Henry Fillmore

From Wind Repertory Project
Henry Fillmore


Henry Fillmore (3 December 1881, Cincinnati, Ohio - 7 December 1956, Miami, Fla.) was an American composer and publisher.

James Henry Fillmore Jr. was the eldest of five children. In his youth he mastered piano, guitar, violin, and flute -- as well as the slide trombone, which at first he played in secret, as his conservative religious father believed it an uncouth and sinful instrument. Fillmore was also a singer for his church choir as a boy. He began composing at 18, with his first published march, Higham, named after a line of brass instruments. Fillmore entered the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in 1901. After this he traveled around the United States as a circus bandmaster with his wife, an exotic dancer named Mabel May Jones.

Fillmore gained fame as the Father of the Trombone Smear, writing a series of fifteen novelty tunes featuring trombone smears called "The Trombone Family", including Miss Trombone, Sally Trombone, Lassus Trombone and Shoutin' Liza Trombone. A number of these have a strong ragtime influence.

Fillmore wrote over 250 tunes and arranged hundreds more. Fillmore also published a great number of tunes under various pseudonyms such as Harold Bennett, Ray Hall, Harry Hartley, Al Hayes, and the funniest, Henrietta Hall. The name that caused a conflict was Will Huff, because there was a Will Huff, who did compose marches and lived and composed in his state and area. While best known for march music and screamers, Fillmore also wrote waltzes, foxtrots, hymns, novelty numbers, overtures and waltzes.

Henry Fillmore moved from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Miami in 1938 after a doctor had informed him that he had six months to live. The doctor had suggested that if he moved to a warmer climate, his chances of living longer would be greater. The Fillmores took the doctor's advice and moved to Miami, in hopes of improving Henry's health. It apparently worked since they lived happily there until their deaths in the 1950s.

Henry had been a famous conductor and composer in Cincinnati, and when he moved to Florida he soon became established as the most popular band conductor and composer that state had ever known. His great personality and sense of humor, combined with a casual attitude and a love of young people soon established him as one of the most popular personalities in Miami.

He had established an especially close relationship with the students in the University of Miami band and their band director, Fred McCall. Henry became a regular guest conductor on the stage and in the Orange Bowl, and his popular marches named for Miami and for the Orange Bowl helped make him even more popular.

Henry had been good for the University of Miami, and the University of Miami loved Henry Fillmore. In 1954 he wrote his last composition, a terrific march "Dedicated to the Presidents of the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida." It was appropriately titled The President's March.

In 1956 the university rewarded Henry with one of the greatest honors of his career. In February 6, 1956, Henry Fillmore was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music. The presentation was one of the happiest days of his life, and nine months later, December 7, 1956, Henry passed away in his sleep as "the heart that had kept time with some of the happiest music on the concert stage finally lost its beat."

Works for Winds

Adaptable Music

  • Courage (Flex instrumentation) (arr. Clark) (1919/2003/2012)
  • His Honor March (Flex instrumentation) (arr. Clark) (1933/2014)

All Wind Works