In many places around the country, it just wouldn’t be summer without a performance by the municipal band on the town square. The band’s program would be equally inconceivable without a healthy dose of marches. Along with John Philip Sousa and Karl King, Hoosier Fred Jewell may be credited with a good deal of the march repertoire still heard across the U.S. “ Indiana’s March King” was born in the Greene County town of Worthington in 1875, running away at age 16 to play euphonium with the Bloomington-based Gentry Brothers Dog and Pony Show.
Jewell went on to become the bandmaster for the Gentry Circus in the late 1890s, subsequently attaining even more prestigious positions within Indiana’s thriving circus industry. While leading the bands of the Sells-Floto Circus, Barnum and Bailey, and the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, Jewell developed the genre for which he is perhaps best known. The “screamer,” or circus march, is a particularly fast number meant to excite the crowd during thrilling parts of the show. Most of Jewell’s over 140 published compositions are “screamers” and marches.
By 1918, having grown weary of the itinerant life, Jewell took a post with the Iowa Brigade Band and settled down in Oskaloosa, Iowa, where he began his own publishing company. By 1923, he relocated the Jewell Music Company to his hometown of Worthington. Back home, Jewell led the high school band, while also directing the Murat Temple Band and the Sahara Grotto Band in Indianapolis. The maestro had a special relationship with the Brazil Concert Band, with which he first performed in 1902. During the 20s, the Jewell Music Company published compositions by the band’s leader, J. Gus Davis. A recipient of the Sousa Foundation’s Sudler Scroll Historic Community Band Award, the nearly 150-year-old Brazil Concert Band initiated the effort to recognize Jewell with a state historical marker, placed in Worthington’s Fountain Triangle Park in 1996.
For more information on Fred Jewell, go to https://digital.statelib.lib.in.us/db/markers_display.asp?ID=380
For more information about the Gentry Brothers Dog and Pony Show, see Moment of Indiana History program #114, from December 2006. Find out more about the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus in program #113, from November 2006.