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A lively polka-march with the name of the Florida city, Pensacola. Written for banjo by the American virtuoso, Parke Hunter (1876-1912), and played here in ...
My parents were married in Pensacola...back in 1941.
Brilliantly played Tony
Glad you all like it. Apart from being a memorable place to be married, does anyone have any suggestions as to why Parke Hunter would name his composition after Pensacola? Why not Miami? What would Parke have said to his audience as an introduction to the piece before he played it?
The idea of a connection between Hunter's Pensacola and the similarly-named Pepsi-Cola is an interesting one, but is unlikely to hold much water; however, there is an interesting date coincidence. I can't find a date for the writing of Pensacola, but In 1898 the name-change from Brad's Drink to Pepsi-Cola did take place, and there may have been a resulting publicity drive, but the first official celebrity endorsement was by Barney Oldfield in 1909, and he was unlikely to have been dyslexic. In Pensacola itself, however, the town was becoming embroiled in the Spanish-American War, and Florida was generally the mobilisation state for troop embarkment to Cuba. Not that Hunter could have participated in any of it as he and Mays went to London in 1897 for the best part of a year. But, following the war, Roosevelt bolstered the Navy with what became known as "The Great White Fleet", and about 30 of the ships visited Pensacola in 1903 - 1904. That event would probably have been enough to warrant naming a polka-march after the town, though Mays died suddenly in 1903, and Hunter could be forgiven for being short of motivation.
Anyone have any better insights?
Another part of the puzzle is that the advert for Pepsi emphasizes the pep aspect of PEPsi. Coca Cola originally contained Coca; that's why it was known as an energizing drink. Pepsi came along nearly a decade later. Written histories claim that the name refers to the pepsin enzyme as a digestive aid. But I wonder if the name wasn't really meant to make Pepsi seem like a stimulating alternative to Coca Cola. I don't think the name was meant to suggest a town on the western edge of the Florida panhandle. As for the musical composition "Pensacola", it is plenty energizing to listen to and to play as well. It has no cocaine or enzymes in it but it does contain octaves.
Yah, I would peg the visit from the fleet, which would have been national news.
There's nothing similarly notable going on in Pensacola during the late 19th century. Mobile, AL is just a few miles away and a much larger population center. The US Navy had a shipyard in Pensacola but it didn't get much attention until the Navy placed their aviation facilities there in 1913/14 (and it was a tiny facility until well after WWI).
The beaches in the area didn't become viable for tourism until good roads were built...well into the 1950s.
Even so, Pensacola was the largest US Gulf port in the days of sailing ships and was its principal trading port with Cuba in 1898, bringing in all that lovely mahogany for banjo arms, some on its way to the Weaver workshop(?).
It would be exciting to find a personal connection between the town and Parke Hunter, other than a visit from US Naval fleet. Did he play a concert at the Naval Academy? We can be sure that Hunter personalised the titles of his compositions as, for example, he went to Wabash College, Indiana - hence Fun on the Wabash.
It's also interesting to note that the editor of the Pensacola News in 1898 was a Frank Mayes - no relation to Hunter's partner, Cadwallader Mays?
The Pensacola Naval Academy didn't get its start until WWI, so that timeline is off. The Naval Yard there was quite small and seriously underfunded. I imagine its only link to the local economy was thru the red-light districts of Pensacola...
Unless he had some personal connection, I haven't been able to find any newsworthy link beyond the fleet visit.
I am not convinced about the Wabash College connection to "Fun On The Wabash". This is for reasons of geography and common word usage. Two Wabash-y things occur to me that one might have fun *on*. There is the Wabash River and the Wabash Railroad. As far as I can tell neither is near Wabash College. You can have fun *at" or *in* a college but not *on* it, unless you decide to have a party on the rooftop of one of its buildings. And the article "the" is also troublesome. Why would Wabash College be called "The Wabash"? It seems unlikely.
The Wabash Railroad was a pretty Big Deal in its time, connecting important midwest cities. But I'm thinking the river is what is being referenced in the title of the banjo solo. "On The Banks Of The Wabash, Far Away " was a popular 19th century song. There is a precedent of having Wabash-y titles to musical compositions. There *is* the song "The Wabash Cannonball", based on an older song about the Rock Island Route, but there was no train of that name on the Wabash line or anywhere else until the late 1940s. So I think Parke Hunter selected the title to connect with the sentimental imagination, much as Joe Morley did in his fanciful titles such as Alabama Barn Dance and Kentucky Days or as Grimshaw did with Life In Louisiana.
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