It was truly unique. It was also very moving, especially for anyone who had played in a Bob Barr directed Jordan Vocational High School Red Jacket Band. I was one of the few in the Evangel Temple sanctuary who had done that. I was in the original Bob Barr Jordan band that was formed in 1946 when he came to the school. Jimmy Cross, who died this week in Newnan of heart disease, became a member about six years later.
More than 20 years ago, Jimmy, along with other Jordan band alumni, formed an alumni band to play at a Jordan-Columbus football game half-time show that memorialized Bob Barr shortly after he died. My contribution was to announce the show on the public address system at Kinnette Stadium. So many Jordan alumni showed up that the stands were packed. When the band came on the field playing the band’s signature “St. Louis Blues March,” the crowd jumped to its feet cheering. I almost couldn’t speak my next lines I was so moved. I wasn’t alone. There were a lot of tears in that stadium that night. My article in the July, 1991 issue of Reader’s Digest tells the story.
The band did not disband after that night. It morphed into the Bob Barr Community Band, which is now made up of alumni from many high schools, and, at Jimmy’s request it performed at his funeral. He was also a member of the 17-piece Cavaliers, which also performed today at his funeral.
It was a Christian service, but none of the songs played were hymns. The Cavalier’s opening number was “Stars Fell on Alabama,” one of Jimmy’s favorites. It also played Count Basie’s swinging “Good News,” another of his favorites. For the closing number, most of the Cavaliers players got up and joined the Bob Barr Community band.
Gene Kelley, who played first-chair trumpet and was the JVHS band president when I was the drum major, wowed the crowd in the stands at a Jordan half-time show in 1947 when he played a solo of “Stormy Weather.” It was so popular that he did it again the next year, and it became a tradition and the band’s first-chair trumpet played it for a number of years. Jimmy played it when he became first trumpet. Before Gene died he asked Jimmy to play it at his funeral, which he did, and today it was played for Jimmy by Bill Edwards and the community band.
Following the service, the band played a 25-minute concert, which did include a hymn, and ended with the band playing the “St. Louis Blues March.” Very special, indeed, for a very special trumpet player, husband, father, grandfather, bank chairman, and, certainly not least of all, musician.