Basic Brass Band History Books

Wath & Bolton United Brass Band

Hundreds of books and thousands of articles have been written about the brass band movement, and it can be a daunting task for those wanting to find out more about the history of brass bands.

The list, below, consists of a selection of some of the major general books written in the last 100 years or so. Many of these are available in public libraries, and selecting a few at random would give anyone a reasonable start to the subject.

A comprehensive Brass Band Bibliography (v.15 – 11,150 entries) is also available as a PDF download here.

A number of my PDF articles and books are available for download on the IBEW Historical Research page.

General history of brass bands – mainly UK focus

  • Bainbridge, Cyril – Brass Triumphant – Frederick Muller, 1980 – ISBN: 0584103727
  • Boon, Brindley – Play the Music, Play! The Story of Salvation Army Bands – SP&S Publications – 1978
  • Brand, Violet – Brass Bands In The Twentieth Century – Egon, 1979 – ISBN: 0905858123
  • Brand, Violet & Brand, Geoffrey – The World of Brass Bands – Egon, 1986 – ISBN: 0905858360
  • Cook, Kenneth – Oh Listen To The Band – Hinrichsen – 1950
  • Cook, Kenneth – The Bandsman’s Everything Within – Hinrichsen – 1950
  • Cooper, T.L. – Brass Bands of Yorkshire – Dalesman Books, 1974 – ISBN: 0852061951
  • Hailstone, Alf – The British Bandsman Centenary Book: A Social History of Brass Bands – Egon, 1987 – ISBN: 0905858395
  • Herbert, Trevor – Bands: The Brass Band Movement in the 19th and 20th Centuries – Open University Press, 1991 – ISBN: 0335097030
  • Herbert, Trevor – The British brass band a musical and social history – Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN: 0198166982
  • Hind, Harold Charles – The Brass Band – Hawkes & Son, London, 1934
  • Holz, Ronald Walter and Steadman-Allen, Ray – Brass Bands of the Salvation Army – Their Mission and Music – Vol. 1 – Streets Publishers, Stotfold, 2006 – ISBN: 0955198847
  • Howarth, Elgar – What a Performance! – Robson Books – 1988
  • McLaren, Alan – The History of Midlothian’s Brass Bands – The Author, Loanhead, 2016
  • Newsome, Roy – Brass Roots: A Hundred Years of Brass Bands and Their Music, 1836-1936 – Ashgate, Aldershot, 1998 – ISBN: 1859281680
  • Newsome, Roy – The Modern Brass Band: From the 1930s to the New Millennium – Ashgate, Aldershot, 2006 – ISBN: 0754607178
  • Rose, Algernon S. – Talks With Bandsmen: A Popular Handbook for Brass Instrumentalists – Wm. Rider & Son – 1895
  • Russell, J.F. & Elliot, J.H. – The Brass Band Movement – Dent – 1936
  • Taylor, A.R. – Brass Bands – Granada Publishing, 1979 – ISBN: 0246110821
  • Taylor, A.R. – Labour And Love: An Oral History of the Brass Band Movement – Elm Tree Books, 1983 – ISBN: 0241111323
  • Taylor, Dennis – The Heritage of the North East Brass Band Movement – The Author, 2008

Bands in the U.S.A.

  • Hazen, Margaret Hindle & Hazen, Robert M. – Music Men: Illustrated History of Brass Bands in America – Smithsonian Institute – 1987
  • Smith, Brian F. – Bandstands To Battlefields: Brass Bands in 19th Century America – Corner House Historical Publications, Gansevoort, New York, 2004. ISBN:0879281383
  • Smith, Brian F. – The Town Brass Band – A Popular Movement of Mid-19th Century American Society – Rhode Island Committee for the Humanities, Providence, Rhode Island, 2001


Andrews, Frank – Brass Band Cylinder and Non-microgroove Disc Recordings 1903-1960 – Piccolo Press, 1997 – ISBN: 1872203256
Gammond, Peter & Horricks, Raymond – Music on Record: Brass Bands – Patrick Stephens, 1980 – ISBN: 0850593662
Mutum, Tim – Brass Band Recordings – Egon – 1991

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The Women’s Work Exhibition Ladies’ Brass Band

This band, the first such to be organised in Australia, existed for a mere six months. Consisting of students, many of whom had never played a brass instrument before, it reached a good standard in time to perform at the five-week exhibition, which was held to celebrate the art and work of women in Australia.

