P.S. Gilmore, the Authorized Biography of America's First Superstar

By Gowan, Andrew | Journal of Band Research, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview
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P.S. Gilmore, the Authorized Biography of America's First Superstar


Gowan, Andrew, Journal of Band Research


P.S. Gilmore, The Authorized Biography of America's First Superstar

By Rusty Hammer, Gainesville, FL: Rusty Hammer, 2006

www.psgilmore.com

At a time when band ensembles sometimes perform wonderful concerts for small audiences, it is gratifying to look back to an era when bandmasters like Patrick Gilmore and John Phillip Sousa were among the most popular entertainers in America. Their touring bands brought fine performances of both great music and popular music to audiences who had few opportunities to hear professional concerts, and they enjoyed a level of celebrity not seen among band conductors today. Although Sousa's entry in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians is significantly longer than that of Patrick Gilmore, this new book offers evidence that Gilmore may have been the more extraordinary of the two men. After all, Sousa himself referred to Gilmore as "the father of the American band."

Patrick S. Gilmore started life as a poor Irishman who emigrated to the U.S. in 1849. His popularity at the time of his death in 1892 was such that the crowds that filled New York's Fifth Avenue for his funeral procession were like those gathered for presidents.

From his first American musical activities as a cornetist, and then leader, of bands in the Boston area, to the establishment of the Gilmore Band in 1858, through his great successes with the 1872 World Peace Jubilee and International Music Festival and his 1878 European tour, Gilmore was celebrated for his skills as a bandmaster, impresario, and composer.

Unlike his contemporaries, Sousa and P.T. Barnum, Gilmore did not write an autobiography nor did he leave behind diaries, journals, or files full of personal correspondence. So, the author of this "authorized biography," Rusty Hammer, has spent the last 30 years discovering and compiling information about Gilmore. "It has always been my wish to tell the story of this astonishing man," relates the author.

While the author has worked diligently to produce a biography that is complete and accurate, he also intended to craft a book that would also be interesting and entertaining to read. Toward that end, P.S. Gilmore, The Authorized Biography of America's First Superstar is written as a historical work of biographical fiction. The narrative unfolds as though Gilmore is relating his life story to a young reporter for the New York World. Although the conversations between Gilmore and the fictional writer are fabricated, the people and the events that are discussed are real, and the information about the events is factual.

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