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  • Recollections on Bob Hoe, by John Johnson

    In the early 1970's. A friend of mine who subscribed to the Gramophone magazine called my attention to a short paragraph that said that Robert Hoe of Poughkeepsie, NY had issued 2 LP's of of marches played by the U.S. Navy Band. I got his telephone number from information and called him. He was out of town, but his wife told me that the records were free and if I wanted the records to send him a letter telling him who I was, mention that I played the euphonium and state why I wanted them. I did this and shortly received the first two records. I sent a thank you letter and got two more. (eventually the total was 15). I was working as a recording engineer at Columbia Records and felt that I could improve the sound of the records and volunteered to do so. He sent me a letter saying that if I did not like the goddamn records I could return them and I was not getting any more. I replied that I was sorry if I offended him. I said that records, like people, are never perfect and there was no way in hell that I was returning the ones I had. (after I got to know him I realized that this was the perfect response). Shortly thereafter, he called me and invited me up to talk to him. I met him at his bowling alley where he stored all his music and the records he was making. We talked things over and agreed that I would help in any way that I could.

    Bob Bob was a man without any pretension. He never dressed up unless it was absolutely necessary. He lived with a cigar in his mouth. He always picked up the tab whenever you shared a meal with him. Anyone meeting him would never suspect that he was wealthy and came from "old money". (the original fortune came from printing presses)

    The first thing I did for him was recording the Stieberritz marches. I later recorded more albums with the NCBA and the Allentown Band.

    His reason for making the records was that he realized that there was a lot of good but relatively unknown music and was tired of hearing the same old stuff on commercially available LP's. Donald Stauffer, the conductor of the Navy Band agreed to record for him and after going through a lot of red tape got permission to do recording with the band. At the time, the Navy series was to be all, but Bob got the "bug" and started using other service bands and then college bands. He would select the composer and selections and send them to the bands. The band would get 200 copies of the record as payment. Sometimes there would be a contribution to the band. When he was making a record with the Paris Police Band, he did not like the sound of the Petit Basse horns which which were the french equivalent of euphoniums and bought four Bessons for the band.

    He insisted that people receiving the records must acknowledge receiving them and indicate that they had listened to them by commenting on the music. Failure to do this got you kicked off the mailing list. There are many people that have some of the records, but very few have all of them.

    He was very close to the Allentown Band and their conductor, Bert Meyers. He used to go to their rehearsals with a portable tape recorder and they would play marches from his collection so that he could decide whether or not to use them on his records.

    Primarily, there were two series. The number series (which reached a total of 90) had an american composer on side A and a European on side B. The letter series was similar with A side American and B side European This was not hard and fast, there were a few exceptions. (this series went from A to QQQQ). The idea was that none of these marches could be found on a commercially available record at that time. There was also an an Allentown series of six records and a "Schoepper Marine Band" series with 24 LP's and 14 LP's with the "Santelmann" Marine Band. The Sousa series with the Marine Band and the solo records with Arthur Lehman (euphonium), Charles Erwin (cornet), and Robert Isele (trombone). There was also a "leftover" series consisting of marches that did not make it onto the regular records.

    These LP's came about in a unique set of circumstances. The money and the music and most of the labor involving shipping came from Bob. From about number 30 on, John Johnson used the facilities of Columbia Records (without permission) to enhance the sound of the tapes the Bob received. There was a telephone company employee that called all over the country getting biographical material on obscure composers. Before modern communications came along there were a lot of small cities which published music by local composers. People with the composer's last name in in a given area would be called until a relative was found, which is how Bob acquired his biographies for the records. Bill Rehrig and Charles Irwin helped him comb through the stacks at the Library of Congress for music. A number of people wrote program notes.

    Bob made 2,000 copies of the numbered LP's that went to libraries and school and friends. 1,000 copies of the letter series went to friends on the mailing list. I estimate that he gave away at least 250,000 LP's.

    While it is obvious that Bob was very generous man, he was not a spendthrift. Every domestic record shipment had an LP with one of the service bands in it. This allowed free shipping. There were also quite a few overseas shipments.

    Wherever Bob went, he would get to know local band musicians and either buy or copy their libraries. He also did this in Europe. He had an enormous music collection with the emphasis on marches.

    [Editor note: Bob Hoe was a great friend of the Coast Guard Band. We put out a memorial album for him shortly after his death. Below is the cover, featuring a caricature - note the bowling ball and shoes.]

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