Ferko String Band

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Ferko String Band
Origin Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Genres string band
Years active 1922 – present
Labels Alshire, Argo, Media, Palda
Website www.ferko.com

The Joseph A. Ferko String Band or Ferko String Band is a perennial performer in Philadelphia's Mummers Parade and the most successful entrant in the history of that event. They gained national popularity through their hit recordings in the 1940s and 1950s.

History[edit]

In 1914 pharmacy student Josesph A. Ferko asked the owner of Fralinger's Drugs to sponsor a string band in the Mummers parade. The request was granted, and Joseph led the "Fralinger String Band" for several years, placing third in the initial 1915 attempt[1] and winning the event in 1920.[2] The Ferko String Band itself had its beginnings in 1922.[3] Ferko had left the Fralinger pharmacy in 1921 to open his own establishment. Ferko led the "North Philadelphia String Band" for the 1922 parade, but later that year the eponymous band was begun,[1] co-founded by Ferko, Walter Butterworth, and Charles Keegan.[4] Ferko first won the string-band division in 1927 with an entry entitled "Cards."[5] The 1929 incarnation not only won the event, but it was estimasted that it's parade float was the largest ever up to that point.[6] In addition to the Mummers Parade, Ferko also has a long history of performing in various parades and special occasions in other locations in the United States,[7][8] and Canada,[9] and places as far away as France and Hong Kong.[10] Although Ferko has always been primarily purposed for Philadelphia, highlights of 1929 contests culminated in top placement at New York, Atlantic City, Baltimore, Washington, and York, PA.[11] They played for Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1933 Presidential inauguration.[12] Although Philadelphia string bands had been exclusively a "male's club", in 1935 Joseph Ferko started a ladies' auxiliary which brought women into club activities. This action influence other string bands to act accordingly, although female participation in the actual parade was almost non-existent until the late 1970s.[13] In 1947 they began recording sessions at the WIP studio for the Miller Brothers' new Palda Records.[14] The recording of Four Leaf Clover was quickly picked up for national distribution by King Records.[14] This success prompted Paul Miller to commission new songs specifically for Ferko. One of the resulting songs, Heartbreaker became a national hit, in part thanks to the 1948 musician's strike[14] because as amateur musicians, they were not covered by the American Federation of Musicians.[15] The profits from these Ferko records would later enable the Miller brothers to launch the career of Bill Haley.[14] By Spring 1948 Billboard estimated they were among the top 25 musical attractions in 5 out of 8 national regions, and most popular in the Southeast United States where they ranked number 18 among all musical acts.[16] In May 1948 the band appeared on the cover of Billboard, in which it was announced that they had sold more than 350,000 records for Palda, and that their theme song Hello, written by bandmembers Harry Leary and Robert Traub,[17] was selected for use at the Republican National Convention.[18] Their 1955 recording of Alabama Jubilee sold more than 1 million records.[19] The group found popularity in Germany in 1956 with a recording of Happy Days Are Here Again, charting as high as position 15.[20] By the late 1950s the band was funded by the Continental Baking Company.[21] Founder Joseph A. Ferko died in 1964,[4] but the group has continued and is a consistently popular participant in Mummery, playing in every Philadelphia Mummers parade since its founding.[4]

Performance style[edit]

The band typically has around 60 performing members,[8] but recorded performances can involve anywhere from a couple dozen to a couple hundred participants.[14] The age of group members is wide-ranging, with known to encompass members of 15 to 80 years old.[4] Performances consist of familiar tunes arranged specifically for the band.[8] Instruments used include accordion, banjo, bells, drums, Glockenspiel, guitar, mandolin, saxophone, and violin[8][19] but the details of musical balance are largely ignored[22] yet often achieved.[23] The elaborate costumes are such essential part of the performance that a 1995 theft of the apparel caused the cancellation of several shows.[24] Marching maneuvers are a typical part of the presentation.[25]

Appearances in film and television[edit]

The Ferko String Band can be seen briefly in the movie Miracle on 34th Street. They have also appeared on the television shows Good Morning America, The Jackie Gleason Show, To Tell the Truth and Today.[9]

Controversy[edit]

The group's 2013 performance aroused controversy when their theme for the year alluded to blackface minstrelsy in a performance entitled "Ferko’s Bringin’ Back the Minstrel Days". This performance was heavily criticized by University of Pennsylvania professor of Africana Studies Guthrie Ramsey, among others.[26][27]

Philadelphia Mummers Parade results[edit]

As of 2013, the Ferko String Band, in 95 years, has failed to place in the top-5 only a total of six times.[28] They have marched in this parade in every year since their first in 1923, making Ferko the oldest continuous participant in the event.[29]

