The Keene American Legion Band was formed in 1946 by servicemen returning from World War II and Legionnaires wishing to revive a pre-war drum and bugle corps at Gordon-Bissell American Legion Post #4 in Keene, New Hampshire. There were 30 members in the band’s first public appearance on Memorial Day in 1946. The band developed a distinctive, instantly recognizable, brassy sound on the street that earned them the reputation of “the little band with the big sound”. Every unit marching near them acclaims their steady, solid cadence as the best parade beat ever. Most of the music choices over the years have been rousing military marches, with some later additions of popular music, as the band played concerts as well as parades.
The Keene American Legion Band has traveled widely in the years since 1946. Besides traveling to jobs all over the Northeast, the band has attended National American Legion Conventions as close as Boston, Massachusetts, and as far away as Hawaii. They have been proclaimed the State Champion Band for years, and proudly represent not only their hometown of Keene, but all of New Hampshire. During Boston’s 1967 convention, they took part in the Legion Band Competition and were awarded third place.
Through the years, the membership has expanded and contracted, generally averaging 25-35 members. It reached a high of 47 on September 21, 1964, when it played for the inauguration of the New Hampshire Sweepstakes program at RockinghamPark, in Salem, New Hampshire. The oldest member of the band, Bob Whitney, is the last remaining of the original 1946 band. The youngest members are local high school students. Membership in the American Legion is not required. The Color Guard is also a part of the band and as always accompanies the band, numbering from three to eight in any given parade.
While primarily a brass band, instrumentation has gradually widened to include woodwinds. Coupled with this change is an increased interest in performing concerts and an associated broadening of the band’s repertoire. A typical season of parades and concerts starts in mid-May and runs through mid-October. The band typically plays a busy 26 parades and 8 concerts or more each year. The band occasionally performs with other area musical groups for parades, concerts, and jam sessions.
Our director is Al Gader.