Band History

Greater Overbrook String Band trip to Cuba
The band pictured on their trip to Cuba in 1959

The Greater Overbrook String Band has a long and storied history. It was a participant in the Philadelphia Mummers New Year’s Day Parade from 1931 to 2020. It has been entertaining audiences at concerts and in parades year round since its founding. The band has traveled to many cities across the United States and Canada and also visited Cuba, Italy and Ireland.

Chief  John Hicks (Ret.) - Baltimore 2012
Baltimore St. Patrick’s Day Parade 2012

The band has appeared on national television in both the Fiesta Bowl Parade in Phoenix, Arizona and the Music Across America Parade held in Washington, DC. We proudly march in parades and perform concerts throughout the Delaware Valley in order to preserve, promote and educate the public in the tradition of mummery and string band music with its unique costuming and musical genre.

Jimmy Durante with Greater Overbrook String Band
Captain Harry Straub and the band pictured with Jimmy Durante in 1971

The bands origins date back to 1928 when founder Harry Whitman formed the “Harry Whitman String Band” as a musical group. It also marched under the name “Upper Darby String Band” for a brief period of time.  The band marched in its first New Year’s Day Parade in 1931 under the name “69th Street String Band” with a college sports theme.  In 1939, the band changed its name to the “Whitman String Band”, and continued to perform with Harry Whitman as captain until 1950. Harry Straub then took over as captain and in 1952 the name of the band was changed to its current name, “Greater Overbrook String Band.”  In 1977, the band was incorporated as a Pennsylvania Non-Profit Corporation and in 1997 the band reorganized after merging with the Italian-American String Band.

Jimmy Driadon 60th Parade 2010
Capt. Jimmy Driadon’s 60th Parade

The band has marched behind a variety of captains, including String Band Hall of Fame members Harry Whitman, Harry Straub, Jimmy Driadon and Harry Hill.

The Chief - Greater Overbrook String Band 2012
New Years Day 2012

The band originally hailed from the 69th Street Neighborhood of Upper Darby before moving to the Overbrook Section of Philadelphia — rehearsing for many years at the former Italian-American Democratic Club located at 66th and Media Streets. In 1997, the band relocated to Two Street in the Pennsport section of Philadelphia. In 2009 the band returned to its roots in Upper Darby, establishing its headquarters at the Highland Park Fire Station (Engine 26). In honor of the hospitality shown by our firefighter hosts, we proudly performed our theme “Fire Fightin’ Follies” for the 2012 New Year’s Parade under the leadership of UDFC Deputy Fire Chief John Hicks (Ret)

Greater Overbrook String Band Wilmington 2012
Wilmington, DE 2012

The Greater Overbrook String Band prides itself on being an all-volunteer, family based organization. We have entire families that participate together, as musicians, dancers, prop builders and parade marshals. We have both experienced and novice musicians, all of whom are constantly striving to improve and always welcome new members that are interested in learning to play an instrument. We always worked hard to provide an entertaining performance on New Year’s Day and throughout the year.  This year we decided to become a retirement band and are proud to carry on the tradition of Philadelphia mummery and preserve the unique string band sound for future generations.

The Band currently resides in Ridley Township and rehearses at the Knights of Columbus Hall located at 1195 Haverford Road Crum Lynne, PA 19022.

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