Details of how they came to be the first Australian female brass band can be found in my paper, linked here:

Women’s Work Exhibition Ladies’ Brass Band

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The Maddern Family Band

Richard Maddern emigrated from England with his family in 1842. Settling in Buffalo, New York, he taught his children to play brass instruments, and formed a band with the five girls and two boys. Although they only toured for a couple of years, they built themselves a strong reputation in the theatres, and laid the foundations for musical and theatrical careers for them all in the future.

The story of their lives in England and America can be found in my paper, linked here:

Maddern Family Female Brass Band 1853-1855

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Saint-Saëns and wind bands

I recently received a copy of a splendid book by Fabien Guilloux and Emanuele Marconi, from the Institut de Recherche en Musicologie and Le Musée des Instruments à Vent (La Couture-Boussey). I can recommend it as a fascinating examination of the role the composer played in the development of music for wind bands, and it is full of historical detail of the background of musical instrument history and the ensembles and music concerned. The text is in both French and English, and the book can be obtained via the museum’s website:

“On the occasion of the centenary of the death of Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921), the Wind Instruments Museum of La Couture-Boussey and the Institute for Research in Musicology are joining forces to discover a little-known facet of the musician’s personality: his constant commitment to wind instruments, at a time when such interest is rather rare on the part of renowned composers. His long artistic career corresponds to one of the most inventive periods in the history of music instruments making: flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns and trumpets gradually adopt the modern form that we know today and the new families of saxophones, saxhorns or sarrussophones, born from the intuition of genius makers, enrich the sound palette of the orchestra. Curious by nature, tireless explorer, always in search of new associations of timbres, passionate about acoustic and technical inventions, Saint-Saens mingles with this breath of modernity. From the Tarentelle for flute and clarinet Op. 6 (1857) until the Sonata for bassoon and piano Op. 168 (1921), he composed some fifty works dedicated to wind instruments and surrounded himself with the best performers. By exploiting all the technical possibilities of the winds and their expressive richness, Saint-Saens thus opens the way to a renewal of the repertoire.” 

Here are a couple of images from this richly illustrated book.

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Chocolate military bands

In the early 1900’s the Dutch chocolate company Grootes produced a series of postcards and wrappers that advertised their chocolate, and also showed pictures of the military bands of various European countries.

Pieter Grootes began trading in grains in 1825, and started manufacturing chocolate in the mid-1840’s, and was a well-respected brand for over a hundred years. The company ceased production in 1968 after increasing competition from American-style products and cheap copies of Belgian chocolate.

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The Cannery Girls’ Band of Sheridan, Oregon

This is the Roy Graves Canning Company Girls’ Band, from Sheridan, Oregon. Founded in January 1919, with members from the female employees and daughters of the fruit canning business, it was outfitted with new uniforms and Conn instruments, and gave its first concert in April that year. Over the next two years it performed in many towns and at various events in Portland and elsewhere in western Oregon. Its fate beyond 1921 is not known.

For more information about this short-lived band, see the article, linked below:

The Cannery Girls’ Band – a short-lived, fruitful organisation in Sheridan, Oregon

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West Carthage Fire Department Band and the disappearing dog

Another couple of photographs displaying the art of the retoucher in the early 1900’s. These photographs of the West Carthage Fire Department Band from New York state, show the band proudly arrayed with their instruments.

In one, there is a dog – perhaps the band mascot or owned by one of the players. In the second one the dog has been removed. Obviously the band regarded the original image as being not quite serious/professional enough with “Rover” in the foreground!

