Prolific author William Studwell has been featured on WFIU for a number of yearly interviews about his ongoing list of favorite Christmas Carols. He recently did a show for us about college fight songs and just this year we learned that he’d done a book of circus music, Circus Songs: An Annotated Anthology.
It’s spring time and although there aren’t as many of them as there used to be the circuses are packing up their tents in their winter quarters and getting ready to hit the road. We thought it was a perfect time to talk to Studwell about this addition to his catalog.
“I loved the circus and I worked with a real circus expert, Bruce Sheueneman. I’m just a pretty good circus expert. Then we got Charles Conrad to make the arrangements and put the book all together.”
As with his other books, we had to ask Studwell for his picks for the top tunes. “The most famous by far has to be “The Entry of the Gladiators” by the Czech composer Julius Fucik. Actually it wasn’t meant to be a circus piece at all, but a year after its publication in 1900, a Canadian arranger got a hold of it. He changed the key, sped up the tempo and attached the name “Thunder and Blazes.”
“1901 was also the year when my second favorite appeared and it also has a bit of story with it. It’s the “Billboard March,” named after the “Billboard Magazine.” The strange part of the story is that it’s really the only work of any substance by its author John Klohr. He lived on until 1956, but this is really what he’s remembered for. It’s as if someone suddenly produced “Hamlet” and then nothing else.”