The Influence of John Philip Sousa
John Philip Sousa, the famous leader of the U.S. Marine Band, left his position as director to form his own band in 1892, eight years before a division of the U.S. Marine Band played at Chevy Chase Lake. Yet his compositions and the impact of his leadership undoubtedly continued to influence his successors. Popularly referred to as “The March King,” Sousa’s patriotic compositions were known and loved around the world. To learn more about Sousa, see the online special presentation, "The March King: John Philip Sousa," available on the homepages of the Library of Congress Performing Arts Encyclopedia website.
While some residents of Chevy Chase recall that Sousa himself performed at the amusement park, we have found no evidence to confirm this in local newspapers.
But his music was performed. Popular compositions such as "The Washington Post" and The Starts and Stripes Forever" would have certainly been part of a summer concert at Chevy Chase Lake.
Despite the popularity of the U.S. Marine Band, and its prominent place in memories about Chevy Chase Lake, their engagement at Chevy Chase Lake came to an end. On May 21, 1916, p. MT6, in the annual publicity in The Washington Post about the opening of the amusement park, the news is all about Meyer Davis and his dance orchestra.
“As before, the feature of the park will be the dancing. Especially interesting is the news that this season the music will be under the direction of Meyer Davis, whose orchestra at the Willard has been the drawing card for the dancing there. For real dance music, Davis’ orchestra has no equal, either here or elsewhere, and the announcement that his music will be furnished should bring crowds that will fill the remodeled dancing pavilion."
We do not know why there was a shift in the musical program, but the newspaper announcement highlights dancing, with no mention of concerts at all. This change came just one year before the end of Herbert Claude’s lease agreement, so it is likely that he hired Meyer Davis. Was he influenced by the “dance craze” and the increasing popularity of social dancing? If so, Meyer Davis was a good choice because his bands specialized in performing popular music for dancing at local hotels and social events.
Watch and listen to the U.S. Marine Band play Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" and "The Washington Post" by clicking on the YouTube videos below.
URL links to these recordings are courtesy of the U.S. Marine Band®. Use of these links/recordings does not constitute or imply endorsement by the Department of Defense, U.S. Marine Corps, or U.S. Marine Band®. The terms U.S. Marine Band® and The President's Own®"are trademarks of the U.S. Marine Corps, used with permission.
Find out more about how Meyer Davis, the young conductor and impresario, shaped both the music and the management of Chevy Chase Lake in the next two sections, “Dancing at the Pavilions” and "Music by Meyer Davis."