52 Ancestors Week 29 - Music

+12 votes
AJC - This should be a fun prompt. Do you know of a musical relative? (According to my dad, my great-uncle Pete could play anything that had strings.) If not, what about an ancestor with a musical name? Place names can be musical as well. Any ancestors from New Harmony, Indiana or Trumpet Island, Maine? (Or take inspiration from classic rock: Chicago, Boston, Kansas... What was it in the '70s with naming bands after places?) I can't wait to see what you come up with!
in The Tree House by Robynne Lozier G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
29. Not having any interest in music I was taught to play the Recorder (a type of flute) and sold it to buy some sweets!

18 Answers

+12 votes
John Sargent Fisher was a musician during the Civil War. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Fisher-12229

He later served in combat.

My great-grandfather, Vincenzo, would sing to my mom in Italian. I've heard Frank Forgione (a cousin) also played in the military bands.

My dad's cousin, Joe, was a music teacher for many years. My grandfather used to play the piano.

And my brother is pretty decent on a guitar. As for me? Um....I can only do Rock Band on Easy mode. Looks like the music gene skipped me. Sigh....

I dunno what was up with the '70s bands, Robynne. What was up with '80s heavy metal? \m/

And now I am off to watch Coco....for some reason.
by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (764k points)
+10 votes
My family has been more arts inclined (writing and painting) rather than musically inclined.

The only person whom I know who had some musical talent, was Joseph Thompson - the older brother of my great grandfather - John Thompson.

The only photo we have of Joseph shows him holding a trumpet and wearing a band uniform of some kind. What little information we have says he worked in a saddlery shop and played the trumpet in the local band.

by Robynne Lozier G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
+7 votes
I will do this. I have a lot that are musical talented but I am going to do my cousin named Jerry Parker Leonard and his profile is https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Leonard-9101. He was a choir member of First Baptist Church of Kingsport, Tennessee. He enjoyed singing and had been a member of S.P.E.B.Q.S.A. and the Symphony of the Mountains Chorus.
by Living Barnett G2G6 Pilot (502k points)
edited by Living Barnett
+13 votes

Billy gave Susanna a piano for their 25th wedding anniversary in 1859.

Shortly after that 6 (or more) of their sons and son-in-laws went off to fight in the US Civil War. The war was difficult on the family, and they sold most everything in the home in support of the war. Billy refused, however, to part with the piano.

Prior to a family reunion in 2001, the house was still standing, bare except for the piano.

Billy Knight's piano

Billy https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Knight-11591

Susanna https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Roberts-5371

by Kay Knight G2G6 Pilot (597k points)
Wow Kay. That piano is a survivor.
+10 votes

Quite a few people in my family had musical talent, which I failed to inherit. None of they were professional musicians. My mother played piano, organ and vibraharp. Her mother played piano, and her father the coronet. I'm going to do this on my maternal grandfather's brother, George Stoner, who not only played the violin, but built them, as a hobby. That's all I know about it, but this will give me incentive to contact my 2nd cousin, and ask him about it, so I can write more.

by Alison Gardner G2G6 Mach 8 (83.2k points)
+11 votes
I sure do. I know a lot of them. My dad and his brother's were all musically inclined.

My dad played the best three neck steel guitar you ever heard. He could rival the best around. Alvino Rey, Herb Remington, Speedy West. You name them - my dad was the best. If he heard the music he could play it.

My Uncle Dave was incredible on the drums. Put sticks in his hands, and he made the music.

My Uncle Wick was wonderful on the bass guitar, and my Uncle Gene couldn't be beat on the lead guitar.

On any given week-end, you would find them all at our house practicing. They would have a good ole' jam session on our front yard.

Neighbors from all over would bring their lawn chairs to listen. And if they knew the song, they would start to sing along.

They finally organized a band, and started singing at the local haunts. They were very really good. They got so good, that they didn't have any free weekends.

They even made a couple of records.

My dad did a couple of radio commercials with my 5th grade teacher. Dad even played in our church.

