Sousa Archives Will Be Closed December 23 to January 2

Henry and Mabel Fillmore adopted the runt of a litter of five coon hound puppies who were born in early spring 1925 and belonged to their next door neighbor.  The pup was not expected to survive, but Henry and Mabel took turns feeding him with an eye dropper, and when he had grown stronger they asked their neighbor who would adopt the tiny puppy.  They were told that he had already found his home, and Henry named the dog Mike.

That same year Henry’s uncle died and he wrote a special character piece for his band that he titled The Whistling Farmer Boy, to honor his uncle’s deep love of farming.  The composition utilized a variety of sound effects including a barking dog to imitate the sounds of his uncle’s farm.  The  instrument used to  produce these barking sounds was  notoriously  unreliable  and  recognizing  Mike’s  easy  barking behavior Henry started training him to bark in tempo for his new composition.   When he felt Mike was ready for his performance debut, Henry brought him to a rehearsal of his Shrine Band and had Mike sit on a chair next to him as he conducted.  Each time he raised his hand to cue Mike to bark, he barked perfectly in tempo as the band played the piece, and the dog became a full-fledged member of the Shrine Band and his first public performance with the ensemble occurred on January15, 1926. As Mike’s reputation continued to grow so too did his fan mail and Henry made every effort to answer Mike’s many fans’ requests for autographed photographs of him performing with Henry.

To learn more about Henry Fillmore’s beloved dog, Mike, read Paul Bierley’s Hallelujah Trombone! The Story of Henry Fillmore or visit the Sousa Archives’ new exhibit, Henry Fillmore: the Man behind the Name, which will remain open until September 29, 2017.

Photograph of Mike dates from ca. 1930 and is in the Paul E. Bierley Papers at the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music.

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