Photograph of Tom Brown, ca. 1910

from the Bruce Vermazen Research Papers on Tom Brown

This photograph of Tom Brown sitting with his Couesnon alto saxophone was taken around the time he formed his Five Brown Brothers music ensemble in 1910.  He is wearing a military style uniform used by the music group for their early performances with the Primrose and Dockstader Minstrels. 

A photograph of Tom Brown sitting, holding a saxophone.

In 1912, the saxophone ensemble was the featured “olio act” for the minstrel show, playing between each of the production’s acts.  Brown, who served as both the show’s music director and the ensemble’s lead saxophonist, also performed comedy routines as the character Mr. Tambo with his satirical sidekick, Mr. Bones.  Frequently there was little time for Brown to change out of his Tambo costume before rejoining his brothers for their next interlude performance, so he began performing as Tambo.  As audiences’ tastes moved away from the Minstrel Show format, the Primrose and Dockstader Minstrels eventually disbanded in 1914 due to economic pressures.  That same year the Brown Brothers signed a performance contract with Charles Bancroft Dillingham’s traveling Broadway company that was gaining significant attention from its new vaudeville acts.  Recognizing audiences’ continuing interest in the Brown Brothers as a comedic music act, Dillingham discontinued the ensemble’s use of military-inspired uniforms and dressed the band, with the exception of Tom who continued to play the role of Tambo, in Pierrot costumes, pointed hats, and clown make-up.