Marlow Town Band originated from the Church Lads Drum and Fife Band. These bands were very popular in the late 19th Century. It took the arrival of John Palmer in 1906 to add brass instruments to the Drum and Fife Band, leading to the creation Marlow Town Band was formed. Initially the flutes and other instruments not normally associated with brass bands remained, but these were slowly phased out, and soon after the First World War it was a brass band as would be recognised nowadays. John Palmer was the first conductor of the band, and remained so until 1920 when he handed the baton over to his son, Ernest ‘Ernie’ Palmer.
The war had a dramatic effect on the band, with the band now composed mostly of young men and boys. This didn’t hamper the band as they won the Championship at Oxford in 1924. A photograph of the band at this event is shown below, along with the names of the members who played that day. Lord Terrington is sitting in the middle of the band, with bandmaster Ernie Palmer to his right. The band has won several more contests over the years, such as in Fairford in 1961, and Waltham St Lawrence in 1961 where they won two awards.
Despite the successes that were to come in 1961, the band faced difficult times in the 1950’s. Professional and better-organised bands, coupled with the advent of television meant that funds were very scarce for the band. The situation was so dire that they couldn’t afford to enter contests, and that the dances they hosted at the band hall were losing money due to the cost of performing rights payments so they had little to no income at all.
During the 1950’s a great deal of the band left, and in 1956 the roof of the band hall needed repairing. In order to raise the funds required, the band allowed the local Sea Cadets to use it as their headquarters, on condition that they repaired the roof. Then in the 1980’s the original band hall was reaching a state where it was no longer economical to repair it, so the Sea Cadet’s once again stepped in and raised the required money to build a new band hall out of brick, rather than the corrugated iron the original was made of. This is the band hall that is still in use today, and still shared with the Sea Cadets.
Over the last twenty years the band has continued to be a strong local band. In 2000, Ian Young became the bandmaster, and still leads the band to this day. The band membership currently stands at around 30, and has a diverse age range, all from the local area. Recently the band has toured around the south of England including putting on performances in Brighton, London, Henley, Oxford, Bournemouth, Windsor, and several events a year in Marlow.