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Cities Service Band of America

Postby Bandmaster » Mon Nov 28, 2005 6:52 pm

After I bought my York Master off of eBay a couple months ago I had a chance to talk to the previous owner by phone. His name is C. Jerrett Miller and he said he played the tuba in the Cities Service Band of America under Paul Lavalle in 1957. From my internet searches I found that the band had a long celebrated run. They had a live radio broadcast from Radio City Music Hall through 1956. After which they toured and performed. My guess is that the band's roster changed somewhat when they started to tour.

Anyway... I found several of their old albums for sale on eBay and other places and I bought some so I could take a listen to see how good they were. Since I was only a toddler back then I have no memory of them. I picked up albums titled "Great Band Music", "Concert in the Park", "Lavalle At Work" and "Jubilee Marches". All where recorded in 1955 and 1956 when they still had the top players. WOW! What a band! And the low brass section sounded incredible.

I found a copy of the band roster on the net and I was stuned to see who was playing tuba. Paul Lavalle carried 4 tuba players, and they were not exactly unknowns! See the roster below for the tuba section. You should hear the recording of Lavalle's march "Big Joe the Tuba"... :shock: The "Great Band Music" album has great recordings of "La Gazza Ladra" by Rossini, Vaughan Williams' "Folk Song Suite", "March and Procession of Bacchus" by Leo Delibes, "The Universal Judgment" by Camille De Nardis, Prokofieff's "Summer Day Suite" along with some lighter faire. The quality of the recordings is outstanding. Along with some great tuba playing.

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For those that can't make it out, it says that the tuba section is William Bell, Fred Pfaff, Abraham Torchinsky and Joseph Tarto. Not a bad bunch of tuba players, eh?
Last edited by Bandmaster on Mon Nov 28, 2005 7:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cities Service Band of America

Postby cktuba » Mon Nov 28, 2005 6:58 pm

:arrow:
Last edited by cktuba on Thu Mar 02, 2006 10:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Lew » Mon Nov 28, 2005 7:14 pm

Mantia must have been pretty old in 55 though. Anyone know how old he would have been?
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Postby brianf » Mon Nov 28, 2005 7:20 pm

Once when Mr Bell couldn't make a gig, he needed a sub - Arnold Jacobs! That's what Mr Jacobs told me once while we were driving into Cincy.
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Postby windshieldbug » Mon Nov 28, 2005 8:02 pm

Lew wrote:Mantia must have been pretty old in 55 though. Anyone know how old he would have been?


He was born 1873, came to America in 1890 at the age of 17. So circa 82.
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Postby Bandmaster » Mon Nov 28, 2005 8:30 pm

I just found listed on the net that Mantia died in 1951, so this roster must be from 1950 or earlier. But it is my understanding that most members stayed on until the radio show ended. The albums have no full roster listed on them, but the names of the featured soloists match up to the roster listed here.
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Postby Chuck Jackson » Mon Nov 28, 2005 9:44 pm

I assume they had a recording of "Big Joe The Tuba" on there. I didn't know it was a march, I remember playing it in 6th grade for a PTA meeting as a solo. Pretty cool piece. Did the whole section play it or did Tarto do it by himself? Hell of a section. I had the rare pleasure of meeting Fred Pfaff before he died. He was the first tuba player in the old Florida Symphony Orchestra after he retired from a life time of playing in NY. He played well, and well, into his 80's. The late Lee Richardson was a good friend of his and penned a wonderful article about him in an old TUBA Journal. Boy, did he have stories, sadly I have forgotten them. His wife was an absolute hoot talking about their first vacuum cleaner. Paul Lucas wrote a very nice article about Joe Tarto in an old TUBA Journal also. Paul studied with him when he was a kid in NJ and had alot of admiration for him as a player and a person. Thanks for the memories.

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Postby Bandmaster » Tue Nov 29, 2005 3:38 am

Chuck Jackson wrote:I assume they had a recording of "Big Joe The Tuba" on there. I didn't know it was a march, I remember playing it in 6th grade for a PTA meeting as a solo. Pretty cool piece. Did the whole section play it or did Tarto do it by himself? Hell of a section.


The recording I have is on the "Concert in the Park" album. No credit is given to a soloist on the cover, but the recording does sound like one tuba player was closer to the mic than the others. You can hear other tubas playing in the background from time to time. This version is definately a "march", but I have seen other 78 and 45 rpm records and albums on the web listing it, so I am sure there were other versions recorded.
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Postby LoyalTubist » Tue Feb 14, 2006 7:35 am

Did you see who the tuba players were?

Bill Bell
Fred Pfaff
Abe Torchinsky
Joe Tarto

Wow, not a ringer in the bunch!

Fred Pfaff played for radio programs in New York in the 1930s and '40s.

That was a dream tuba section!

Sorry to be redundant of what you said, Bandmaster, but this was an amazing section!
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Postby phil » Wed Feb 15, 2006 9:59 pm

If I'm not mistaken, Paul Lavelle also had an unusual set up for his band. At least for the radio show. The tuba section was in the middle of the band!! Not in the back as is customary. I remember seeing a picture of this somewhere but can't remember where.
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Postby LoyalTubist » Thu Feb 16, 2006 3:10 am

True, but they used sousaphones. But who cares? What a great section!
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Postby Alex C » Fri Mar 24, 2006 1:58 pm

I wonder if Fred Fennell ever saw that? In one of his first concerts and recording sessions with the Dallas Wind Symphony, he had the tubas sit in the middle of the second row. I thought it was very strange. It sounds a lot different there, too.

