Town Band without a Town

November 12, 1993

"It was 20 years ago today that Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play.

"They've been going in and out of style, but they're guaranteed to raise a smile.

"So let me introduce to you the act you've known for all these years. . . "

Remember the fuss when the Beatles first told us about the 20th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band?

Well, Sgt. Pepper's boys have nothing on the Daniels Community Band, the Howard County-based ensemble formed in 1879 and still doing regular public performances of dance music. It's said to be one of the oldest continuous community bands in the nation.

In strict musical terms, the Daniels band is no all-star outfit. Only one member has a background in professional music. Many are well past 60; before joining the group, they hadn't picked up their horns, clarinets and drums since they were in high school and military bands decades ago.

During their weekly Monday night practices, the dozen or so Daniels band members kid one another about their rusty honks and squeaks, though the musicians say that the sessions are held as much for the camaraderie as for skill-honing.

If all these facts weren't enough to make the Daniels Community Band a noteworthy bunch, then how about this: The town for which the group is named no longer exists.

Formerly known as Alberton and later, from 1940 through the late 1960s, named for the duck cotton manufacturing company that owned and operated it, the town of Daniels was burned almost completely to the ground by C. R. Daniels Inc. in 1968 after the company had determined that maintaining the place was too costly.

The doom of Daniels was sealed four years later when floods caused by Tropical Storm Agnes lifted the waters of the Patapsco River 25 feet, destroying the few mill structures that C. R. Daniels had left behind. The property has since been taken over by the Maryland government and incorporated into Patapsco State Park.

But the band has played on, like the Baltimore Colts Marching Band that continues performing a decade after the football team moved to Indianapolis.

And like Sgt. Pepper's group, the Daniels Community Band, the act you've known for all these years, is guaranteed to raise a smile.

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