Proud of East Texas: Silly Symphony Band

Published: Nov. 22, 2015 at 1:04 AM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - All but one of the popular "Silly Symphony" band are gone now, but at the Gladewater Museum, the band and its music live on.

Mary Alice Allen, 91, is the only surviving member of the band, which entertained throughout the Ark-La-Tex for over two decades.

"What made it such a joy is we enjoyed each other and we had so much fun and everybody had a unique personality," Mary said.

Mary, who was a member of the band for 17 years, played the accordion, an instrument she had played since she was a child.

"I played at revivals when I was 12 years old," she said.

Stan Ellis's mother, Dorothy, was the pianist for the band, and he's the one who donated her extensive memorabilia of the band to the museum.

"When my mother was doing this, was far the happiest time of her life," Stan said.

While a number of the band members were accomplished musicians, Ellis said there were also people playing washboard, mariachis, cowbells and sometimes pots and pans.

"Here's a lady on a washboard. That's Joann Maple. Her 99th birthday, and she's still performing," he said.

The Silly Symphony band played throughout East Texas and into Louisiana, at festivals, grand opening, senior citizens homes and a number of times at the state fair of Texas.

The museum collection, in addition to photographs, news articles and recordings, contains dozens of thank-you letters, including a letter from Ronald Reagan.

Mary Alice says the first name for the band was "Symfunny," but because the band's antics were so popular, people started calling it silly, and it became the Silly Symphony.

"We played everything. We played like the war songs, white cliffs of Dover. We played popular songs of the time. We played country songs and so many of them wanted spiritual songs," said Mary.

She is full of stories of the many people she met along the way, playing in the band.

"For me, it's the people, I don't care what it is, it's always the people," she said.

And of course, it was the people who made the Silly Symphony band so popular, they were invited everywhere.

"They just couldn't wait for us to get there, we were so beloved," Mary said.

Even though Mary Alice Allen's 91 years have all been filled with interesting people and occasions, her time with the Silly Symphony is among her very best memories.

The Gladewater Museum is located at 116 West Pacific Avenue, and is open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Copyright 2015 KLTV. All rights reserved.