I can't imagine the problems sousaphones caused in the middle of the Cities Service Band. The two rows behind us complained constantly ("are you going to be holding your horn up at letter M," "lean left/right," etc.).

Maybe Lavalle was taller than Fennell....
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Cities Service Band of America

Postby van » Sat Mar 25, 2006 12:19 am

I remember listening to the Cities Service Band on radio Monday nights in the late 1940s and early 1950s and, I think, watching them on TV in the early 1950s (my memory is foggy on that). My parents took the family to Radio City Music Hall once to see the program broadcast live followed a half-hour later by the "Voice of Firestone" orchestra/opera program (or was it reversed order?). What amazed me as a kid was the activity on stage during the half-hour interval with the set change, relocation of chairs, stands, announcer location, mike setups, sound checks, tune-ups, etc. As a kid I had no idea who any of the musicians were, let alone the four guys in the tuba section. It would be nice to turn the clock back 50+ years and relive that experience, except having my present knowledge of who I was listening to.
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Postby LoyalTubist » Sat Mar 25, 2006 3:25 pm

Alex C wrote:....Maybe Lavalle was taller than Fennell....


Frederick Fennell was height impared, but I don't think Paul Lavalle was that much taller. I saw him with the McDonald's All-American Band at the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena... He didn't seem any taller than maybe 5'8", but I could be wrong.
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Big Joe

Postby Frank Ortega » Mon Apr 10, 2006 9:13 am

I have this recording of Big Joe the Tuba on 78. The sound is amazing!
"Big Joe" referred to a 7 foot tuba that Joe Tarto had made by King to play in the broadway pits. I once saw some promotional photos of Joe Tarto and Paul Lavavlle with that horn.
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Postby LoyalTubist » Wed Apr 12, 2006 6:15 pm

Big Joe, the Tuba was also a march written by Paul Lavalle about that big bass horn. According to Winston Morris' Tuba Music Guide, the tuba part was sold alone with piano accompaniment.

Now that's how to play a march!
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Postby LoyalTubist » Wed May 03, 2006 10:20 pm

http://www.cafepress.com/cotr_mail333.56613023

Buy a hat with the Cities Service logo.
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Re: Cities Service Band of America

Postby Mark Heter » Thu Aug 21, 2008 9:31 pm

I did the last Band of America tour with Paul Lavalle (ne Joe Usifer) in 1976 and came to know him pretty well.

The old Cities Service Band (that sponsorship was long gone by the time I came along) was made up of a pick of the litter from hiring list at NBC. The NBC tuba section included Harvey Phillips and Don Butterfield among others. Pfaff retired around 1952 and moved to central Florida - and played into his 90s! The section ALWAYS had Joe Tarto in it. He and Paul were friends from back in their days with Vincent Lopez' band.

Joe recommended me for the job, although I did audition for it. Played a solo every night, plus every note of the 3-hour concert - the band's only tuba. I went from that tour to the Ringling band, which was comparatively easy to do.

Andy Seligson may have worked for Lavalle as well. My guess is that it's a long list of every instrument, since Lavalle had a very long career.

I remember talking about my then-recent tour with Al Gallidoro about Lavalle in the Ringling break room when Murray Karpilovsky (famous trumpeter) broke in with "that guy made me play CLARINET PARTS!" - which was true. Lavalle worked a band hard - all the time.

Lavalle did a lot of unorthodox stuff - always looking for a "bigger" sound. Wasn't much for "tone" - you played LOUD and STACCATO. No sneaking in - you had to have an attack. The ABA never let him in to their everlasting discredit. He was a lot more versatile musician than many of the ABA members, and had made a commercial success of himself in dance bands, radio orchestras, and a concert band long after "business bands" like Sousa and Pryor were history. Jealousy, I guess.

I still remember Paul's daily lectures in the band bus on the Schillinger arranging method. He was always trying out new stuff - full of ideas.

BTW he was "vertically challenged" - wore elevator shows, a full hair helmet and we suspected, a girdle, too. Show business....

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Re: Cities Service Band of America

Postby eupher61 » Fri Aug 22, 2008 7:39 pm

"Band of America March" is one of my personal favorites. A total bear to play well, too.
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Re: Cities Service Band of America

Postby Mark Heter » Fri Aug 22, 2008 9:29 pm

There were two versions of Band of America March. The quickstep sized version has the middle strain in F. The octavo "concert" version we used on the band concerts was in Ab - we used to play Lavalle onstage, standing up playing the middle strain as the curtain opened.

I've been looking for a copy of that octavo version for years; I have the QS version.

I forgot to mention - Lavalle set us up differently (staging) just about every other night. Don Butterfield said it was the same with the NBC group. The broadcasts were done from the stage of the Belasco theatre, a perennially vacant Broadway theatre. The band was too big for the NBC studios, except 8H, and that was Toscanini's exclusive turf in those days. The original band was 48 "Forty-eight men from forty-eight states, marching the Main Street of America", and was later expanded to include around 53 musicians and sextette of male singers. The mellifluous voiced Ford Bond was the announcer.
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