Hampton Beach Band Concerts

1899 - 2009

By John M. Holman, Contributing Writer

HAMPTON BEACH .... It was 110 years ago this summer that a conductor raised his baton and started the Hampton Beach Band Concerts. The north half of the Casino was built in 1899. At the same time, a high-posted "kiosk" was erected across the street on the ocean side of the boulevard as a bandstand.

An early bandstand postcard
An early bandstand postcard

The Hampton Beach bandstand was a familiar landmark to the vacationing tourists since 1899, when band concerts were given at the kiosk intermittently during 1899, 1900 and 1901, but not on a regular basis.

Quoting from Peter Randall's "HAMPTON: A century of Town and Beach 1888-1988", ".... For the opening of the Ocean House in 1901, Henri G. Blaisdell and his 20-piece band played for a week (at the new bandstand), returning in August for 10 days and playing again on Labor Day."

The south half of the original Casino building was completed in 1901, and regular band concerts started at the bandstand in 1902.

As James W. Tucker stated in his HAMPTON UNION column "Our Town" on February 14, 1952, " .... there probably is not another recreational community in the entire United States where band concerts have been a regular feature on every day of the summer season, for 50 continuous years."

During the summer of 1902, the Haverhill City Band, conducted by Charles Higgins, and managed by Joe Goodrich, a Haverhill barber, played during almost the entire season.

The following bands and leaders appeared at the bandstand from 1902 through 1984: Higgins Concert Band, Charles L. Higgins, Haverhill, MA, conductor, 1902-1920; Downes' Band, Herbert W. Downes, Bradford, MA, conductor, 1921-1923; Chick's Band, Arnold Chick, Haverhill, MA, conductor, first two weeks of the 1924 season.

Also, Amesbury Band, Dr. Richard L. B. Wingate, conductor, finished out the season of 1924; McDonnell's Band, Harold (Hal) McDonnell, Methuen, MA, conductor, 1925-1936; Leave's Band, Charles H. Leave, Hampton, NH, conductor, 1937-1938; Moses' Band, Major Edgar Allen Moses, St. Petersburg, FL, conductor, 1939-1940; McDonnell's Band, Harold (Hal) McDonnell, conductor, 1941-1945; Hill's Band, Charles (Chuck) Hill, Boston, MA, conductor, 1946-1951.

Quoting again from Peter Randall's Hampton history book, "Although there were many changes in conductors during those years, several band members returned annually as "regulars". Eddie Madden of Rochester was appointed bandmaster in 1957. In 1959, the Hampton Beach Band was under the direction of Dyson Kring of Dover, the assistant leader was Rolvin Coombs of Hampton, and the pianist was recent Winnacunnet High School graduate Glenroy Wolfsen of North Hampton.

Charles Hill's Band
Front, left to right: Chuck Hill, Joe Sweeney,
Merrow Bodge, Willis Trainer, Tom Sakelaris;
Rear: Henry (Ed) Dumaine, Arthur (Ziggie) Sargent,
Alexander Milligan and Robert Barrett

"Amesbury High School Band leader Frank Lawlor conducted the band from 1960 to 1963, and Stanley (Stan) W. Bednarz of North Hampton, music director of Winnacunnet High School from 1961 to 1999, conducted the Beach band concerts from 1964 until 1984. Since 1984, Beach musical entertainment has included Bednarz's Band and other performers, but concerts are no longer daily events. Originally the concerts were paid for by the street railway company, and later, the Casino management, but since the 1920's, the Town and, most recently, the Beach Precinct and the Chamber of Commerce (with Town contributions through 1988) have supported the concerts."

Hampton's own "Bill" Elliot, "The Singing Cop", sang for many years with the "Hal" McDonnell Band at the Beach Bandstand.

The old bandstand was razed in 1962 to make room for the Sea Shell complex, and an era of band music came to a close and another era opened with the dedication of the new Sea Shell complex.

Footnote: Another band that played at Hampton Beach, year unknown, was Ted Herbert and his Hampton Beach Orchestra, who produced a 78 rpm record in the 1940's/50's called "TAKE YOUR FINGER OUT OF YOUR MOUTH (I WANT A KISS FROM YOU)" on MARVEL Records. Don Grady and Jean Flanders did the vocals and recorded at the Marvel Record Company, 852 Elm Street, Manchester, NH, record number 10501. On the reverse side is "IF I GIVE YOU MY LOVE" with Jean Flanders doing the vocal.
[Courtesy John & Connie Holman]

(Ted Herbert was also featured in a documentary entitled "New Hampshire Ball Rooms" in 1995 on NHPTV Channel 11 out of Durham, NH.)

Ted Herbert, Big Band Leader, Dead at Age 90

December 18, 1915 - May 27, 2006

Encore Magazine -- A Celebrity Access Weekly Publication

Thaddeus Piaseczny, also known as Ted Hebert, 90, died Saturday night, May 27, 2006 at the home where he was born on Cypress Street in Manchester, New Hampshire. He died peacefully with his family by his side.

