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28 May 2010

my grandpa mayes, john phillip sousa, and the indy 500

Austin Carroll "Slim" Mayes was born Eastland, graduated from Anson High School, and lived off and on in Abilene, TX throughout his life.  He was born in 1901, before there was any sort of popular music in America.  As a result, the only music he was able to get ahold of to listen to was the kind of orchestral music that has been around for hundreds of years.  He always considered himself a violinist, but was recruited to play clarinet with the Simmons College Band while still in high school.  Of course, Simmons College is now Hardin-Simmons University; that band is The World Famous Cowboy Band.

Mayes worked as mechanic during a brief time as a student at Simmons College.  He was one of the first people to repair airplanes in West Texas.  Of course, there was only one way to make sure the plan was fixed.  This meant he was one of the first people to FLY airplanes in West Texas as well! 

Mayes decided to take his skill as a mechanic on the road in 1919 when he began working his way to New York.  His dream was somehow to make it as a musician in New York City, doing whatever he could.  He also had the skill of being able to transpose all the parts of any piece he heard; this was a valuable skill he would also put to good use throughout his life.

Mayes ran out of money in Indianapolis, IN in May of 1919.  The preparation had already began for only the 11th running of the Indy 500 at The Brickyard.  Mayes was able to get a job in one of the pits.  While Mayes was working there, John Phillip Sousa came to Indianapolis to perform with his marching band.  During this time, he was also auditioning musicians.  Nobody at The Brickyard really new Mayes was a musician, so they all laughed when he told his crew chief that he was going to play with Sousa and would not return to work the following day.  Austin Carroll Mayes played clarinet with John Phillip Sousa till the band leader's death in 1923.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating story, Prof. I had no idea how deep your family's musical roots ran.