I was so proud of everything my dad did, but I think watching his fingers on the steel guitar was one of the most amazing things I ever saw him do.

Then, when I was in 8th grade, I wanted to play the piano. Mom and dad said there wasn't enough room in our house for one.  I was very disappointed. I guess I wanted to try and make music like my dad.

One day my dad came home with a surprise. He bought me a Gibson guitar, and told me he would teach me how to play it. A popular song at that time was The House of the Rising Sun.

I asked my dad if he knew that song. He told me no, but if I could find the record, he could figure it out.

I borrowed it from my girlfriend, and brought it home. I played it for my dad, and he started playing it right away. I was shocked. I asked him how he did it. He told me by ear. He did teach me how to play the song that day, and many more throughout the years.

I have never stopped loving music. Now, long after dad had died, I believe that my love of music came from him.

Thank you dad. I love you.
by Cheryl Hess G2G Astronaut (1.8m points)
What a great eulogy!! Thanks Cheryl.
Thank you Robynne.
+9 votes

Well, I am related to Ray Fenwick but can't create a profile for him as he is still living and it would be a closed profile - so not much point.

But I'll have a dig around through my more distant relatives to see if I can find any musicians - going to be tough as most were ag labs and shoemakers lol

by Michelle Wilkes G2G6 Pilot (169k points)
Wow, Michelle. That is a great notable musical connection to have!! Thanks.
+10 votes
My mother's family was more musically inclined (actually creative arts in general). My mother studied voice for years and sang in nightclubs until she married my dad. She was operatically trained and sang arias to us kids as infants. That opera voice could also be heard for long distances so when we were called for supper, you couldn't claim not to have heard. I also have a maternal side cousin who was a career Army Band musician and my maternal grandmother was in a mandolin band. Music didn't come down to me or my siblings. We are more on the art or writing side of things.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (531k points)
+10 votes

I already wrote about the music superstar in my tree for Week #3, Longevity, because she lived to be over 100 years old. This week I wrote about a 3rd great aunt named Minerva. It's a repeating name which I absolutely love. Minerva was the Roman Goddess of Music and Poetry, so she fits the bill for the "Music" week. One of the Minervas in my tree is Minerva Woods. I am so obsessed with that name, I made it one of my passwords! It sounds like a femme fatale in a 1950's movie to me. The Minerva that I wrote about was a music teacher who ended up moving to the wild west with the rest of her family. Blog post is below is here: http://www.libbyonthelabel.ca/2018/07/there-are-so-many-family-names-that-i.html#.W1F-23bM-OZ.link

by Libby Park G2G6 Mach 1 (18.6k points)
+10 votes

My most musical relations would be my half uncle. Pat (Spike) Hughes, a jazz musician and music critic, and his father Herbert Hughes, a composer and collector and arranger of Irish folk music.

 Herbert Hughes (1882 - 1937) https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Hughes-15381https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Hughes_(composer) ,  was a composer, and a collector and arranger of Irish folk songs.  He was born and raised in Belfast, but attended music school in London, and spent most of the rest of his life in England.

 He wrote the music for Yeats’s “Down by the Salley Gardens” (  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Down_by_the_Salley_Gardens ), Colum’s “She Moved Through the Fair” ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/She_Moved_Through_the_Fair ) , and “My Lagan Love” ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Lagan_Love ).

 He collected and arranged such well known songs as “The Star of the County Down”, “The Black Ribbon-Band”, “I Know my Love”, “ I Know Where I’m Going”, “Innisfree”, “Johnny, I Hardly Knew You”, “Roisin Dubh”, and “Shule Agra”.

 He was a friend of James Joyce, and was one of the originators of the 1933 “The Joyce Book” , as well as being the editor, and composer of one entry. ( https://modernism.coursepress.yale.edu/the-joyce-book/ )  “The Joyce Book” was intended as a fundraiser for the (always in financial trouble) James Joyce, with each of his composer friends contributing a musical setting for one of his poems.

