (Clarke 1935, 4).

Benjamin Bent retired from public performance in 1894 and primarily continued to teach. He formed the Bent Brothers Military Band with his three brothers Arthur, Fred, and Tom, all cornetists. The band was a popular attraction with circuses. Ben and Arthur had performed together in Gilmore’s Band and were frequently featured in cornet duets, one of them being Variations on the Swiss Boy by Benjamin Bent. Both Fred and Tom were quite active as cornetists and conductors for many years. Fred became a cornet soloist and the conductor of the Twelfth Regiment Band and Tom became assistant to Herbert L. Clarke with Innes’ Band in 1894 and later conductor of the Old Guard Regiment Band of New York. Benjamin was a good investor and died a wealthy man. Sources of information are listed throughout this entry.

For more information on the Bent Brothers click the link here: The Bent Brothers

Charles Joseph (Buddy) Bolden

(b New Orleans 6 Sept 1877; d Jackson, LA 4 Nov 1931)

Known as "King Bolden", he was the most important of all early jazz cornetists. He may have been a student of Manuel Hall in 1894. He played in Charles Galloway’s Band, and shortly afterward, formed his own in 1897. His bands were known for their memorized and improvised performances of standards of the time (J. R. Taylor, "Bolden, Buddy [?Charles]," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians). He had a large sound and influenced many jazz players after him. A characteristic trait is that he would use ragtime rhythms and blues variations of contemporary standard tunes. He was active only from the mid-1890’s to 1905, when his health began to deteriorate. He was admitted to a mental hospital in 1907 and spent the rest of his life there. Being active for such a small amount of time, Buddy had an incredible influence on many jazz players who followed in his footsteps. Famous members of his various bands included Jimmy Johnson on double bass; Willie Cornish on trombone; Jefferson Mumford on guitar; Frank Lewis and William Warner on clarinet; and Henry Zeno and Cornelius Tillman on drums (Eileen Southern, "Bolden, Charles Joseph (‘Buddy’)" in BDAAM).

Playing often at Johnson Park in New Orleans, Bolden had such a powerful sound, that often the dancers at Lincoln Park would hear his playing and follow his sound to Johnson Park. He influenced the entire next generation of cornetists, such as Armstrong, Oliver, and Keppard. Among the titles he made famous were Make me a Pallet on the Floor, Buckets got a Hole in it, and Buddy Bolden Blues (Southern 1997, 342-3). For a detailed account of Buddy Bolden and his contributions to music see In Search of Buddy Bolden (Marquis 1978)

Information for this entry appears in Eileen Southern’s biographical entry, "Bolden, Charles Joseph ("Buddy") in BDAAM (Southern 1983) and J. R. Taylor’s biographical entry, "Bolden, Buddy" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

Louis F. Boos

(b Tiffin, OH 13 Feb 1858; d Jackson, MI 321 Jan 1935)

Louis’ father certainly had an influence on his son, as he was a local church choir director. When Louis was six years old he was already performing on the piano and the church pipe organ. At the age of sixteen, he ran away with Patrick Gilmore’s Twenty-second Infantry Regiment Band, but left the group soon afterward. He then traveled with a repertoire company, settling in Jackson, Michigan, where he made his home for the rest of his life. He became leader and reorganized Jackson’s Central City Band, also known as Boos’ First Infantry band. His brother Edward was the assistant conductor of this award winning band and taught the cornet. as well. One of his most famous students was Bert Brown. His other brothers, William, Charles, and Frederick were outstanding musicians, as well. Louis directed the Knights of Pythias Cornet Band and the Citizen Patriot Newspaper Boys Band, and toured the country as a cornet soloist. Frequently he performed with Anna Berger Lynch, winning many contests together.

Louis taught the cornet and performed for many years. Some of his most famous pupils were Bert Brown, Hale VanderCook, V. A. Geiger, and Frank Hoffman (who assumed Louis’ tenure as conductor of his band upon his retirement). Upon his retirement from active playing and conducting, Louis continued to remain active by performing the piano. His most famous cornet solo is The Charmer, but a more extensive list of solos appears in Chapter 4 of this document.

