Sunday, October 21, 2012

Do you have to be big and tall?

You may have noticed in a couple of the posts below that Herman Conrad, the very first Sousaphonist, was a rather tall man - 6 feet 6 inches, according to the Pittsburg Post article dated September 17, 1899; and 6 feet 4 inches, according to the Illustrated Mail article dated October 12, 1901 (not sure how he lost those two inches).

On the information sheet that accompanies what is (wrongly) claimed to be "The Original Sousaphone" up at the Interlochen Center for the Arts (more on that horn later), Conrad is said to have been "a six-foot eight-inch giant"! He was flexible, if nothing else, it seems.

It is interesting, however, that a number of very tall men followed in Conrad's footsteps. Jack W. Richardson, who was a Sousaphonist with Sousa's Band from 1903 to 1931, was of similar height:
Source: John Philip Sousa, Marching Along, p. 350A

Curiously, Richardson's sub for the 1911 world tour, Arthur L. Griswold, was nicknamed "Shorty" (note typo in article below) - perhaps because he was a mere 6 feet 2 inches tall!
Image courtesy of Mark Overton at
Source: C. G. Conn's Musical Truth, October 1911 (vol. 9, no. 10)
Then, in a January 1924 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle, William Bell, perhaps the most famous tubist to come out of Sousa's Band, is said to have been 6 feet 6 inches himself:

But I'm not so sure that the reporter didn't mix up Bell and Richardson. Here's a photo of the Sousaphone section for Sousa's 1923-24  tour, with Bell on the far right, and Richardson next to him:
Source: Paul Bierley, The Incredible Band of John Philip Sousa, p. 56
They don't both look 6 feet 6 inches to me! Plus, the two on the far left are positively short, so I guess being big and tall was not a requirement to play the Sousaphone (good news for me - I am but 5 feet 8 inches tall).

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