The Georgia Tech Glee Club, formed in February 1907, made their first concert tour during Christmas Break at the end of 1908. The forty club members set out from Atlanta by train the morning of December 22nd. Their first performance was scheduled for the Opera House in Macon, but when they arrived early to rehearse, they found it locked. They lost an hour and a half hunting down the stage manager to let them in. Though they had brought most of their own instruments, they did need to use the Opera House’s piano, which they discovered was badly out of tune. The director, William Arnaud (known to the students as “Mr. Arno”) attempted to tune it himself, but eventually consented to send for a professional. The strings tightened, the club rehearsed for an hour.
The club members distributed circulars around town in the evening and gathered back at the Opera House for an 8:30 PM performance. The club’s assistant manager recorded in his diary, “Packed house greets us with much applause and other decayed vegetables,” and later, “Audience refuses to appreciate some of our numbers sufficiently ‒ give encore, anyhow. Quartet appears on stage at the wrong time, slide silently out, but are seen.” Afterward, Luke Simons, the manager of the club, was asked if they had cleared expenses. He cleared his throat, but said nothing.
The club, having spent the night in Pullman sleeping cars, arrived in Griffin, Georgia at 6:30 AM on December 23rd. A matinee performance had been scheduled for 2:30 PM in the city theater. But they quickly discovered that none of the expected advance publicity had been done and very few people knew they were coming.
Luke racked his brains for a solution and at 10:30 AM, he implemented one. He organized an impromptu performance marching through the streets of the city. The orchestra members, marching single file in lock step, led the way playing their pipes, horns, and mandolins. They were neither trained nor equipped to be a marching band and Walter Aichel, who played the big bass drum, had no straps to support his instrument. John Davis, one of the singers, had lettered in varsity football and was one of the largest and beefiest students at Tech. He hoisted the drum on his back and “Aich” followed along behind him, beating the drum with enthusiasm. The other singers formed a long chain behind the musicians, each student’s hands on the shoulders of the one in front of him.
This unusual sight attracted a great deal of attention, as intended. It reminded one of the locals, an old man with a long beard, of the methods used by traveling patent medicine salesmen to attract a crowd. Standing near where Mr. Arno was watching the students, he asked another old man, “Is one of them medicine doctors going to give a show?”. “Naw,” his companion answered, “they’re advertisin’ for some new-fangled kind of glue; don’t you see how they’re sticking together? An’ I jest now heard a feller say as how it was a Glue Club from Atlanta.”
Sources fail to record how successful Luke’s last minute stratagem was. His assistant manager merely recorded, “Pulled off performance. Got out of town safe. ‘Nough said.” But the club earned enough at their performance in Newnan that evening to pay for the trip and the Glee Club’s Christmas Break tour became an important annual tradition.
Atlanta Constitution, January 8, 1909, p. 8 “Tech Glee Club to Sing”
Blue Print, 1909