Information for this entry appears in The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music (Rehrig 1991, 91) and Pioneers in Brass (Bridges [1972], 8).

Henry C. Brown

(b Westmoreland, NH 12 Dec 1827; d Boston 7 Dec 1912)

Henry was the son of John Dwight Brown, a teacher of violin and voice. His family soon moved to Boston, where Henry took music/cornet lessons with his father at ten years of age. When he was sixteen, he performed cornet at the old National Theater in Boston, and at nineteen, he was solo cornet with the old Boston Brigade Band, and its bandleader in 1856. In 1859, he became successor to Patrick Gilmore as bandleader of the Salem Cadet Band, and organized and led the Twenty-third Massachusetts Infantry Regiment Band in the Civil War. In 1869, Henry was cornet soloist with the Peace Jubilee Band, and in 1872, he toured Europe returning to the States to be again with the Boston Brigade Band. He stayed with the organization until 1879, after which he devoted his time primarily to teaching. Among the players that he coached were Fred Weldon and even H. L. Clarke. He became a wealthy man, having made very wise real estate investments. His interests at the last part of his life were the Masonic Order and the Gettysburg Post of the Grand Army of the Republic (G. A. R.). Information for this entry appears in Pioneers in Brass (Bridges [1972], 12).

Herbert Fuller "Bert" Brown

(b Orland, Indiana 28 Jan 1869; d Miami, Florida 21 Feb 1959)

His grandparents came from Vermont and settled in Orland in 1833. Bert’s father was a choirmaster and teacher of voice at the local Baptist Church. While in his teens, Bert played in the local town band and directed many others in the area. He took lessons with Ed and Mr. Louis Boos in Jackson, Michigan in 1887 and played with the "Boos Band" until 1889. He then went to New York City with a theatrical company, where he became musical director of the Dockstader and Thomas Minstrels. After the minstrels came to Michigan, he was hired to play cornet with "Wurzburger and Bronson’s Band" in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He then played two seasons with the Star Theater Orchestra and later with the Euclid Avenue Opera House Orchestra in Cleveland, Ohio. After the opera house burned in the winter of 1892, he played in a theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He next played with the Official World’s Fair Band at the Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893. Liberati then hired him to play solo cornet with his band to tour the West Coast at the end of the Exposition during the fall of 1893. From 1894 to 1901, Bert played at the McVickers Theater in Chicago during the winter seasons. He apparently performed Inflammatus over 100 times as audience requests during those years at the theater (Bridges [1972], 8). During the 1890’s, Bert played the first trumpet part (on cornet) with Adolph Rosenbecker’s Symphony Orchestra. While later in New Orleans in 1900-1901, playing with bands there, he became partner with George Galt in the Dixie Music House Publishing Company. The company almost ran into immediate ruin when the building burned to the ground in its Chicago location. He played with Brooke’s Band until 1904, when he was hired by Innes to play solo cornet at the St. Louis World’s Fair. From 1906 to 1917, he played with Pryor’s Band as first chair and cornet soloist. His next responsibility was assistant solo cornet with Sousa’s Band from 1917 to 1918. He performed as cornet soloist with the Duss Band of New York, Bellstedt’s Band, Fanciulli’s Band, and Finney’s Band of Chicago. He was a very wealthy man by 1921, having owned much real estate property in West Palm Beach, Florida. He settled there in 1921 to play in Harold Bachman’s Band of Gainesville, Florida. He played briefly with Pryor’s Band during the summer of 1929 in Ashbury Park, New Jersey, directed the Orland Town Band during the summer of 1928, but otherwise remained with Bachman until 1931. He did not, however, play some of the band’s one-night engagements in Chautauqua. He played many solos written by Clarke, Llewellyn, Rollinson, etc., but his strength lied in his musical and warm interpretations of songs. He taught cornet during the summer of 1936 at music camp at Oliver Lake near La Grange, Indiana. Bert entertained many famous guests at his home in Orland, Indiana for over sixty years, where he would fish at one of the nearby lakes. He would on occasion perform at a local church while in Orland. He even passed up a job with Kryl’s Band because "the fishing is too good here" (Bridges [1972], 10). He was a man of dry wit, and sometimes would show up to a performance at the last minute, causing some distress to conductors. An interesting note is that he never lost his teeth during his entire life. Information for this entry appears in Pioneers in Brass (Bridges [1972], 7-11).

