John A. Pope

Born: 1884  Mobile, AL

Died: 1972

Jazz Trumpet Excelsior Band


Mobile, Alabama

On November 23, 1883, a son was born to John A. and Odeil Pope. To herald the event, the proud and ecstatic father formed a band. This was the birth of the Excelsior Band in Mobile, Alabama on the corner of Scott and Selma Streets.

John A., born in Mobile in 1863, attended the Creole Catholic School in the downtown area and later became President of the Creole Fire Company.

Originally, Pope's Excelsior Band had eighteen members. Among those members were people such as, "Cootie" Williams, Leo Battiste, Alex Terez, Ted Collins and the band's founder, John A. Pope who played the B-flat trumpet.

The Excelsior Band, perhaps best known for its participation in Mardi Gras, plays various music styles including Dixieland, jazz, blues and pop.

According to the band's present day (1988) director, James M. Seals, Jr. the band playes at a variety of events all year long.

When John A. died in 1951, the younger Pope had long since taken over the reign as director of the band. In 1902, John C. became leader of the band at the young age of 19. Ten years after his father's death, he was quoted in Sketch Magazine as having said: "Most Mobilians remember the band when it played for dances at the old Brookley Park. We played many times with the Sam Morgan and Po Celestine Brass Bands from New Orleans. We called the two-band affairs 'Double Rushes' because when one band stopped playing the other aggregation got its cue to start playing.

Pope also commented on the band's popularity in Mardi Gras parades. He said that more often than not, the band marched at the end of the parade "because people would follow and dance behind us all over Mobile."

In 1972 John C. Pope was recognized by the Mobile Jazz Association for his contributions to jazz music in Mobile.

Pope, who owned and operated a small diner in Mobile's Southside area, on the corner of Dearborn and Selma Streets, died in 1972 at the age of 88.

Members of the Excelsior band include, James Matthews and Phillip Moody on drums; Ernest Coleman on tuba; Robert Petty on trombone; James Seals, Herbert Dillard, and Hosea London on trumpet; Joe Morrison, Hubert Standfield and Joe Lewis on saxophone. The band also has several substitute members, including William Burks, Ray Packer, Theodore Arthur and Leon Rhoden.

New Times Weekly

Mobile, Alabama

Feb. 11, 1988

By Angela D. Davis

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

More info: History of Excelsior Band

Celebrating Mobile's Excelsior Band's 125th year |

Mardi Gras icons: The Excelsior Band |



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