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"Seventy-Six Trombones" is the signature song from the musical play The Music Man (1957), which was written by Meredith Willson. This song also appeared in the film The Music Man (1962), and in the made-for-TV movie adaptation in 2003. It is also a piece commonly played by marching and military bands. On the first of three "Meredith Willson Variety Show" specials for CBS (airing 6-4-64), Sergio Franchi performed this song backed by four military marching bands.
Seventy-six trombones led the big parade
With a hundred and ten cornets close at hand ...
In Leroy Anderson's arrangement of the piece, it integrates with other popular marches of the time, such as Stars and Stripes Forever and The Washington Post March by John Philip Sousa (in whose band Willson had played), the National Emblem march by Edwin Eugene Bagley, the Swedish song Under the Blue and Yellow Flag by Viktor Widqvist, and the Second Regiment, Connecticut National Guard march by D. W. Reeves.
In the musical, "Professor" Harold Hill uses the song to help the townspeople of River City, Iowa visualize their children playing in a marching band by recalling a time when he saw several famous bandleaders' bands in a combined performance. Where an average-sized high school marching band might have about 10 musicians playing the trombone, and a large college marching band seldom has more than 30 trombonists, the band that Harold Hill describes to the villagers included 76 trombones, 110 cornets, "more than a thousand reeds", double bell euphoniums, and "fifty mounted cannon" (which were popular in bands of the time).
In Willson's hometown of Mason City, Iowa, they honor this song (and the rest of the story of The Music Man) in a building called "Music Man Square", which is located next to Willson's boyhood home. In one large room, they have 76 donated trombones hanging from the ceiling. Other appearances in popular culture:
- In Chile, the instrumental march version (Leroy Anderson's orchestration) of this song was used as a theme song for the radio news show La Revista de Portales.
- Jack Black sings the song in the 2011 film Bernie.
- In the Netherlands, the tune was used for theme song of the popular radio and television show Dik Voormekaarshow.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, in the (musical) episode Once More with Feeling, the character Spike refers to "seventy-six bloody trombones".
- In the SPEBSQSA "International Choir Championship" in 2009, the group "Buffalo Bills" sang this song a cappella in the championship performance.
- The talk radio host Dave Ross parodied this song to be about the California governor's recall election of 2003 with the opening lyrics as follows:
76 unknowns led the big charade
With 110 like them close at hand...