 Herbert married my grandmother, Meena, in 1907 and their son Patrick (Spike) Hughes was born in 1908.  By 1912 they had separated, and they divorced in 1922.  Shortly thereafter Herbert married Suzanne McKernan, an Irish actress, in New Jersey, USA, where she was performing.  They had two daughters, Angela (who wrote a memoir, Chelsea Footprints, in 2008) and Helena.

 He was a music critic with the Daily Telegraph for many years. Herbert dies in 1937 of pneumonia.

 Herbert and Meena’s son, Pat (my half uncle), is the other musician in the family. Patrick Cairns Hughes (1908 - 1987) ( https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Hughes-15382 ).  His Wikipedia page is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spike_Hughes and The Spike Hughes Page, http://www.r2ok.co.uk/spike.htm , covers his jazz career.

 He is best known as a jazz musician, under the name Spike Hughes, though he stopped playing jazz in 1933, at age 25.  In New York in 1933, he recorded several albums of his original compositions with Benny Carter's and Luis Russell's orchestras, as well as Coleman Hawkins and Henry "Red" Allen from Fletcher Henderson's band.  They are still “in print” as CDs, and at least one tune, Nocturne, is still being arranged and interpreted by modern jazz musicians ( for instance https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arclight_(album) ).

 Like his father he became a music critic, as well as a BBC broadcaster.  He wrote a series of books on opera (Famous Verdi /  Mozart / Puccini Operas),and  a History of the Glynbourne Opera Festival.  He wrote another series of books on The Coarse Art of Cricket / Gardening / Bridge … . He also wrote two volumes of autobiography, Opening Bars (1946) and Second Movement (1951). In spite of being diabetic, he was also a restaurant reviewer.  He worked on the principle that you only needed to eat a teaspoonful of each dish to review it.

by Janet Gunn G2G6 Pilot (158k points)
+9 votes

I'm in... and it's me! Actually NOT me so much as my immediate family, who aren't tone deaf :D (I did play flute, piano & guitar- and sing in the church choir, just not very well. As my director in L'il Abner said after insisting I sing instead of speak my solo at the first rehearsal: "You're right, Liz, speak the lyrics.")

The rest of my family was way more talented. My mom was a contralto (alto) and sang in various choirs over the years, to include Washington Cathedral and Kennedy Center performances. My Dad played clarinet & guitar. Christmas was magical growing up, when a family friend would join us for Christmas Eve dinner. He was a church organist & after dinner was spent singing carols and pieces from Handel's Messiah accompanied by Carl on the piano. Looking back now, and realizing how thin the rowhouse's walls were - I suspect everyone in the immediate vicinity knew how talented (or not) my family was!

Thanks for bringing back warm memories Robynne & Amy!

by Liz Shifflett G2G6 Pilot (630k points)
+10 votes
American folk musician Townes Van Zandt is my fifth cousin twice removed: https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Van_Zandt-186

My passion is trying to connect my favorite rock stars to the Tree. Since the pesky passing of that GDPR, I have to restrict myself to the dead ones -- alas, there are too many dead ones.
by Jessica Key G2G6 Pilot (314k points)
+8 votes
My granddad served in the Army of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and was part of a band of four guys. I don't know, if he played an instrument or if he sang, but we have a picture of the four. Two of them have an instrument in their hands, my granddad does not.
by Jelena Eckstädt G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)
+7 votes

Charles Thorpe was the youngest of three brothers who were Union soldiers during the Civil War.  His oldest brother John enlisted in September of 1861 and was discharged for disability August of 1862; his brother William enlisted in August of 1862 at the age of 19 and served until the end of the war. 

Charles enlisted in Company L of the 10th Michigan Cavalry on August 24, 1863 at Fenton, Michigan.  He claimed he was 17 years old, although he was actually only 16.  He was mustered as a bugler a little over a week later. 

