Summer evening picnics visiting with friends and enjoying tunes by the hometown brass band in the vine-covered gazebo are things of the past. But Mr. Jack Daniel’s Original Silver Cornet Band takes its listeners traveling back in time to the early 1900s, before jukeboxes, television, stereos, computers and iPods.
The Mr. Jack Daniel’s Original Silver Cornet Band, affectionately patterned after a hometown band started in 1892 by Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel in Lynchburg, Tenn., will brush off the gazebo and rocking chair and present its dozen musicians for another live performance, at ETSU’s Martha Street Culp Auditorium on Thursday, Nov. 1, at 7:30 p.m.
“Stay close because here’s where it gets a little complicated,” bandleader “Perfesser” Marcus Arnold will say as the time travel begins. “That’s because the minute ya’ll walked in here this evening, it stopped being  and became 1905. The year’s not all that important as long as it’s smack dab in the middle of the era of the small-town band right here in America.
“Around about sundown, you head on over to the park and spread your blanket on the grass and eat your supper whilst listening to the band concert, because this is the era of the small-town band. Are you beginning to get the picture?”
The group has been weaving its old-time musical magic since it was started by David Fulmer, the original “Perfesser,” in the 1970s, and by 1978, Mr. Jack Daniel’s Original Silver Cornet Band had made three albums and two PBS specials. After that, “the pride and joy of Lynchburg, Tenn.” packed up its gazebo and period costumes and horns — plus percussion, guitar and banjo — and took its “Hometown Saturday Night” tour on the road, performing year-round for audiences of all ages in the U.S. and Canada.
“This is a group from the very beginning of the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, we’ve wanted to bring to ETSU — one because they’re from Tennessee, and two, because they’re lots of fun,” says MBM SOTA Director Anita DeAngelis. “Unfortunately when we first contacted them, they were not touring. Now, they’re back out on tour and I’m excited we are able to bring this special experience to Johnson City.”
Known for its rousing arrangements by composer/arranger Greg McRitchie, this program includes no rock ‘n’ roll, country, Dixieland or “big” band, just classic American fare from the turn of the 20th century and well-loved pieces, such as “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Shenandoah,” “Londonderry Air” and medleys of Stephen Foster and George M. Cohan.
“What makes [the music] special is the arrangements we play have [more of] a modern flair than what an actual turn-of-the-century band would have played,” says cornet player and band manager Bernie Walker, with the group since 1991. “Audiences really seem to enjoy the music.
“For me, being a part of this band has always been musically fulfilling and enjoyable. The musicians are all top-notch players, all with college degrees in music and years of playing experience in live music and recording sessions. Many are also music instructors.”
Most importantly, Walker says, the show is more than just a concert. To complete the picture, the band mixes its special brand of music with nostalgic tales and a few lessons. “Our conductor, ‘the Perfesser,’ introduces the songs, tells some humorous stories, talks about some of the instruments we have in the band and interacts with the audience,” he says. “People who come to the show are in for a unique treat. There’s nothing else like it — great music, humor, nostalgia, all in one show.”
Tickets are $5 for all area students with a valid student ID, $20 general admission and $15 for seniors 60 and over. Group ticket discounts are available for general admission and senior tickets.
For information about the ETSU Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, call 439-TKTS (8587) or visit www.etsu.edu/cas/arts/ or www.Facebook.com/ETSU.MBMSOTA.