What was the first band to become famous?

I know about famous composers from centuries past, and I can even think of a few people who became famous through performance in the 19th century (Jenny Lind, Franz Liszt). But were there any bands that were big before the early twentieth century?

I know there is not a clear distinction between an “orchestra” and a “band”. What I have in mind is a group that plays popular or folk music instead of “classical”, and has more or less the same members during its run. Many bands do go through changes in line-up, but few go on past all of the original members - like an orchestra does over time. Individual personalities are important in defining bands, while orchestras tend to go for continuity. Most military bands are more like orchestras in this regard. I know there might be a better definition of “band” out there, but I think you get the idea.

Lets say you went back in time to Cincinatti or Baltimore in the 1850s. Would you overhear anyone there say something like " Dude, you gotta hear 'Zachariah and the Grist Mill Boys ’ at the commons tonight, they are one righteous band out of Illinois"? Were there any bands, that were well known nationally, or ‘on tour’ in those days?

There was certainly a wealth of music publishing during those times.

How about in other countries? Did the idea of popular bands come to America from Germany or somewhere else?

I can’t give you an answer, but I suspect it lies somewhere in Vaudeville and its antecedents.

The Christie Minstrels started performing in 1844. Though they did comedy as part of their act, much of their act is music as you describe, and they introduced several Stephen Foster songs.

Well, in 320 B.C., in ancient Macedonia, a great military leader needed a way to coordinate the actions of large numbers of troops. He had his alchemists create a system whereby cloth strips soaked in a certain liquid would change colors as they dried out over time. These were worn tied around the wrist, and, in honor of their leader, became known as Alexander’s Rag Time-Band.

Oy, Ethilrist. Groanability factor of 11 out of 10 on that one.

I understand that Homer and his backup band had quite a following back in the day.

Let’s not forget JC and the Apostles. On of their earlier performances at the Bar Mitzvah for Herod’s nephew greatly influenced a young Keith Richards and got him interested in the blues, IIRC. And really, JC’s trashing of the merchant’s stuff at the temple? That’s got rock star tantrum written all over it.

Johann Strauss’s (jr and sr) waltz orchestra was the toast of Vienna. People used to do the same kinds of things for Strauss Jr that they do for rock headliners today (groupies, comps, VIP treatment).

Even earlier than that, Haydn’s orchestra at Ezsterhazy Palace was very well-known and an invitation from the Archduke to attend a Haydn concert was a major social triumph.

tosses his glass into the fireplace

John Phillip Souza?

The most common distinction is that an orchestra is a band that has been expanded by strings. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it plays classical music: The Duke Ellington Orchestra, the Eddie Duchin Orchestra, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, etc.

If it’s any help, the first jazz recording was by the Original Dixieland Jass Band in 1917.

As far as I understand it, Minstrel shows went from town to town, playing their shows, getting their money, and moving on to the next. There were dozens if not hundreds of touring Minstrel acts touring the US back in those days, so presumably during any given summer there could be a new Minstrel show in your town every few days.

So if the same Minstrel show went to the same towns on the same dates every year, does that mean that there was some kind of Minstrel Cycle?

:: rimshot ::

The Rolling Stone Age?

There is a new book coming out that claims JC didn’t choke on his own vomit, he was a target for either the CIA or the JLF and was in fact murdered. Supposedly there is eyewitness testimony.

But if he had shared his ham sandwich with Gandhi they’d both be alive now.

Everyone knows it was Robin Hood and his Band of Merry Men.