Getty Herschel (G.H.) Huffine (25 August 1889, Bowling Green, Ky. - 12 February 1947, Binghamton, N.Y.) was an American composer.
Most successful composers come from a musical home and receive additional formal training in a school or conservatory before beginning their careers. Getty Herschel Huffine, on the other hand, grew up in a non-musical environment, was working by the time he became interested in music, and was then completely self-taught. Huffine was the oldest of four children. His only formal education was at an institution called Potter’s Bible School. When he was 18, and working in an axe handle factory in Bowling Green, a town band was started. Although, as he later admitted, he “didn’t know a clarinet from a bass drum,” he nevertheless applied for membership and was told that he should order a valve trombone and an instruction book and learn how to play. He did as directed and proceeded to teach himself music, including harmony, counterpoint, and composition, along with his valve trombone and, later, tuba. He practiced several hours each day, even while walking to the nearby Barren River on the weekends to fish with his brother Charlie. Within five years he was playing tuba with major circus bands and minstrel shows in the summer and engraving music for the Barnhouse Publishing Co. in the winter.
In 1919, Huffine moved to Binghamton, New York, and joined the famous Endicott-Johnson Shoe Factory Band. In addition to tuba, he played bass violin, trumpet, or trombone as needed. Huffine’s son Charles credits his father with teaching him music at home to the extent that he became a professional trumpet player, arranger, and composer—he later also taught philosophy at Hofstra University.
In addition to Them Basses March, his best-known march, Huffine composed other marches—with interesting lower-brass parts—including The Bearcat; I.B.M.; The Syncopator; Triple Cities; and Basses on a Rampage. When he died, at the age of 57, the musicians in the area gathered at his grave site in 20-degree weather and played the march which had made him famous. “Kentuck,” as his New York friends called him, was a personable, highly respected man who would certainly be missed; his Them Basses March will probably be around as long as there are bands—with basses.
Works for Winds
- Basses on a Rampage (arr. Glover) (1927/2013)
- The Last Word (1928)
- Them Basses March (arr. Balent) (1924/1987)
- Triple Cities March (1930)
- Smith, Norman E. (2002). Program Notes for Band. Chicago: GIA Publications, pp. 305.