According to “American Pie” composer Don McLean”, the music died on February, 1959, when Buddy Holly’s plane crashed into an Iowa cornfield. But if you ask Tony Perrone, founder of Milford’s “Smooth Sound Dance Band”, it happened 15 years earlier when Glenn Miller’s plane disappeared over the English Channel during World War II. Miller is considered one of the founders of the Big Band sound and Perrone has spent the past 24 years working to keep Miller’s music alive–much to the delight of music lovers, young and old, across Delaware.
“Glenn Miller was a very patriotic man. He wanted to fight in World War II but since he was too old for that, the army asked him to form an orchestra to perform for the troops. They figured it would help boost morale. Unfortunately, his plane disappeared coming back from a concert.”
According to Perrone, the Big Band sound had its heyday from the 1930’s through the`40’s. After that, television and movies took over until the Big Band sound saw a resurgence in the 60’s. That’s when it was discovered by Perrone and he has been performing it ever since.
Perrone grew up and played in bands in junior and senior high school. He attended the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore where he majored in trumpet. “But I soon realized that in order to make a living at music, you had to be near the top of your class. I wasn’t there so I knew I wouldn’t make a living at music. But I also knew that I would play music for the rest of my life.”
He had a long career as a postal carrier where he delivered to his customers throughout the Harrington area. This allowed him to pursue his musical hobby. He retired in 2011 and now dedicates most of his time to his wife, Mary Louise, and his music.
Perrone answered an ad in the newspaper in 1990 for a new band forming in Milford and became one of the original members of the Milford Community Band, where he remains a section leader. Shortly after, he formed the Smooth Sound Dance Band, with other members from the MCB, and started performing throughout Kent and Sussex counties. They play about 10 shows a year.
“Music helps you express how you feel, “said Perrone. “A musician never plays the same piece of music the same way twice. It comes out in how you feel. If the player is happy or sad, it comes out in the music. Music is also good for the brain. I always did well in math. Music is numbers. You have time signatures and have to count. I encourage people to pick up and instrument and learn how to play.”
Perrone claims that music is such a therapeutic force and he sees it every time the SSDB entertains at a nursing home or hospital. “You see people who are bedridden and they wheel them into the show. When the music starts you see them moving their feet, nodding their heads and clapping their hands. After the show we usually go into the audience and those people are so happy and grateful. They tell us one of the songs reminded them of a first date or special event in their life. And to take them back to a time when they were young and healthy is a greater payment than money. Music is a wonderful therapy, expression and the universal language. I hope I can play for the rest of my life.”
2507: Tony Perrone (Right) leads the Smooth Sound Dance Band through their repertoire of Big Band music.