By Ken Zurski
Bandleader and composer John Philip Sousa was never one to hurry a piece of music. A tune would come to him and he would play it over and over in his mind until it was just right – or as he called it, the “brain band” would perform it in his head before a single note was ever recorded.
That’s exactly what happened in 1896, while Sousa was returning from a trip overseas.
Sousa was forced to cut the trip short after receiving news that his longtime manager had passed away. Pacing the deck of the steamer Teutonic, Sousa heard a tune in his head and the “brain band” took over.
“Day after day,” he said,” as I walked, it persisted in crashing into my very soul.”
When Sousa returned to America, he set it to paper: “It was a genuine inspiration, irresistible, complete, and definite and I could not rest until I had finished the composition.”
“The Stars and Stripes Forever” quickly became Sousa’s most popular march.