IT'S BAND TIME IN CHATHAM
By George Goodspeed Jr.
This often heard expression in this great little Cape Cod Town, was probably coined in 1945 when the Chatham Band started up after World War II. Some of the young men returning from all over the world, had used their instruments during the war years, and others had to dust them off, and get their lips in shape. The Band had shut down in December of 1941 with the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, but just about everyone came home to get things started again.
The Band was originally organized in 1931, when a group of local men, twelve in number, gathered and formed the nucleus of the Band. One of those men was my father, George W. Goodspeed, Sr., who had learned to play the saxophone from a Mr. Martell who lived on Crowell Road. They were able to get some other amateur musicians in town and a few from the surrounding towns, and with Mr. Martell as the leader, they started what was known as the American Legion Band. The uniform of the day was a blue blazer, white pants and shoes, and a blue and white hat, similar to the design of the current hat. They started their music library by pooling their own money, and the rehearsals were held at the American Legion Hall on School Street in Chatham.
In the early years, the Band was directed by Joe Martell, and Thomas Nassi. Mr. Nassi and his wife taught music in the schools, and they lived in Orleans, across from what was then the main school on Route 28. They taught music in Chatham, Orleans, Eastham, Brewster and Harwich. Several of the current Band members learned their music from Mr. and Mrs. Nassi who were from Albania originally There is a small park in Orleans that is named for their son Albert who was killed in World War II.
About two years after the Band was started and things were going pretty well, the American Legion Post in Chatham, in an effort to raise money, started to charge the Band rent for the use of their hall since not all of the Band members were members of the Legion. The Legion Hall was one of the old schools in Chatham, and it was known as the Village School. The rent started at $ 2.00 dollars per night. Because the Band did not have deep pockets, they started to look for another place to practice. They were able to get the use of a hall that belonged to the Improved Order of Red Men on Route 28, next door to the present Post Office. The Red Men’s Hall was later converted into a home by the Swan family that managed the Queen Ann Inn.
With the move to the Red Men’s Hall came the new name, and the new uniform. The new name was the Chatham Band, and the new uniform was the forerunner of today’s well recognized uniform.
Generations of the Goodspeeds: Part of Chatham Band Tradition. July 4th, 1973 - George W. Goodspeed Sr. (center) with son Ben and grandson Benny.
Whit Tileston with the Chatham Band: circa 1950’s.
Mark Mayberry wows the parade crowd: July 4th, 2012.
As the Band became better known and developed into a class act, they were asked to take part in many activities. They were the Band to play for the dedication of the two Cape Cod Canal Bridges, and they often joined with the Provincetown Band to march and play for the Blessing of the Fleet. Their first Bandstand in Chatham was on Main Street, where the large parking lot is next to the Town Office. Soon after World War II, that Bandstand was moved to Kate Gould Park, and it was later replaced with the larger and current bandstand that is there today. The current Bandstand was paid for by the Band members with the help of private donations, and it was built by carpenters that were members of the Band.
When Mr. Nassi, the director for only a short period of time retired from teaching, it became necessary to find a new director. Several people tried to do the job, but then the Band lucked out with a new vocal music teacher for the school systems. Whitney Tileston came on to the scene and started the program that we have today. Shortly thereafter, the Band became a feature story in The National Geographic Magazine. The Band was also featured on NBC’s Nightly News, and several other television shows.
Since the late forties, the Band has performed free concerts every Friday night at Kate Gould Park, weather permitting. Over a period of time “Whit” became known as “Mr. Music”, and with a great Band behind him, we were able to entertain thousands of people and several generations. I originally started with the Band at the ripe old age of 12, marching with the bass drum and playing cymbals. Today I’m a member of the reed section playing alto saxophone, and serve as manager of the Band. The Current director is Ken Eldredge, who started with the Band in the thirties as a drummer will continue this great piece of Americana for families of all ages. We’re all working to keep this tradition alive for many years to come.
If you are free on a Friday Night in the summer, bring your blankets, chairs, and enjoy a fabulous evening. Oh yes, it is the best entertainment in New England for the price.
Chatham Band Concert c. 1950s
Grace D. Chapin (born early 1900s-died c. early 1960s)
Oil on canvas
Grace Chapin kept a studio on Main Street in Chatham in combination with an antiques shop. Her rather magical painting of a band concert at the gazebo delights many visitors to Chatham Town Hall, where it hangs over the staircase leading to the lower level. The artist's son gave the painting to the town in her memory in 1964. At one point, the picture was reproduced as a postcard and sold at the Mayflower Shop in town, according to Giles Chapin, her nephew.