Vincent C. Buono

(b NY 3 Aug 1875; d New York, NY 3 June 1959)

As a man in his twenties, he began his career by performing in theaters and playing with many bands and orchestras, including Neyer’s Seventh Regiment Band. In 1901, he was one of the first musicians hired by Charles Prince and the Columbia Phonograph Company, a company for whom he worked for over twenty years. He was an accomplished sight-reader and musician, playing first chair cornet and soloist with Prince’s Band long after it began to play on the road.

In 1922, Buono left Prince’s Band to accept a position as first trumpet with Walter Damrosch’s Symphony Orchestra for several seasons. Herbert L. Clarke was known to have said great kudos about Buono’s fine playing. He was considered by Clarke to be one of the finest first chair cornetists in the band business.

In the 1930’s, Buono played in theater orchestras for shows and vaudeville. He played technically clean and with a soft tone.

A consummate cornetist, he made many recordings for Columbia and Edison in his career and continued to play for many years in his fifties and sixties. Information for this entry appears in Pioneers in Brass (Bridges [1972], 13).

Milo Burke (father)

(b Brockton, MA 21 Feb 1870; d Brockton, MA 16 Jan 1949)

Milo was one of twelve children, of whom only four survived childhood, the others dying of diphtheria. All four siblings, Thomas (violin and cornet), Lawrence (French horn and string bass), Milo (violin and cornet), and Agnes learned musical instruments. Milo began his studies on the violin with William McKinley, and when he became ill with pleurisy he was advised to remain on the violin and not to study cornet. Thomas, his older brother, was already studying cornet, and Milo would sneak into his room and practice on his instrument, much like Herbert L. Clarke did as a young man. In 1882, Milo and his two brothers, Thomas and Lawrence, played in the Excelsior Band of Brockton, a band which was conducted and organized by their father, James. Governor Ames of Massachusetts presented the young Milo with a gold piece as a reward for his excellent playing.

In his teens, he joined Mace Gay’s Martland Band and formed his own band in 1894, but continued to perform with Martland’s Band and play solos with it for years. He even played duos with Mace Gay on many occasions. At the age of nineteen, he married Francelia Mason, a fine pianist, and had two children, Charles and Rose. After fourteen years of marriage to Francelia, she tragically died of a ruptured appendix. He then married Ellen Diamond, and remained so for forty years. Sousa and Brooks had offered Milo jobs, but he refused, preferring to establish a stable home life rather than traveling with bands or being a soloist. His main source of income was a thriving shoe manufacturing business which he operated with his brother Lawrence.

Milo was offered to make recordings, but declined due to the rather primitive sound of early recordings. Milo would often walk great distances to hear great cornetists like Levy, Emerson, and Church to enjoy their playing and learn from them, as well. Edwin B. Fay owned many theaters in Providence and would frequently hire Milo to play solo engagements. Fay also tried to persuade Milo to appear on WJAR in Providence at its opening, but Milo could not, due to his thriving shoe business. Dr. John Caughlan, the director of the Whitman Orchestral Club, organized the entire club one evening and presented Milo with a gold medallion and baton. Congressman Edward Gilmore made the presentation. Never uttering profanity, he was always kind and calm with his students and colleagues. He was a perfect gentleman, a fine cornetist, and teacher. Two of his most famous students were Walter M. Smith and Charles, his son. Milo Burke was much like Mace Gay, R. B. Hall, and Ezra Bagley, since they all preferred a more stable home life to traveling with bands constantly. Milo’s Band was chosen to be the official band of the Thirteenth Regiment (Massachusetts State Guard) and the Fourteenth Regiment in World War I. He was able to play the cornet until just three weeks before his death at the age of seventy-eight. Information for this entry appears in Pioneers in Brass (Bridges [1972], 14-18).

