Frederick K. Monroe Photograph, ca. 1924

from the Frederick K. Monroe Photograph, Instrument, and Uniform Collection

Fred Monroe, holding a bass saxophone, poses for a phtograph.

Frederick Monroe (1883-1960) joined the Sousa band in 1924 as Sousa’s third bass saxophonist.  Charles Weber was the band’s first bass saxophonist in 1919, and Herman Schmidt was the band’s second bass sax player who joined the band in 1921.  According to reporters of the time, Monroe sang and played both harmonica and banjo with the ensemble as well.  By all accounts, Monroe was the star of Sousa Band’s Saxophone Octet.  The Octet performed short musical interludes between each of the band’s serious wind-ensemble music selections. On a concert in early November 1930, one reviewer from the Raleigh News and Observer wrote,

The afternoon program was good from beginning to end, but there were some features that got more applause — and chief of these was the saxophone octet. Folks who have spoken harsh words about saxophones went away from the concert genuinely ashamed, for the eight gentlemen undoubtedly played some of the most soothing music that has ever been heard in Raleigh. The saxophones ranged in size from the little soprano to the monster bass “Dutch pipe” blown by Fred Monroe, whose “wise crack” introductions of the various numbers brought waves of laughter. 

While it is unclear whether Sousa or Monroe had ever attended a performance by the Brown Brothers, it is evident that the comedic commentaries made by Monroe during the Octet’s performances followed the same vaudeville routines used by other saxophone ensembles of the time.