CFW 2012 Band Directors: CLICK HERE for free, printable parts.
Washington, D.C. native and legendary bandmaster John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) wrote a dozen operettas, six full-length operas, and over 100 marches, earning the title “March King”. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at an early age and went on to become the conductor of the President’s Own Marine Band at age 26. In 1892 he formed “Sousa and his Band”, which toured the United States and the world under his directorship for the next forty years to great acclaim. Not only was Sousa’s band hugely popular, but it also exposed audiences all over the world to the latest, cutting-edge music, bringing excerpts of Wagner’s Parsifal to New York a decade before the Metropolitan Opera staged it, and introducing ragtime to Europe, helping to spark many a composer’s interest in American music.
Marcus L. Neiman at the Band Music PDF Library writes about King Cotton:
King Cotton (march) was published in 1895 by the John Church Company and assigned to the Theodore Presser Company in 1939. It is a curious fact of the music world that marches written for fairs and expositions almost always fade into oblivion. Two notable exceptions are Mr. Sousa’s King Cotton and The Fairest of the Fair. The former was written for the Cotton States and International Exposition of 1895, and the latter for the Boston Food Fair of 1908.
Mr. Sousa and his band had great drawing power at fairs and expositions and were much sought after. But, officials of the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta attempted to cancel their three-week contract with the Sousa Band because of serious financial difficulties. At Mr. Sousa’s insistence, they honored the contract, and at the first concert they became aware of their shortsightedness. Atlanta newspapers carried rave reviews of the band’s performance. For example:
… The band is a mascot. It has pulled many expositions out of financial ruts. It actually saved the Midwinter Fair in San Francisco. Recently at the St. Louis and Dallas expositions Sousa’s Band proved an extraordinary musical attention, and played before enormous audiences. It is safe to predict that history will repeat itself in Atlanta, and that the band will do the Exposition immense good. A great many people in South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia have postponed their visit to the Exposition so as to be here during Sousa’s engagement, and these people will now begin to pour in.
Sousa’s latest march, “King Cotton,” has proved a winner. It has been heard from one end of Dixie to the other and has aroused great enthusiasm and proved a fine advertisement for the Exposition.
The Sousa Band did indeed bring the exposition “out of the red,” and the same officials who had tried to cancel Sousa’s engagement pleaded with him to extend it. King Cotton was named the official march of the exposition, and it has since become one of the perennial Sousa favorites.
Read more about the Sousa Band and its history at naxosdirect.com. Click the link that says “Read more about this recording.”
King Cotton is one of many Sousa marches (and other pieces by turn of the 19th-20th century composers) available at the Band Music PDF Library for free. I encourage any enterprising band directors to take a look.
Watch (OK, really just listen to) a great performance of King Cotton: