The Down Home Band Turns 30

From kazoos to piccolos to big bass drums, anyone that can play an instrument is welcome to help keep a Key Peninsula icon thriving.

In concert on the dock at Lakebay Marina July 16.
In concert on the dock at Lakebay Marina July 16. Chris Konieczny, KP News

In the early 1990s, Dr. William Roes resuscitated the idea of forming a traditional community band on the Key Peninsula. At the turn of the 20th century the historic Home Band Association had about 20 members. In keeping with tradition, the bass drum used by the latest band incarnation sports the same block lettering used by original.

Band leader Roes did some digging to verify the new band’s 30-year history and identify some highlights.

“At first it was a kazoo band comprised of the kids of our medical office employees and others that played the kazoo,” he said. “The band’s first public performance was in the 1991 Pioneer Days Parade when we marched with about a dozen kids from Key Center to Vaughn.”

That band was accompanied by Key Center dentist Dr. John Olsson on a bass drum from a Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem drum set complete with “dr. teeth” painted on the side. Roes played the snare.

“Then in 1992, the current band started with the Down Home Keep Clam Band complete with clowns with super soakers and marching clams, also with super soakers.”

Since that auspicious beginning, the Down Home Band has been a must-see and must-hear experience in community celebrations. The band occasionally crosses the bridges to play at the Rhein Haus restaurant in Tacoma and other venues. After a COVID-19 interruption, the band resumed public performances at the Lakebay Marina Resort and at the TWAA Art Walk. They are slated to play during the KP Farm Tour in October.

Roes described some of the more memorable band events: The Down Home South of the Border Band featured a giant donkey piñata still on display in the office; The Down Home Slug Band featured a 20-foot inflated slug (made of garbage bags glued together); The Down Home Pioneer Band appeared in the Pioneer Days Parade with “Vaughn or Bust” painted on a giant Conestoga wagon. However, Roes did not elaborate on what he called “the infamous Pirate Band.”

Kathie Broderson, a piccolo player with the band since 2002, said, “I’m glad Dr. Roes does this for the community. It is great to get to play with professional musicians. I’m proud to be a part of it.” She said the band is inclusive and listed several members she had recruited. “It’s a blast. We are a tight group and are good for each other.”

Broderson said the band had played a variety of venues, but for her the most memorable gig was playing for a crowd of 60,000 at the opening of the second Tacoma Narrows Bridge, July 15, 2007.

Longtime band member Edie Morgan said, “When Dr. Roes approached me, he really wanted Tom (her husband).”

At that time Tom Morgan was too busy playing with “Little Bill and the Blue Notes,” so he showed Edie how to keep the snare drum going for marches and polkas.

She said she had grown up dancing to polka music played on the hi-fi and knew the music, so drumming was easier than it might have been.

Now retired, Tom has time to join Edie in the Home Band.

“It’s been great fun, because Bill makes it great fun,” she said. “He always has a light-hearted approach that makes community music-making unique and very, very special.”

Tom Zim has enjoyed playing standup bass in the Down Home Band for 10 years. Zim has played in bands since he was a kid and even had to join a musician’s union in junior high school. “The band is community music therapy for those in the band and those who get to listen,” he said.

“The best part about the Down Home Band is Dr. Roes,” Zim said. “You get only positive vibes from that guy. He is a wonderful band leader; no drama, fun without stress, and anyone who can play a band instrument is welcome.”