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Primary Creator: Vermazen, Bruce
Other Creators: Brown, Tom (1881-1950)
Extent: 17.5 cubic feet
Date Acquired: 06/22/2020
Consists of Bruce Vermazen's research on Tom Brown, which includes Tom Brown's performance papers, scrapbooks, recorded music, and musical instruments and Bruce Vermazen's research notes, personal correspondence, and publishing information for the book That Moaning Saxophone. The collection is organized into two series. Series one concerns Tom Brown's music and papers, and series two centers around Bruce Vermazen's papers. Series one is organized into six subseries and arranged by content type. Subseries one consists of performance photographs, papers, and materials. Subseries two consists of scrabooks. Subseries three consists of sheet music. Subseries four consists of the Metronome Orchestra Monthly. Subseries five consists of audio recordings. Subseries six consists of seven music instruments. Subseries one is arranged chronologically, subseries two is arranged chronologically by earliest date, subseries three is arranged alphabetically, subseries four is arranged chronologically by date and issue, subseries five is arranged alphabetically by recording company, and subseries six is arranged by type of instrument. Series two is organized into three subseries. Subseries one is labeled research files, subseries two is labeled book project files, and subseries three is labeled personal papers. Subseries one is arranged alphabetically by content or creator, and subseries two and three are arranged chronologically by date of creation.
Tom Brown (1881-1950) was born on March 27, 1881 in Ottawa, Ontario. As the second oldest child of seven children, Tom grew up in a musical household. Tom first learned cornet at the age of four from his father Allan, who was a cornettist and band leader in both Ottawa and Toronto. In 1890, Tom began performing the clarinet in the 45th Battery Band of Bowmanville Ontario, a Canadian military band that was led by his father. Tom spent a large portion of his childhood attending musical events at the Opera House in Lindsay, Ontario, it was here that he witnessed his first minstrel show. In 1897, Tom received his first professional appointment as a musician performing as a parade clarinetest for the Guy Brother's Minstrels during their brief stay in Lindsay. Unlike other professional minstrel shows and circus bands that traveled up to 150 miles by train to each new performance location, the Guy Brother's minstrels was a"mud show" that traveled from town to town with a horse and carriage. After spending two years with the Guy Brother's show, Tom joined the Ringling Brother's Circus Band during its 1899 concert tour. By 1903, Tom and his brother Percy began to perform as featured soloists with the Walter L. Main Enormous Show Circus Band. It was during this year that Tom briefly met his future wife, an actress by the name of Theresa Valerio. Midway through the tour, Tom and Percy left the circus because Tom was offered the opportunity to become the leader of the Guy Brothers Minstrels.
Tom led the Guy Brother's Minstrels on a 1904 vaudeville tour of the American Midwest. Sometime during this tour, he renamed the ensemble the Brown Brother's Band. In 1906, the Brown Brothers were added to the Ringling Brother's circus tour. By 1906, the Brown Brothers began appearing as comedy trio with George "Doc" Healy, who was formerly a blackface circus clown with Ringling Brothers. In 1909, Tom renamed the ensemble the Five Brown Brothers. This ensemble included Tom as featured soloist and four of his five brothers, Percy, Alec, Vern, and Fred performing as a saxophone quintet. Their first major appearance occurred with the Broadway Gaiety Girls company of New York.
By 1911, Tom's eldest brother William had joined the group and the ensemble was renamed the Six Brown Brothers. During this time, the brothers performed in clown costumes with Tom in blackface. The group's stage costumes reflected Tom's time with both the Guy Brothers Minstrels and the Ringling Brothers Circus. At various points when the group performed as a sextet, the ensemble also featured some non-family members, including Billy Markwith, Harry Fink, and Matthew Amaturo. During this year, the Six Brown Brothers also recorded their first phonograph recordings for the United States and Columbia Phonography companies. From 1912-1914, the group traveled with Primrose and Dockstader's Minstrels. From 1914-1923, the ensemble was hired to play as the pit orchestra for several Broadway shows. These shows included Chin Chin (1914-1917), Jack o Lantern (1917-1920), Midnight Frolic (1918-1919), Tip Top (1920-1923), and The Bunch and Judy (1923). Many of these shows starred Theresa Valerio, who married Tom Brown after they appeared together in Chin Chin.
After performing for nearly a decade on Broadway, Tom led the ensemble on road-tour called Black and White Revue of 1924. Following this failed tour, the Six Brown Brothers took their vaudeville show to Canada and Australia. The Six Brown Brothers disbanded in 1933, but Tom Brown continued performing as a soloist until 1944. After WWII, Tom moved to Chicago, Illinois where he opperated the Tom Brown Music Company, a publishing company and music store that sold musical instruments. Tom Brown died on August 29, 1950 in Chicago, Illinois.
Bruce Vermazen was born in 1940. Vermazen earned his bachelors and masters degrees in Philosophy at the University of Chicago in 1961 and 1962, respectively. In 1967, he received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Stanford University. Soon after, Vermazen became a Professor of Philosophy at the University of California Berkeley. In 1978, he became interested in ragtime and began performing cornet with the Chrysanthemum Ragtime Band. He later served as the band's music director and announcer. In the 1980s, Vermazen began publishing articles on historic ragtime musicians in the San Francisco area including: Jay Roberts, Art Hickman, and the Brown Brothers. In the 1990s, Vermazen began playing cornet with the San Francisco Starlight Orchestra. After retiring in 2000, he published That Moaning Saxophone: The Six Brown Brothers and the Dawning of a Musical Craze. During the early 2000s, Vermazen also became a member of the Hillcrest Wind Ensemble. In 2005, he and Bob Pinsker founded the Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra, an esemble he still co-leads and performs with to this day. Vermazen currently lives in San Diego with his spouse Juan Miguel Godoy.