Today is national saxophone day! Why November 6th? Because that is the birthday of Adolphe Sax, the Belgian inventor of the saxophone. And today happens to be his 200th birthday. Incidentally, today is also the 160th birthday of John Phillip Sousa, legendary march composer and promoter of saxophone use in bands.
In honor of both of these men, we bring you the O.P. Thayer Saxophone Band of Rock Springs!
Born in Massachusetts around 1875, Oliver “Ollie” Pearson Thayer, moved with his family to Rock Springs around 1877. In high school, he played in the band and orchestra, often with his sister Mary. For a while in his late teens-early twenties, Thayer dabbled in professional photography but found his calling in music.
Around 1902, he organized his saxophone band, possibly the first of its kind in the nation. The group often serenaded the residents of Rock Springs at concerts, dances, community events, commencements, weddings, for visiting dignitaries and even at a few funerals. The band received rave reviews from local and national press. Thayer’s band also received the first bass saxophone produced by the Conn company, a leading instrument manufacturer. By the 1910s, saxophone bands had sprung up all around the country.
1903 seems to have been the height of the band’s popularity, though they continued to perform until about 1905. During the summer of 1903, the band traveled to Fort Washakie, Lander and Atlantic City and entertained President Theodore Roosevelt during his visit to Evanston that year as part of a three day trip through Wyoming on his way back from the West Coast.
In addition to leading various bands and orchestras in the Rock Springs area, Thayer also composed several pieces of music.
Thayer and his family moved to Havre, Montana in 1914 but kept in contact with their family and many of their friends in Rock Springs. By 1932, he and his family had moved to Redlands, California where he directed the school band and orchestra. Thayer died in California in 1957.