This is the third such set featured in this blog – see also A Battersea Band Mystery and A Bolton Band Mystery.

No dog
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Ladies of the Lakes

This is the Fenton Ladies’ Cornet Band, of Michigan, some time in the 1880’s. Just one of over 50 female bands that were active in Michigan from 1875 to 1925. The paper, linked below, delves a little into the history of these ladies’ ensembles, and includes a directory of the known bands.

Ladies of the Lakes – the women’s brass bands of Michigan 1875-1925

Fenton Ladies’ Cornet Band
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Hassocks Men’s Rally Brass Band

We are used to the Salvation Army bands being examples of musicians helping to promote a religious message or cause. There were, however, many other such bands associated with various churches and religious groups – providing music for services, raising funds, and attracting people to services and meetings. One of these was the Hassocks Congregational Men’s Rally Brass Band, in a small Sussex village. It only existed for about three years, but was resurrected in the mid-1920’s. Further information about the band and its activities can be found in the paper linked below.

Hassocks Congregational Men’s Rally Brass Band

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Charles Heyn’s Company – cornets and xylophones

Charles Heyn was a cornet and xylophone soloist. Very little is known about his life or his solo career, he may have had some acting roles in the mid-1890’s. He did, however, promote himself as a ‘Master Cornet & Xylophonist” – as seen in his publicity photograph. This was probably in the early 1900’s.

In 1911 or earlier he formed the Chas. Heyn Company, a quartet of instrumentalists, consisting of himself, his wife and his two daughters. Their first appearance I have found was at the Colosseum in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany in October 1911.

Given his name and this early engagement, it is probable that he was German or Swiss by birth, as may also have been his family.

In 1912 the family appeared at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool, in April, billed as ‘Celebrated Cornet à Piston and Xylophone Virtuosi’. They performed with four xylophones and at least one of the family, other than Charles, also played the cornet. One of their popular pieces on the xylophones was the overture “Zampa”.

“Those who had the satisfaction of enjoying the performance of the Charles Heyn Quartette are likely to revisit the theatre to confirm first impressions. It is worth while standing in a queue to hear such musicians. The performances on the cornets and xylophones were undoubtedly fine. The overture to Zampa was a delight to ear and heart. How delicately the air was wafted across the spacious and crowded theatre; how frequently the people marvelled at the manual dexterity of the performers; how daintily the diminuendos were observed, and how boldly and with what certainty the crescendo passages were delivered!”

The family toured various theatres in vaudeville shows over the next two years.

“The Chas. Heyn Quartette is composed of father, mother, and two daughters, and it must be said of their playing on cornets and xylophone, that few artistes could have done better. For the overture “Zampa” (Herold) on the xylophones they were heartily recalled, and to the accompaniment of a further selection the youngest artiste gave a clever exhibition of dancing.”

Their last known engagement was in July 1914, at Bishop Auckland. If they were a German family, as surmised, the outbreak of WW1 would have curtailed their touring in England. Sadly, the names of the other family members are not known.

The quartet’s recorded appearances in the British Isles were:

May 1912 – Empire Theatre, Burnley
June 1912 – Savoy Theatre, Glasgow; Hippodrome, Preston; Tivoli Theatre, Dublin
July 1912 – King’s Theatre, Dundee
August 1912 – Grand Theatre, Hanley
September 1912 – Hippodrome, Nottingham
October 1912 – Empire Theatre, Holborn, Empire Theatre, Leeds
August 1913 – Tivoli Theatre, Manchester; Palace Theatre, Bradford
September 1913 – Palace Theatre, Carlisle; Palace Theatre, Blackburn; Palace Theatre, Halifax
October 1913 – Hippodrome & Palace Theatre, Warrington; Palace Theatre, Burnley
November 1913 – Gem Theatre, Yarmouth
December 1913 – Scala Theatre, Seacombe; Hippodrome, Accrington
January 1914 – Palace Theatre, Huddersfield
July 1914 – Hippodrome, Bishop Auckland

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