Category: music

‘Sunday June 30 1918 – Eggs for breakfas…

‘Sunday June 30 1918 – Eggs for breakfast. Loafed. Cleaned
a mouthorgan and had a little bit of music with field hospital 10. Slept most
of Afternoon. Loafed evening away.’

Poinson-lès-Fayl, Marne, France – American ambulance driver’s diary – Franklin &
Marshall College
– Photo: WW1, “a little bit of music”.

“The long twilight offers great openings for s…

“The long twilight offers great openings for songsters
and we reel off all the songs we know – very college-fashion.”

June 1918, France, American ambulance driver – In a letter to his father, he writes that singing brings back memories of college days – Text and photo from the beautiful new book “The Black Cats of Amherst”—  Also, here, the fun & smart Black Cats’ Twitter feed

‘Sunday June 9 1918  – Quiet day. Petit…

‘Sunday June 9 1918  –
Quiet day. Petit Parisien for today*
shows picture and account of little girl we brought in wounded from Oigny
. Good sing tonight.’

The French article mentions the good care the wounded little girl received from the American ambulance drivers and doctors.

In Villers-Cotterets, Aisne, France, American ambulance
driver’s Record of S. S. U. 585 – 1918,
somewhere in France, American soldiers’ “Broadway Quartet” in the fields
– Western Newspaper Union

‘May 9-10 1918 – Cars are parked on squa…

‘May 9-10 1918 – Cars are parked on
square. Lots of British troops here. Section assigned quarters in small
barn. Fine English canteen. The band has
demonstration this evening.’

ambulance driver’s log in Picquigny near Amiens, Northern France Record of S. S. U.
– Photo: 1918, France, American military band’s concert for the
villagers and the soldiers. Archives du Ministere de la Culture, France

                       April 26 1918 — “…

                       April 26 1918 — “Musicians
in khaki leading the boys through France”

said to the officer “I’m glad to see those bands;
but why have you so much music?” He said “Can’t you understand what an effect
music has on the troops? First, there is the attitude of mind. A pleased mind
bends more readily to discipline; and look at those men marching. Can’t you see that they
instinctively keep step better, and that makes for discipline. Our men are all
right, but they are independent in feeling and habit, and we have to treat them
like intelligent human beings.”

– A New York Times journalist embedded with American troops in the Somme,
France.The New York Times Current History – 1918 – Photo: April 26 1918, early morning, Northern France, American troops passing through Noyer-Saint-Martin, on their way to the Somme front.

“Thurday, April 18 1918 – On duty at 7 P…

“Thurday, April 18 1918 – On duty at 7 P.M. — Very quiet. Hardly a gun shot. Cook from
Nice is a music wizard – No Calls.”

American ambulance in Argonne, Verdun sector – France – Diaries of Samuel Keplinger – Photo: WW1 French soldiers playing music in the abri at night.


                                                100 years ago in France: suddenly, jazz!

February 12, 1918, in Nantes, the Harlem Hellfighters’ band led by James Reese Europe gave one of the first ever jazz concerts in

‘The drummers hit their stride with shoulders shaking in syncopated time, and Europe turned to the trombones “patiently waiting for their cue to have a jazz
spasm. The audience could stand it no longer, the jazz germ’ hit them and
it seemed to find the vital spot loosening all muscles and causing what is
known in America as an eagle rocking it.’

now, we brought this band over here and started ragtimitis in France; ain’t this
an awful thing to do to a nation with so many burdens? But when the
band had finished and the people were roaring with laughter, their faces
wreathed in smiles, I was forced to say that this is just what France needs at
this critical moment.’
Noble Sissle

A Life in Ragtime: A Biography of James
Reese Europe
– Photo: James Reese Europe aka Jim Europe and the Harlem
Hellfighters Band playing in France

France remembers: “Nantes Celebrates 100 years of Jazz” – Also, this great Twitter account: 100 ans de jazz en Europe. 1918-2018

‘January 26 1918 – The new parts for the…

‘January 26
1918 – The new parts for the Vocalion [record player] arrive and we enjoy ourselves by getting homesick. Music may have charms
to sooth the savage beast but it certainly has the power to bring us home when
we are so far away.’

American ambulance driver’s diary in
Baccarat, Meurthe-et-Moselle, The Compensations of War: The Diary of
an Ambulance Driver during the Great War
– Photo: WW1, listening to
music in a YMCA hut – Hoover Institution

‘January 13 1918 – Alpine Chasseur Band …

‘January 13 1918 – Alpine
Chasseur Band plays outside our cantonement. Wonderful music. Band treated to
hot pinard by our section. Great
bunch the Chasseurs! Always neat, straight, give snappy salutes. The best
troops — called Blue Devils by Bosche!’

American ambulance driver’s diary near Verdun, France – Diaries of Samuel M. Keplinger – Photo: January 12 1918, France – Blue Devils’ band marching through town.

‘Oct 31 1917 –  Hello Dad –  how are you? I am Well. You have no…

‘Oct 31 1917 –  Hello Dad –  how are you? I am Well. You have
no doubt read in the papers that we are at the front. The Band is attached to the Hospital Corp’s.  

Tonight is Halloween. We played concert and it was pretty
chilly on the fingers. I can execute pretty keen on the clarinet now as we have
been playing some heavy music. I haven’t got the violin out. Guess I won’t till
we get back to the U.S

All the Women ride bicycles and work just like men – I
think they have made more money in these towns where the American soldiers are
stationed, than they have for the last 10 years. I like France fairly but don’t
think I would like to live here for ever. They have fine roads here. White and
red wine can be bought for 30c a bottle and some of soldiers get tanked up on
it. I don’t like it because it is so sour but French people have it with every
meal.  I got a carton of Fatima Cigarettes . We had
some snow and rain but have Hobb nail shoes and they wear good.
I don t suppose I will be able to write every week as I think we will be very

Last year I didn’t think I would be here.

We have 6 clarinets in our band and 2 saxophones. That is a
pretty good for a band of 25. We have a fine Solo Cornet player but he hasn’t
any click in his heart.

Well I guess I will close as I can’t write anything of
interest as the cencor is very strict

Your Son Walter’

WW1, Eastern France – From the service of Private Walter G. Shaw, 18th
Infantry Band, 1st Division. With band – He was gassed at Cantigny and died in The Argonne in Spring 1918. Text source: The National WW1 Museum and Memorial  –  Photo: WW1 American soldiers giving a concert in Granvillars , France. BnF-Gallica