March 11, 2020, was the day that music died. The musicians in this area wanted to keep the music alive and their musical skills sharp and not fade as we faced a shutdown as a nation.
“Several years ago, I was driving by the Southern Pines train station and heard a man playing a trumpet and thought that was unique,” says Bob Wetherbie. “It seemed like a good idea, and I decided it was time to keep the tradition going.”
As a young boy, Wetherbie was taught by his step-grandfather, who was a member of U.S. Army Band during World War I, where he played the trombone and baritone.
“I played trumpet during grade school, high school and college,” he says. “Upon graduation from college, I considered making music my profession, however my dad told me, ‘There was only one Harry James, and you are not him!’”
Wetherbie put his horn away for over 50 years and did not play again until their move to North Carolina in 2006.
“I was asked to play in a church praise band and now play in several bands in the local area,” says Wetherbie.
The Corona Tooters Band evolved: one trumpet, then a tuba, a saxophone, a drum, a second trumpet, a euphonium, a horn, two trombones, a second saxophone and two singers. Big band music was the theme.
As the varied instrumentation increased, Fred Brush, who arranges music for the Sandhills Community College Jazz Band, agreed to provide arrangements for the Corona Band.
“Some of these arrangements were advanced, and Mollie Wilson, who directs the New Horizon Band and plays in the Moore County Concert Band, assisted us with some of the arrangements,” says Wetherbie. “The purpose of this band was to get out of our homes, play together, have fun, provide a community service and keep the music alive.”
The primary venue was the train station in Southern Pines on Saturdays at 1 p.m. As of this date the band has performed there more than 48 times.
“As the weather warmed up, we began looking for indoor venues such as retirement and assisted living homes,” says Wetherbie.
The North Carolina Senior America Pageant was conducted in November, and Laura C. Morgan was selected as Ms. North Carolina Senior America 2020/2021, and later became the National Ms. Senior America 2021.
“Her talent was singing, and the band adopted her as its singer,” says Wetherbie. “Due to her busy schedule with appearances, the band asked Susan Rush, also a member of the New Horizons Band, who has sung on Broadway, to become a member and sing with the band.”
Two upcoming venues for the band will be Belle Meade in October and the Seven Lakes Cemetery Wall of Honor in November.
For more information about the Corona Tooters Band, call (910) 944-8171.