They started playing in Mobile in 1883. They marched and played in the very first Mardi Gras parade. The Excelsior Band will perform a free concert, marking their 140th year as Alabama's jazz band.

The History Museum of Mobile hosts the historic event on Sunday, November 19 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in the museum's atrium at 100 Church St in downtown Mobile.

The Excelsior Band has played for almost half of Mobile's 300-year years. In fact, the band has been around longer than the History Museum has.

Details on the performance are here.

The Excelsior Band was awarded the prestigious NEA Heritage Award by the National Endowment for the Arts in October. They traveled to Washington, D.C., to the Library of Congress for the presentation, performance and reception.

The band also received a $25,000 award and will be featured in a film presentation on

The Excelsior Band is a 10-piece brass marching band, including a bass drum and snare drum. They are the official band of Mobile's original Mardi Gras, both for the predominantly white Mobile Carnival Association and the predominantly black Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association. They also play at receptions, Mardi Gras balls, weddings, parades for all occasions and funeral marches, called "second line parades."

The band is led by master trumpeter Hosea London, Sr.

The Excelsior Band was recently the finale of the memorial service for Mobile radio legend Catt Sirten. At the close of the memorial, the Excelsiors marched onto the stage of Mobile's Saenger Theatre, playing "When the Saints Go Marching In." The entire audience then got behind the Excelsiors as they all marched out to the street playing an up-tempo version of Saints.

For generations, the Excelsior Band has trumpeted the culture and history of Mobile and its original Mardi Gras. They started as a firehouse band at the historic Creole Firehouse.

The music and marching of the Excelsior Band have not changed since their 1883 start.

Jim Zeigler is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at

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