Year Awards
1923 2nd - musical[29]
1924 3rd - musical[29]
1925 2nd - musical[29]
1926 2nd - musical[29]
1927 1st - musical[29]
1928 3rd - musical[29]
1929 1st - musical[11]
1930 1st - musical[5]
1931 1st - musical[5]
1932 1st - musical[5]
1933 no official parade[29]
1934 no official parade[29]
1935 3rd - musical[29]
1936 1st[30]
1937 1st[30]
1938 1st[30]
1939 1st[30]
1940 3rd - musical[29]
1941 5th - musical[29]
1942 2nd - musical[29]
1943 6th - musical[29]
1944 2nd - musical[29]
1945 3rd - musical[29]
1946 4th - musical[29]
1947 1st - musical[5]
1948 2nd - musical[29]
1949 2nd - musical[29]
1950 1st - musical[31]
1951 1st - musical[31]
1952 2nd - musical[29]
1953 2nd - musical[29]
1954 2nd - musical[29]
1955 9th - musical[29]
1956 4th (tie) - musical[29]
1957 3rd - musical[29]
1958 1st - musical[5]
1959 4th - musical[29]
1960 4th - musical[29]
1961 2nd [32]
1962 4th - musical[29]
1963 5th - musical[29]
1964 4th - musical[29]
1965 3rd - musical[29]
1966 6th - musical[29]
1967 2nd - musical[33]
1968 2nd - musical[29]
1969 1st - musical[5]
1970 5th - musical[29]
1971 5th - musical[29]
1972 3rd - musical[29]
1973 4th - musical[29]
1974 1st - musical[5]
1975 3rd - musical[29]
1976 13th - musical[29]
1977 3rd - musical[29]
1978 6th - musical[29]
1979 2nd - musical[29]
1980 2nd - musical[29]
1981 4th - musical[29]
1982 1st - musical[5]
1983 4th (tie) - musical[29]
1984 5th - musical[29]
1985 2nd - musical[29]
1986 4th - musical[29]
1987 6th - musical[29]
1988 4th - musical[29]
1989 4th - musical[29]
1990 3rd - musical[29]
1991 5th - musical[29]
1992 4th (tie) - musical[29]
1993 2nd - musical[29]
1994 1st - musical[5]
1995 2nd - musical[29]
1996 1st - musical[5]
1997 1st - musical[5]
1998 1st - musical[5]
1999 3rd - musical[29]
2000 3rd - musical[29]
2001 5th - musical[29]
2002 4th - musical[29]
2003 3rd - musical[29]
2004 4th - musical[29]
2005 4th - musical[29]
2006 3rd - musical[29]
2007 3rd (tie) - musical[29]
2008 4th - musical[29]
2009 4th - musical[29]
2010 2nd - overall
1st - musical[34]
5th - Captain[35]
2011 2nd - musical[36]
4th - Captain[37]
2012 4th - musical
5th - Captain[38]
2013 5th - musical
11th - Captain[38]

Discography[edit]

Alabama Jubilee, Ferko's biggest selling record

Singles[edit]

Year Title Peak chart positions B-side Issued on Album
1947 Dilly Dally Polka - When You Wore a Tulip Palda 101 [22]
Hello - Golden Slippers Palda 102 [23]
1948 Bowery Boys - I Want a Girl Palda 104 [39]
Alma Matter - Cornell U. - Fight On, Penn. Palda 105 [39]
Auld Lang Syne - Drunkard's Medley Palda 106 [39]
Heartbreaker 21 Kelly & H-A-R-R-I-G-A-N Palda 109 [40]
(I'm Looking Over a) Four Leaf Clover - Heart of My Heart Palda 110 [39]
Alibi Baby - Roll 'Em Girls Palda 114 [41]
Two Timer - You Darlin' Palda 116 [42]
1955 Alabama Jubilee 14 Sing a Little Melody Media 1010 [43]
You Are My Sunshine 29* Ma (She's Making Eyes At Me) Media 1013 *"Coming Up Strong" chart[43]
1963 Golden Slipper Strut - Ferko's Monkey Argo 5451 [44]

Albums[edit]

