Alonzo Leach - Page 2

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1913 Gentry Brothers Dog and Pony Show Band

Back row, left to right: ___ Marks, Cecil Dye, Bert Moore, Earl Groves
Middle row: Fred House, John Quinley, V.L. (Decon) Sutton, John Piske, Alonzo Leach
First Row: Jack Crennick, F.A. Marton, Al Segura, Ed Hodshire, Elmer Kohlman
On the ground in front: Frank Robinson, drums; Harry Crigler, Bandmaster

During the 1913 season, Alonzo Leach performed with the Gentry Brothers Dog and Pony Show.  The next year he was invited by Karl King to join the Sells-Floto and Buffalo Bill Wild West Combined Shows Band.  Alonzo later taught flute lessons and was director of Drake Bands for ten years.  He directed the Shrine Band 13 years, was one of the founders of Iowa Bandmasters Association, secretary for that organization for 40 years, and directed massed bands at Riverview Park for many years.

1927 Drake Band, Alonzo Leach in dark coat at right
This photo was published in Alonzo's Hawkeye Musician.

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1929 Portrait of Alonzo Leach, Director of Bands, 1919 to 1929

Alonzo Leach was the founder, the first manager and program director of the Des Moines Municipal Band.  A 1966 article Des Moines Register article states that although Robert W. Bagley was the conductor, that year Alonzo was still performing in that band, along with his son, Joe, and his grandson, David.  The article also says that quite a number of members had been in the band since its inception.  They include Bagley, who played trumpet for Mr. Leach before becoming director; V.M. Barber, Homer Bosley, Karl Killinger and LeRoy Rees, trombones; Clarence Blackman, drums; Chick Chamberlain, tuba; John Knobbe, baritone; Joe Leach and J.B. Snyder, clarinets; Kenneth Werth, tenor saxophone; and Dick Wilson, bassoon.  Mrs. Carolyn Enzauro, a French horn player, played first horn with Karl King's band as a 16-year-old girl in Fort Dodge.

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Interior of the repair room of the Alonzo Leach Music Store, 805½ Locust Street in Des Moines

Alonzo Leach is pictured holding the 1921 telegram from Meredith Willson
offering him a job with the Sousa Band.

Des Moines Register – by Julie McLaughlin

FILM STIRS MEMORY – HE LED SOUSA’S BAND – In Alonzo Leach’s long career as a musician there is one incident which would be a moment of glory in any bandsman’s memories.  This was when the great John Philip Sousa handed Leach his baton and said: “Direct my band.”  The Des Moines musician and music store owner, recalling this incident of 1927, said: “I was scared to death.  I lifted the stick.  Then the downbeat and …bang!  I’ll never forget the sound of that 80-piece band.”  The “march king” and his band were in Des Moines to play at the Drake fieldhouse under the sponsorship of the Drake band, which Leach then directed.  “A friend of mine had written a march and he thought it would be thrilling if Mr. Sousa’s band would play it here.  He asked me to make the request,” Leach recalled.

Sousa put Leach at ease the moment the Des Moines man walked into his dressing room.  Spotting Leach’s Shrine pin, Sousa said, “Hello, Noble!  What can I do for you?”  Leach told him, and Sousa replied the band would certainly play the march – but that Leach would be on the podium.  This and other memories of the composer of America’s most stirring marches returned to Leach after he had seen a prieview of “Stars and Stripes forever,” screen biography of Sousa which opened Wednesday evening at the Paramount and Ingersoll theaters here.

“The first time I heard Mr. Sousa’s band was in 1907 when I lived in Eldora,” Leach said, chuckling, he went on, “I wonder if boys now take so much trouble to do something they want to do.”  Sousa’s band, which played often in Iowa during its extensive tours and a number of times at the Iowa state fair, was appearing in Iowa Falls.  “I rented a buggy and an old grey mare, drove 14 miles to Hubbard to fetch a young lady,” said Leach.  “Then we drove 14 miles farther to Iowa Falls.”

The most unforgettable part of the concert, Leach said, was the solo performance of a young trombonist, Arthur Pryor, who later was hailed as the world’s greatest trombonist for many years.  “In 1947 I was in Asbury Park, N.J., where Pryor was buried,” said the Des Moines bandsman.  “I drove out to his grave and laid a wreath upon it.”

Leach cherishes a yellowed telegram he keeps in his roll-top desk at his music store at 805½ Locust St.  It was a 1921 offer of a job with Sousa’s band, sent through Meredith Willson, a long-time friend of Leach’s, then a soloist for Sousa.  “Want, flutiest third chair with Sousa for wonderful 20-week tour through west and south…” the telgram read.  Leach turned it down regretfully.  “I had just made a start in a little music store of my own,” he said.  “I was the only one in it and couldn’t leave.”

Sousa was a genial man, easy to meet, Leach said.  He loved trapshooting and on a number of occasions bought guns or left them for adjustments at the “Kautzky gun shop in Fort Dodge,” Leach said.  Like his music, Sousa was of and for common folk.  There was nothing temperamental about him, Leach said.

At the 1928 Iowa state fair he amiably consented to have his picture taken with a world’s champion producing cow.  “Which end of the critter do you want me?”  he asked as he posed for a picture that later appeared under the caption, “Two World Champions.”  “Don’t kick me, Bossie,” Sousa said.  He also consented to assist in judging the hog-calling contest at the fair, appeared perplexed when some 50 men and women lined up to compete.  “I thought it was the musical quality and tone of the hog’s squeal that we were to judge,” he confided to his colleagues on the judging team.

After Sousa’s death in 1932, Leach was at the University of Illinois, enrolled in a short course for bandsmen.  There he saw Sousa’s entire library, which he had willed to the university and which had just arrived.  “Forty-two trunks, each as big as this desk!”  Reverently, Leach added, “With these was Mr. Sousa’s little stand – his podium.  The music rack came with it, too.  “And on the music rack was a little old pencil…”  Leach paused, a tender smile on his lips.  He picked up a pencil from the roll-top desk, dug and imaginary line around it with his fingernail.  “You know, Mr. Sousa had cut a circle around the pencil and tied it to his rack with a piece of string…  I told them then at the university they should put this under a piece of glass…”

ANOTHER CIRCUS BAND MAN - Another former circus band man is visiting in the Mason City vicinity.  Alonzo Leach, right, Des Moines, is vacationing at Clear Lake.  When he called on Conductor Carleton L. Stewart one day this week, at least two things took place.  One was some talk about Karl L. King, recently in Mason City, whose picture is the object of attention here.  Leach played flute and piccolo under King with the Sells Floto Circus at one time.  the other thing that happened was an invitation given the visitor to conduct Stewart's municipal band in two selections at the Sunday night concert.  Leach accepted and will wield the baton for "Chocolate Soldier" and "The Thunderer.

Alonzo Leach at work

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