Big Changes in Mummery

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January 31, 2009

Several String Bands are experiencing achange in the Captain's position this year and these changes are huge. Big names, big influences on the Mummers will give way to a newgeneration of leadership.   These changes also occur as Mummery itselfmust transform to fit a new economic reality.

The winningestCaptain of all time, Bill Bowen, Jr., of Fralinger String Band, isstepping down after decades of unparalleled leadership.  My count has27 parades with Bill as Captain.  With Fralinger taking First Prize inthe official judging, "Wild" Bill is going out on top.  Of course, hecould have said that last year, and the year before, and the yearbefore and the year before and the year before and the year before....

ScottMoyer, also one of the longest serving Captains and a former FirstPrize winner, is passing the baton to another member of GreaterKensington String Band.  Scott served as Captain for 19 consecutiveyears, but paraded as Captain for 20 years, really.  He filled in backin 1989 for the injured Joe Lippincott.  The 2009 parade was Scott's30th.

Perry DiMatteo is leaving as head of Greater OverbrookString Band.  Perry has always brought a love of Mummery to thestreet.  You can see that in the band's "Haymazing Adventure in 2008 or"Polar-ized" this year.  Perry can certainly take a large share of thecredit for the resurgence of Greater O in recent years.

JerryLaRosa, Jr., Durning String Band's venerable Captain, also is retiringfrom his leadership role.  Jerry is a gamer, kind of like Jon Runyan,only not as tall and he never spits.  Jerry has hit the street evenwhen it hurt.  Jerry's personality has shown in Durning's unique style,its all out of love of humor and of playing to the audience.  Everyonewill remember the "walkers" of 2008.  You're not ready for one yet,Jerry.

And, Jamie Caldwell is stepping down as Captain ofUptown String Band.  Humor and hard work have typified Jamie'sperformances and his leadership within the band of Bucks County.  Hewas first elected Captain in 1990, I believe.  Oh, Jaime will still bearound, playing the banjo with Uptown, but he'll always be missed outfront.

Jamie, Jerry, Perry, Scott and Bill, thank you.  

Thebands are in the process of deciding who will assume the Captainpositions.  All should be decided and formally announced by the Show ofShows, on February 28th.  You should go to the Show of Shows atBoardwalk Hall on February 28th.  There are 2 performances.  It may bethe last chance to see these legends of Broad Street.

Change isinevitable and it does not necessarily mean the end.  It often means anew beginning.   Among those we saw in the last year:  Bob Shannon,Jr., of course, stepping down from his historic Captaincy of QuakerCity String Band.  Charlie Roetz stepped in and took First PrizeCaptain this year.  Anthony Celenza, of Ferko String Band, also did agreat job in replacing the wonderful Phil Rotindo.

And here'sanother truth:  I think all this makes Ted Kudrick, Captain of DuffyString Band, the "old man" of Mummers String Band Captains.  Sorry,Teddy, but you are coming up on your 25th.

A couple of other thoughts:

Thepassing of Jerry Murray, of the Wild Rovers in Murray Comic Club, was ashock to all of us.  Jerry's wife, Joan, and the entire Murrray familyhave been exceptionally strong, courageous and gracious throughout thedifficult days that followed his heart attack on New Year's Day.  I cantell you that they are gratified by all who took the time to visit thefuneral home and those who offered their condolences and comments aboutJerry on  I met a friend of Jerry's who told me, "Youknow, we used to kid Jerry that he gave lawyers a good name."  Thetestimonies continue to come in about how Jerry Murray was a kind,conscientious man and a great Mummer.  He was good at what he did andsought to make others happy.  Rich and Jessica Porco and all in MurrayComic Club are to be thanked for their concern and support of theMurray family.

Another great man passed away in January: WilliamIsaacs, founder of the Downtowners Fancy Brigade.  Bill lived a longlife.  He was 87.  He served his nation in World War II and contributedto the betterment of Philadelphia for decades.  The Fancy Brigadeswould not be what they are today without Bill.  The annual Serenade,which has been another way Mummers are brought together and familiesand friendships are strengthened, came about because of Bill.  It'salso a good time.  His wife, Marie, told me he just went out and hailedthe First Prize Winners, the Jokers she thinks, one day after theparade and the Serenade was born.  Now, it's a tradition.  TheDowntowners are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year.  Whenthey get together for a banquet this spring, Bill will not be there inbody, but he will in spirit.  "Mr. Downtowner" will always be with theDowntowners, the Fancy Brigades, and Mummery.

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