Charles Burke (son)

(b Brockton, MA 4 Mar 1891; d Brockton, MA 17 Dec 1963)

Charles was much like his father in his gentle manner and excellent playing. Charles played in his father’s band and performed solos with the group. Frequently he was featured with his father in duets with the organization. He played cornet solos also with General Edward’s Band of Boston at Nantucket Beach. He played cornet and piano at the City Theatre of Brockton and often accompanied his father on the piano in recital venues. He played first trumpet (on trumpet) with the Brockton Symphony Orchestra for five years and worked on radio in Brockton and Boston, as well, for many years, performing on a radio series with Will Dodge of Bellmont. He was a consummate cornetist who could transpose at sight.

He taught brass in the public school systems of Brockton and North Easton, and also taught at the Quincy Conservatory of Music.

A favorite duet of his was "Short and Sweet" by T. V. Short, which he played with his father. He, like his father, had many opportunities to travel with bands, but chose to remain at home to be with his family in Brockton.

Charles lost the sight in both of his eyes due to a hemorrhage when he was sixty-four years of age. He remained an affable man even after his illness and continued to teach for a few years after the episode.

Information for this entry appears in Pioneers in Brass (Bridges [1972], 14-18).

Helen May Butler

(b near Keene, NH 17 May 1867; d Covington, KY 16 June 1957)

The daughter of Lucius Abbott and Esther Butler, she became known as "A Woman of Many Distinctions." Butler was a multi-talented lady. In addition to being a virtuoso cornetist and bandleader (often called the Female Sousa), she ran for U. S. Senate in 1936. A multi-talented young lady, she studied both the violin (with Bernard Listerman, concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra) and cornet. In 1891, she formed and conducted the Talma Ladies Orchestra. In 1898, she began conducting the core group of players who were later to become the twenty-five to thirty-five member U. S. Talma Ladies Military Band, also known as Helen May Butler’s Ladies Band. Dressed in sharp military-like uniforms, the band played at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York in 1901. The band played at Madison Square Gardens for the Women’s Exposition of 1902, and in the same year, performed at the South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition. In 1903, the band played sometimes twice a day, touring the East Coast and the South for a total of thirteen months. C. G. CONN instruments were played on and endorsed by Helen and many of her soloists. As a result, C. G. CONN gave all of the members of the band CONN instruments at their performance at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. Her band performed the same music as Sousa and all of the other bands led by outstanding male bandmasters, all of the pieces being contemporary band classics of the time. The band also performed music by Butler. Published in 1904 by Ingram, and arranged by Richter, her Cosmopolitan America March became so popular that it became the official march of the National Republican Party during Theodore Roosevelt’s Presidential Campaign of 1904.

During the summer concerts in Willow Grove, her band shared the stage with Conway, Creatore, Clarke, and Sousa (a personal friend of and inspiration to Butler). After the band broke up in c1912, she settled in the Cincinnati area, and remained the rest of her life in Covington, Kentucky. She ran unsuccessfully for public office (mentioned above) and was a member of the Eastern Star, the Auxiliary of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the White Shrine of Jerusalem, and the August Willich Relief Corps. She was a member of the Mt. Auburn Methodist Church in Cincinnati, raised two children and continued to teach and play solos on her cornet (Hazen and Hazen 1987, 186-9). She is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, and her uniforms and other memorabilia was given to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D. C. Information for the above entry comes from The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music (Rehrig 1991, 119) and The Music Men (Hazen and Hazen 1957; 32, 36, 186-189).

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