  • Circa 1956 — 'Happy Days Are Here Again' , Somerset Stereo—Fidelity - 33rpm 12" LP. Reissued on CD in 1990 on Alshire.[45]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The History of the Fralinger String Band". Fralinger String Band. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  2. ^ Masters, Patricia (2008). The Philadelphia Mummers: Building Community Through Play. Temple University Press. p. 157. ISBN 9781592136117. Retrieved September 10, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Meet the Mummers: Ferko String Band". PHL17.com. WPHL-TV. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Meet the Band". The Ferko String Band. Retrieved September 12, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Historical String Band Results". Mummers.com. Retrieved September 12, 2013. 
  6. ^ Masters, Patricia (2008). The Philadelphia Mummers: Building Community Through Play. Temple University Press. pp. 46–47. ISBN 9781592136117. Retrieved September 10, 2013. 
  7. ^ Wood Smith, Elizabeth D. (2006). The Charlottesville Dogwood Festival. Arcadia Publishing. p. 101. ISBN 9780738542102. Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Ferko String Band Is Coming Back to Nasua". The Telegraph (Nashua, New Hampshire). May 12, 1954. p. 5. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "Lavishly costumed musicians to play". Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal. January 7, 1995. p. 4A. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  10. ^ Bergen, Douglas (July 21, 2011). "Ferko String Band". Ocean City Patch. Retrieved September 11, 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Evening Independent "Prize-Winning Quaker City Band May Take Part in 1930 Festival". St. Petersburg, Florida. April 2, 1929. p. 7. Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  12. ^ U.S. Inaugural Committee (1933). Blue Book of the Inauguration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Nance Garner: As President and Vice President of the United States, March 4, 1933. Ransdell Incorporated. p. 16. 
  13. ^ Masters, Patricia (2008). The Philadelphia Mummers: Building Community Through Play. Temple University Press. pp. 88–90. ISBN 9781592136117. Retrieved September 10, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b c d e Dawson, Jim (2005). Rock Around the Clock: The Record that Started the Rock Revolution!. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 42. ISBN 9780879308292. Retrieved September 10, 2013. 
  15. ^ "String Band Fad Receives Nourishment". Billboard. March 13, 1948. p. 16. Retrieved September 10, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Box-Office Barometer". Billboard. April 24, 1948. p. 18. Retrieved September 10, 2013. 
  17. ^ "Music As Written". Billboard. May 15, 1948. Retrieved September 11, 2013. 
  18. ^ "That colorful string-band craze!". Billboard. May 15, 1948. p. 1. Retrieved September 11, 2013. 
  19. ^ a b Bloodworth, Susan (January 23, 1992). "Winter Is the Busiest Season for East Polk entertainment". Lakeland Ledger. p. 7W. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  20. ^ Franz, Manfred J. (2013). Deutsche Musik-Charts 1956. p. 79. ISBN 9783944307053. Retrieved September 10, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Concert Here Set Tomorrow By Ferko Band". The Free Lance–Star. October 22, 1958. p. 3. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  22. ^ a b "Record Reviews". Billboard. May 10, 1947. p. 32. Retrieved September 11, 2013. 
  23. ^ a b "Record Reviews". Billboard. June 21, 1947. p. 131. Retrieved September 11, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Thief steals truck of band costumes". Lakeland Ledger. January 12, 1995. p. 5B. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  25. ^ "4000 See and Hear Ferko String Band at Festival". The Telegraph (Nashua, New Hampshire). September 28, 1959. p. 14. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  26. ^ Tom, Brittany (January 3, 2013). "Philadelphia's Mummers parade features blackface performance". The Grio. MSNBC. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  27. ^ Murtha, Tara (January 4, 2013). "Mummers Are Willing to Talk Rationally About Blackface, So We Should Too". PhillyNow. Philadelphia Weekly. Retrieved September 12, 2013. 
  28. ^ Tarr, Andrea (January 23, 2013). "Mummer Anthony Celenza — Captain of the Ferko String Band". Jersey Coastal Live!. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  29. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo Maher, Brian. "The Philadelphia Mummers' String Band Record". stringbandrecord.com. Retrieved September 12, 2013. 
  30. ^ a b c d Darrow, Chuck (January 3, 2002). "4th-straight victory lifts fallen Mummer". Courier-Post. p. B.1. 
  31. ^ a b "Show Staged by Mummers". Reading Eagle. January 2, 1951. p. 7. Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  32. ^ "Above is a photograph of the famous Joseph A. Ferko String Band". Gettysburg Times. September 12, 1962. p. 4. Retrieved September 10, 2013. 
  33. ^ "1967 Greeted by Mummers". Reading Eagle. January 3, 1967. p. 23. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  34. ^ Lyons, Jeff; Petitti, Michael (Winter 2011). "The Right Strut". The Philadelphia Lawyer. PBI Press. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  35. ^ "2010 Results". Mummers.com. Retrieved September 12, 2013. 
  36. ^ "The order of march for the 2012 Mummers String Bands". Philly.com. The Philadelphia Inquirer. December 30, 2011. Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  37. ^ "2011 Results". Mummers.com. Retrieved September 12, 2013. 
  38. ^ a b "2012 Results". Mummers.com. Retrieved September 12, 2013. 
  39. ^ a b c d "Advance Record Releases". Billboard. January 17, 1948. p. 3. Retrieved September 10, 2013. 
  40. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research, Inc. p. 155. ISBN 0-89820-083-0. 
  41. ^ "Advance Record Releases". Billboad. May 15, 1948. pp. 9, 31. Retrieved September 11, 2013. 
  42. ^ "Advance Record Releases". Billboard. May 29, 1948. p. 37. Retrieved September 10, 2013. 
  43. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2000). Top Pop Singles 1955-1999. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research, Inc. p. 219. ISBN 0-89820-139-X. 
  44. ^ "Singles Reviews". Billboard. September 21, 1963. p. 27. Retrieved September 11, 2013. 
  45. ^ "Ferko String Band Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved September 12, 2013. 

External links[edit]