Daily Archives: April 28, 2012

The Ferko String Band

Gary: “This will be absolutely the weirdest of all my posts or creations.  I remember my Dad playing this song, vaguely, but I do remember, and it was #14 on the Billboard Top 40 in 1955.

Alabama Jubilee/ Media 1010/ June 1955/ #14  The Ferko String Band

On a freezing 1922 evening, three men were chatting in a local restaurant on Market Street in Philadelphia. Through the course of the night, Charles Keegan, Joe Ferko and Walter Butterworth founded what was to become a musical organization unparalleled by any other Mummers organization, the world renowned Joseph A. Ferko String Band.

From its first Mummers Parade in 1923, the band’s history of prize-winning mirrors such perennial greats as the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys. This internationally known string band and marching unit has appeared in every parade since its inception, recording an unprecedented 20 first place finishes.

In 1947 the Joseph A. Ferko String Band made its first recording with PALDA Record Company.

In the summer of 1955, they broke into Billboards top 100 with their version of “Alabama Jubilee” topping out at #14 and “You Are My Sunshine” #44.

The week of July 16th 1955, “Alabama Jubilee” sold more copies than Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That A Shame” and Sammy Davis Jr.’s “That Old Black Magic”. The Ferko String Band still plays these original arrangements today.

While “The Miracle on 34th Street” was being filmed in New York City, The Joseph A. Ferko String Band was marching in the annual New York Thanksgiving Day Parade. The grand marshal that year was “The Great One” Jackie Gleason. Upon seeing the elaborate costumes and hearing what he called “interesting music”, he booked the band for 2 appearances on “The Jackie Gleason Show”. As fate would have it, the Ferko String Band also appears in “The Miracle on 34th Street” in two parts of this classic Christmas movie.

Ferko was the first band to perform in the Republic of Cuba (1959), and has appeared on NBC’s “Today Show” and ABC’s “Good Morning America“.

In 1964, Joe Ferko, known to many as the dancing captain and a Philadelphia icon, passed away. Since then, only four men, Curtis V. Steur (1965 – 1968), Joe Blass (1968 – 1979), Bill Speziale (1979 – 1999),  Phil Rotindo (1999 – 2008) and Anthony Celenza (2008-present) have had the honor to follow the Ferko legacy and legend.

Today, the band is as strong as ever with its 90-plus members ranging from 15 to 80 years of age, playing around the world and continuing the Ferko tradition of excellence.