Ted was born one of seven children in Manchester on December 18, 1915 to Stanislaw Piaseczny and Karolina Herbut. He attended Hallsville grammar school in Manchester and night school at Lawrence High School in Massachusetts.

His first job was attending to farm chores at the old Huse Farm on Mammoth Road, thus began his love for horses. He moved on to jobs in the local shoe shops to help support the family. At the age of eight Ted learned to play the violin, his first instrument, as therapy to heal a broken right arm. At fourteen, Ted picked up the saxophone and the clarinet and started playing in local bands and dances.

In 1935, the Ted Herbert Orchestra was officially formed. The band played for high school and college dances and ballrooms throughout the Northeast and New York State. He traveled with and conducted concerts for such stars as Rudy Vallee, Patti Page, Frankie Lane, The Four Lads, The Four Aces, The Ames Brothers, Tony Bennett, The McGuire Sisters, Jerry Vale, Julius LaRosa, Peter, Paul and Mary, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Della Reese, The King Family and The Superemes. He resumed his band career and in 1946 Ted began to play at the famous Hampton Beach Casino for what became 26 consecutive summers as the house band playing six nights a week. His Big Band's last ten years were spent as the house band at Danversport Yacht Club, in Danvers, Mass. He retired in 1990 after 55 years in the band business. He brought the band together one more time in 1997 for a concert at the Palace Theater to benefit the Arthur Mirable Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Ted was drafted into the U.S. Army and stationed in the Pacific Theatre, Australia and New Guinea serving with the 2nd Brigade Amphibian Engineers under General Douglas MacArthur. Ted participated in 68 combat landings including the battle for Leyte Island in the Philippines where the battle for their liberation began. He was transferred to duty as a musical conductor for many dances and USO shows accompanying such people as Joe E. Brown, Gary Cooper and John Wayne. Ted also had the honor of playing for two of General MacArthur's birthday celebrations in Townsville, Australia.

In December, 1945, Ted returned home and married the former Gertrude Warchol. They had three children, Thad and twins Marlene and Mark. In 1958 he became the owner of the original Music Mart located at the corner of Bridge and Elm Street in Manchester. The business, located adjacent to Manchester City Hall, grew up to a large retail operation with 50 music teachers and close to 1,000 students, promoting music education throughout the State. Ted also served on the NH Commission for the Arts for eight years.

He is survived by his children, his sister, Emily, and his grandchildren, Michael, Kathryn and Samantha.

Memorial donations may be made to the Rockingham Ambulance Service in Manchester, New Hampshire or your local EMT service.

The Hal McDonnell Band in front of the Bandstand.

Saturday, February 27, 2010
Dear Mr. Holman,
I very much enjoyed your chapter on the Hampton Beach Band Concerts, and have some information you may want to add to what you currently have. Bill Elliot, the singing cop, did a Sing-a-long every Friday night in the early 1960's. He asked my father, who had been called on to sing with him on occasion, on the old bandstand, to take over the Friday night Sing-a-long in 1965, on the then, new Seashell Stage. Doc and Fran McGinness, accompanied by the Stan Bednarz Band ran the Friday night Sing-a-long, entertaining thousands every Friday, every summer, until 1990. Every Labor Day, Bill Elliot returned to the Sing-a-long to sing "Now is the Hour" and "Auld Lang Syne" with Doc & Fran. Since they never missed a summer week in 25 years(+), I thought they deserved a mention. Doc McGinness was recognized by the Selectmen and Chamber in August, 2008, for his Outstanding Contribution to the entertainment at Hampton Beach. The picture I have attached below, is of Bill Elliot (center) and Doc & Fran McGinness on one of those Labor Day shows in the 1980s. The other one is Doc McGinness with the audience, always sizable, in the background. They're all gone now, but they were a big piece of what happened at the Hampton Beach Seashell for over a quarter of a century.
Hope you can use it,
Eileen McGinness Minior

Photo at the Seashell Stage, l. to r., Fran McGinness, "Bill" Elliot & Doc McGinness, c. 1980s. [Photo courtesy Eileen McGinness Minior]

Doc McGinness on the Hampton Beach Seashell Stage at the weekly sing-a-long, c. 1980s
[Photo courtesy Eileen McGinness Minior]

More photographs below from the Hampton Beach Seashell Stage on the weekly Sing-a-longs with Fran & Doc McGinness, "Bill" Elliot, the "Singing Cop" with Stan Bednarz and his Band.
[Photos courtesy Eileen McGinness Minior]

Stan Bednarz on the left with Fran & Doc McGinness.

Doc McGinness passing out a silver dollar to a child, as he did every Friday at the closing of the Sing-a-long.

Doc McGinness roaming through the audience followed by the Stan Bednarz Band.

Doc and Fran McGinness on the stage with the children joining in.