A True Original

compensated as the Assistant Band Director at Sidney Lanier, but otherwise, he didn’t earn that much teaching beginners and middle school bands. Each band student was charged $3.00 to participate in band, which helped some, but otherwise Mr. Black’s daily life was a labor of love for music in the Capital City.

If you were to see the name David DeLisle Black, Jr., you might not know who it was.

Most everyone knew him as “D.D.”

D.D. Black passed away right before Christmas, at the age of 87. But he his passion for music education in the state of Alabama will be remembered always.

A native of Montgomery, Mr. Black graduated from Sidney Lanier High School in 1949. His band director was the legendary Yale Ellis. Mr. Black served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in Korea, and throughout the 1950s attended the University of Alabama as he worked on his Bachelor of Science in Education degree. It has been said that D.D. took a little extra time at the Capstone because he enjoyed playing drums in area bands so much. All along, he was under the baton of Col. Carleton K. Butler, and served as drum captain for the “Million Dollar Band”.

After earning his Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Alabama, Mr. Black began his teaching career in 1957 at Bellingrath Jr. High School.

Back in his hometown of

Montgomery, he also served as assistant band director at Lanier under Mr. Tommy Binion. Mr. Black earned his Master’s Degree in Music Education in 1963.

In those days, middle school band directors were not paid by the school system. D.D. was

Montgomery Public Schools had a system by which the junior high-level directors basically worked out of the trunks of their cars each day. D.D. Black traveled between Bellingrath Jr. High School and Baldwin Jr. High School every day from 1957-1966.

During those

years, the Bellingrath band earned Superior ratings at State Contest (today, Music Performance Assessment). The success at Bellingrath fed into the Lanier program, where Mr. Binion’s bands experienced tremendous successes at the state and regional levels.

D.D. became interested in becoming a music administrator, and completed his “AA” certificate in administration and supervision. In 1966, he was appointed to the position of Instrumental Music Consultant with the Alabama State Department of Education. Mr. Black worked for ALSDE for the next 26 years, retiring in 1992.

His focus at the State Department was to facilitate a better understanding between music teachers and principals. What many of us may recall, however, is that he wrote and edited a guidebook still used to this by band directors across the state of Alabama.

In 1980, D.D. began what I think he considered to be his life’s work. Phi Beta Mu started an All-State tape project that year, a campaign spearheaded by Mr. Black that lasted into the 21st

century. He traveled

around Alabama and recorded the professors from the state’s music colleges performing the Alabama All-State Band exercises and giving suggestions to students. These tapes, and later compact discs, were sold as a fundraiser for the Phi Beta Mu bandmasters fraternity but also are fondly recalled by those of us who bought them in hopes of making the All-State Band.

Mr. Black never stopped promoting rudimental drumming. He loved it, and loved talking about it about as much as he enjoyed talking about aerospace education. And he

ala breve

by Michael Bird

loved talking about that as much as he loved to teach people about how to properly record school music.

When I organized the Robert E. Lee High School Band Reunion in 2004, I asked D.D. to speak since he was teaching across town when Lee High was founded. He’d always looked the same, this little bald man. So when he told a story of losing his hair, everyone in attendance became interested – this must have really been a long time ago!

D.D. described how he tried to fight hair loss by purchasing a hair piece. There was no air conditioning in the Bellingrath band room in

the 1950s. He said that one day the students kept laughing at him, and he exploded in anger because they wouldn’t get serious for a rehearsal. After class, he went to look in a mirror and said he knew why they were laughing – his sideburns had rolled up like window shades!

D.D. Black was a true original. Around the time of that Lee Band reunion, I asked him to take the old reel-to-reel tapes of the Lee Band and remaster them for CD. In those visits I had with Mr. Black, I’d spend hours listening to not only his stories, but learning the difference between wet and dry reverb, microphone placement, and so much more. I will always treasure the opportunities I had to sit in that man’s garage, surrounded by the aural history of band in my hometown.

Mr. Black was an avid ham radio operator, with the handle W4PRF. In amateur radio, there is a numeric code for the word ‘goodbye’. In closing, with the gratitude of those of us who knew him, here it is: 73.

Michael Bird is a choral director and general music teacher for Tallassee City Schools.


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