It’s hard to believe that we are celebrating the 85th anniversary of the Chatham Band. From its 1931 roots to the 2017 summer preparations, it has taken hundreds of men and women over the years, giving their tireless dedication and talent to make this tradition something very special. It’s estimated that more than two million people have come to at least one of our band concerts since the beginning. We are all so proud to be a part of this wonderful historical group of musicians whose purpose is simply to bring together friends and family from near and far a few hours of enjoyment each summer Friday night.
The band’s long esteemed history is shared in this delightful piece written by George Goodspeed.
“It’s Band Time in Chatham” by George W. 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.
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.
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. The Band became a feature story in The National Geographic Magazine and 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. I originally started with the Band at the ripe old age of 12, marching with the bass drum and playing cymbals. My accomplished brother, Benjamin Goodspeed Sr. plays a “mean trumpet” as does his gifted son Benjamin Goodspeed Jr. “Generations of the Goodspeeds” have been a part of the Chatham Band since it began. 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.