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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. The song also appeared in the 1962 film 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 April 6, 1964), 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 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. While 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 includes 76 trombones, 110 cornets, "more than a thousand reeds", double bell euphoniums, and "fifty mounted cannon" (which were popular in bands of the late 19th century).
In Willson's hometown of Mason City, Iowa, the song is honored (along with the whole plot of The Music Man) in a building called "Music Man Square", which is located next to Willson's boyhood home. In one large room, there are 76 donated trombones hanging from the ceiling.
Other appearances in popular culture:
- In Chile, the instrumental march version (with Leroy Anderson's orchestration) 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 one episode of Arthur, Buster erroneously refers to the song as "Seventy-Six Tubas". When called out on his mistake, he declares, "Then I'll adapt it".
- The 2009 Barbershop Harmony Society International Chorus Champions Ambassadors of Harmony performed this song a cappella in their championship performance.
- The talk radio host Dave Ross parodied the song during the California governor's recall election of 2003 with opening lyrics as follows:
76 unknowns led the big charade
With 110 like them close at hand...
In 1971, for the grand opening of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the grand opening parade included a 1,076 piece marching band made up of High school band students from around central Florida. This band marched down main street at Disney World playing "76 Trombones". Meredith Willson was the guest conductor for this event. The size of the band, 1,076 marchers, included 76 trombones.
Leroy Anderson's popular arrangement of the piece integrates other popular marches including 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 march Under the Blue and Yellow Flag by Viktor Widqvist, and the Second Regiment, Connecticut National Guard march by D. W. Reeves.
André Rieu uses this piece as his intro song to the majority of his shows, which are performed all around the world.
- Hopper, Hedda (May 25, 1964). "Looking at Hollywood." The Times-Picayune, New Orleans
- "Official Scoring Summary: International, Chorus Finals, Anaheim, California, July 3, 2009" (PDF). The Harmonet Reporter. Barbershop Harmony Society. July 3, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-12.