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Les Brown celebration returns to Schuylkill County

The Les Brown Big Band Weekend celebrates a nationally famed bandleader who grew up in Schuylkill County.

The 15th Les Brown Festival will feature a weekend of activities starting April 28.

Les Brown Sr., born in Reinerton near Tower City, is best known for the hit “Sentimental Journey” and many television appearances with Les Brown and His Band of Renown.

Organizers say Brown never forgot his Schuylkill County roots, and his community remembers him fondly as well. It demonstrates this by hosting a four-day big band festival in Brown’s honor.

The event begins April 28 at 7 p.m. with the Les Brown Film Festival at the Pine Grove Theatre, 213 S. Tulpehocken St. Admission is free. There will be a screening of Jerry Lewis’ “The Nutty Professor,” in which Brown appears.

On April 29 from 6 to 9 p.m., the Les Brown Festival/Dance will be held, featuring the M&J Big Band, at American Legion Post 468, 2 Clarks Valley Road, Tower City. Tickets are $10 and are available at the door or in advance by calling 717-926-2849. Food and drinks will be available for purchase. Autobiographical books by former Band of Renown member Bob Alberti and big band historian David Miller will be available for purchase. A limited number of festival T-shirts will be on sale.

On April 30 at 3 p.m., St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Tower City will host a “Celebration of Music,” a nondenominational worship service featuring performances by local musicians. Admission is free. A goodwill offering will be taken.

Featured performers include the Pickers, a gospel, country and bluegrass string trio; the WV Community Choir, the Keyboards of Sheryl Hart & Melanie Waters; and Guldin Brass Jazz.

After the service there will be light refreshments and a time for fellowship.

Brown is remembered as part of a noteworthy family in the Tower City area. His father was a music teacher in the area, and the family owned a popular bakery. Brown attended Duke University and established a big band there. He went on to form other bands and gain increased notice. “Sentimental Journey,” featuring vocals by Doris Day, catapulted Les Brown and His Band of Renown to fame.

The band spent many years touring the country as a major act, and later served as the studio band for television shows with Bob Hope and Dean Martin.

Thanks to the efforts of the Tower-Porter Rotary Club, among others, a historical marker along Route 209 in Tower City reminds people of Brown’s life and work.

Source: Berkshire mont

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