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The Amazing Music History Quiz

Jan 23, 2008
You may find the 20 questions in this quiz surprising, and the answers more so. Unless, of course, you've already read A Song for the World, the remarkable story of the Colwell Brothers and Herb Allen. (See A Song for the World's website, link below). The seed of the book was planted in 2003, when with longtime friends we were discussing our thoughts for the future.

An attorney from California spoke of conflicts facing youth in her city, and the desperate need for solutions. "There ought to be a book about the Colwell Brothers and Herb Allen," she said. It was an idea that everyone in the room responded to. Then, perhaps because I'm a writer, several looked at me. Even if they hadn't, I knew this was a commission I couldn't refuse. I thought it was a story that I knew. But I was wrong. It was a story nobody knew, bigger than I had ever imagined. Writing it was a privilege, and an adventure.

Do you know:

1. Who was the twentieth century's youngest performing percussionist?
2. Who was the era's youngest orchestra conductor?
3. Who was with the first musical production to tour post-World War II Germany?
4. Who were in the first big-city bluegrass band?
5. Who were the youngest trio contracted by a major record label?
6. Who were the first Western musicians invited to sing in an Asian parliament?
7. Who was in the first American musical group to have a thirty-seven-language repertoire?
8. Who played in the most venues internationally of their generation?
9. Who performed in the most countries of anyone in their generation?
10. Who traveled the most miles of any musicians of their generation?
11. Who introduced Caribbean steel bands to North America?
12. Who set the Guinness World Record for continuous drumming?
13. Who created with others the second-longest running musical of the Twentieth century?
14. What show set the all-time record for U.S. cities toured in a single year?
15. Who were the first "outside" performers to tour Africa extensively in the 1950s and 60s?
16. Who took the first international musical show to Eastern Europe in the 1970s?
17. Who took the first multinational musical group to China after the Cultural Revolution?
18. Who took the first international musical group to the Soviet Union in the 1980s?
19. Who invented, with others, the non-marching band format of the Super Bowl halftime show?
20. Who wrote shows performed nine times with major symphonies and at six World Fairs?

Answers:

1. Herb Allen, age three, the world's youngest drummer, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
2. Herb Allen, age four, conducted the Seattle Baby Orchestra.
3. Herb Allen, age eighteen, was assistant music director of The Good Road.
4. Steve, Paul, and Ralph Colwell, ages fourteen, twelve, and ten in 1947, were labeled "Motor City Bluegrass Legends" by Eugene Chadbourne in All-Music Guide.
5. The Colwell Brothers, ages nineteen, seventeen, and fifteen, were contracted by Columbia Records in 1952.
6. The Colwell Brothers sang in the Japanese Diet in 1957.
7. The Colwells first sang in another language in Switzerland in 1953 for Robert Schuman, a founding father of the European Union, and eventually performed in thirty-seven languages and dialects.
8. The Colwell Brothers, in uncounted thousands of venues worldwide.
9. The Colwell Brothers performed in fifty-four countries.
10. The Colwells traveled farther than the Beatles and Elvis Presley combined.
11. Herb Allen in 1964 introduced the Steel Band of Trinidad and Tobago to the U.S. in a national tour.
12. Bob Quesnel, original drummer for Sing Out 65, played continuously for one hundred hours and twenty minutes in 1964 and made the Guinness Book of World Records.
13. Up with People's thirty-five-year run was second only to The Fantasticks, which closed in 2002.
14. In 1976, Up with People played in 771 U.S. cities to a total live-audience of 3.9 million.
15. The Colwells performed 412 programs on Radio Congo in 1960 and toured the country with Up with People in 1968.
16. Up with People toured in Yugoslavia in 1974 and Poland in 1976 and 1977.
17. Up with People toured in China in 1978 and 1985.
18. Up with People toured in the Soviet Union in 1988,'89, '90, and '91.
19. Up with People casts performed in Super Bowls X, XIV, XVI, and XX.
20. The Colwells and Allen, with others. Symphonies: Up with People performed with Dallas, Denver, and the Boston Pops (twice each); Winnipeg; Belgian National Symphony; and the National Symphony, Washington, D.C. World's Fairs: Expo '67, Montreal; Expo '74, Spokane; World Expo '68, Brisbane; Expo '82, Knoxville;
Expo '92, Seville, Spain; Expo 2005, Aichi, Japan.

Although only one of the above claims ever made the Guinness Book of World Records, all the answers are believed to be true.
About the Author
Frank McGee's career as writer and journalist began in the 1960s in Brazil, Indonesia and Viet Nam. Through scores of interviews, hundreds of letters, and thousands of photographs, he uncovered the story of A Song for the World, A Song for the World
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