The story that has been passed down in the family is that during a battle Charles was put under a cannon to keep him out of harm’s way.  I always wondered about the accuracy of the story as I didn’t think musicians would actually be on the battlefield.  A few years ago, at the time of its sesquicentennial when there was a renewed interest in all things about the U.S. Civil War, I had the opportunity to visit a reenactment encampment and ask the bugler if the story might be true.  Yes, he informed me, the buglers and drummers relayed signals during battles and indeed would have been in the thick of things. 

But while Charles may have been protected from bullets, the concussive force from the cannon caused a form of brain damage that was labeled “epileptic insanity”.  It probably took some time to manifest itself.  His record has no mention of disability when he was mustered out with his unit 11 November 1865.  He married in 1866 and on the 1870 Census lists his occupation as farmer. However, he applied for a military pension as early as 25 July 1868 when he was only 21.  

His wife Mary and brother William Thorpe petitioned the Shiawassee County Probate Court in 1889 and Charles was admitted to the Eastern Michigan Asylum at Pontiac, Oakland, Michigan for “treatment” as he was a danger to himself and others.  He may have returned home for a few years as he appears on the 1890 Veterans Schedule as living at Corunna, Shiawassee, Michigan.

Mary died in July of 1893.  There is a second Probate Court record in 1894 admitting him to the same Asylum.  At that time, his brother-in-law, Ephraim Hart, my great-grandfather, was one of the petitioners.  Charles died in the Asylum at Pontiac on 14 August 1909 of chronic bronchitis at the age of 62. 

He was buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Vernon, Michigan with his wife although the grave marker does not have his death date.  Charles' name, as is his brother William’s, is also on the marker listing the Civil War veterans buried at the cemetery.

by Jill Perry G2G6 Mach 4 (44.7k points)
+6 votes

Well, I have thought and thought about this theme but came up short.  Aside from myself who played clarinet in the school bands from 5th grade through 12th, there were no bona fide musicians or singers in the family or ancestral lines that I am aware of.  

My grandmother, Miriam Carey Stewart, in her elder years after grandpa died, got a bug to learn how to play an organ.  She bought a small home organ and took lessons for a short while but never developed more than a rudimentary ability to play a few hymns.  When I was in my early teens, I enjoyed playing around on it whenever I was at her house.  I remember learning to play Love & Marriage, Beautiful Dreamers, and numerous old songs and hymns from the old hymnals and sheet music she had.


Miriam Stewart Image 1

by Carolyn Martin G2G6 Pilot (283k points)
+5 votes

I sing.  I have sung on stage and in a show on the field of Busch Stadium in St. Louis.  I get this I think from my Grandmother, Dorothy N (Walter) Pennie https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Walter-3003.  She was on opera singer in St Louis, Missouri.  

by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (830k points)
+3 votes
I have more musical family members than I can count (including a sister who's a professional musical theater actress, and performed on Broadway).  But my favorite memory is of my Dad, who had two songs he used to sing to us on our many travels (I'm an Army brat).  He learned them both from his mother - "There Was An Old Mule" and "The Prodigal Son."  My understanding is, they are very old songs that have a long history in the Southeast US.  My six siblings and I still sing them when we all get together!
by Anneliese Kennedy G2G6 Mach 1 (17.9k points)
+2 votes
My adopted father was a musician during the 1920's, 30's and 40's.

He was born in 1908, and was put into an orphanage at birth, and didn't know he had a sister 5 years older than him until he was 5.

His way out was to become the best trumpet player he could be.

He won competitions while he was still in the orphanage and went on to  play in broadway shows, and with most of the big bands.

He played 1st trumpet, but also doubled as jazz trumpet, which is usually 2nd chair.

He also played in clubs and speakeasys, sometimes for gangsters, like Bugs Moran and  Al Capone.

He was playing in a club and a drunk who was dancing hit his horn, which was hand made by Bach in New York, and his lip was paralyzed., and so ended his career.

He  went on to become very successful in business, but you could always tell where his heart lay.

If this story looks familiar, it's because I accidently put it in 52 week- Challenge, but this also tells the story of over coming the challenges you are dealt, even before you are old enough to understand them.
by James Brooks G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
edited by James Brooks

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