The beginnings of the Seed & Feed Marching Abominable are as unusual as they are entertaining. So how DID the band actually get started?
The evolution of the Seed &
Feed Marching Abominable dates back to 1974 when Founder Kelly Morris, who was
then director of theater Emory, needed a
marching band as part of a theater company.
The original ‘guerilla’ band was called the Asa Candler Memorial Marching Atrocity Band, for outdoor political noises and moves during the late sixties early seventies. Morris admired the band of the Bread & Puppet Theater and the San Francisco Mime Troupe's Gorilla Band. Initially, the band made a few pretty funny appearances at Emory, but basically couldn't march or play.
When Kelly left Emory, in 1973, along with the bass drum he purchased from the department, he created Kelly's Seed & Feed Theatre, at the corner of Pryor and Garnett Streets, which open in the fall of that year. He met an individual drum major and remarked that he wanted a band. Kelly advertised in the paper calling for players and the band had their first rehearsal. Most of the players turned out to be people already attached to the theatre as performers, but other individuals who had played instruments for years joined the band and subsequently became actors too. After the first rehearsal, Kelly never saw the drum major again, but enthusiasm from musicians was up, so we decided to go on.
Even today, according to one of two original members still very active, Bill Scott. “the band is whoever shows up that day, for a gig or a rehearsal. Whoever is there makes the music, does the show, carries the band another day into the future.”
In the beginning, there were no uniforms and no majorettes, and the band was led by a high stepping guy with a broom, who swept aside the crowd. The band then only knew two tunes, The Washington Post and (maybe) March Grandioso. The effect was immediate, funny, and joyous. The audience laughed and cheered and jumped straight into the air. People commented how the band made them feel so happy.
Scott continues, “it doesn't matter who is a new or old member, the audience doesn't care, they remember the sights and sounds we present to them on that day. The audience doesn't see the trials and errors of our past, doesn't understand how this group can function so abominably well with everyone gladly playing their roles and instruments. As if possessed by a collective unconscious, new and otherwise members intuit how to act whether or not they are aware of our long history.”
The band made its first important (really public) appearance in the 1974 Inman Park Festival Parade. By then, the band had uniforms (utterly unfitted big black suits, bought from all the used clothing stores in Atlanta), decorated with bright yellow tape along leg-seams and lapels. It had a team of Abominettes, who performed with booties and insane intensity. There were a couple of big puppets and a few banners, carried by folks who would come to be known as Despicables. The band knew five tunes, all marches. The parade was much longer than it is today, including several uphill pulls (it was mostly cars in those days, with a few contingents on foot). The band had no parade experience at all, so it tried to play the entire route. Lips blew out, faces turned crimson and purple, big blisters formed. But the band was being born and the players were young and determined. Nobody dropped out. “The band experience then, as it is today,” says, Scott, “was and is mostly about showing up, making music and putting on the best performance.” The crowds loved them. And a valuable lesson was learned for all time: pace the band, save the wind players, play only where the crowd is thickest. At the end of that first parade, players flung themselves on the ground in exhaustion. The way the band looked at that moment sparked an idea: what if, in the middle of a march, the drums go slower and slower and the band melts into a big death scene in the middle of the street. This “shtick” now known as “wander and die” became the band's most enduring theatrics over the years.
The Seed & Feed is now featured in many local events including Dragon*Con, the annual Jugglers festival, St. Patrick’s Day Parade and many more.
Calendar of events and more historical information can be found on the Seed & Feed website: http://seedandfeed.org/