Merle Evans

(1894-December 31, 1987)

Induction: February 5, 1983

Conductor of the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus Band for more than 50 years, during which time for he never missed a performance.  Known worldwide for this association with Charles Ringling and for his trips to Europe to recruit act for the circus.  Appeared in the film “The Greatest Show on Earth.”  Famous for writing many circus marches, including “Red Wagons.”  Considered the greatest of all the circus band leaders.  Past President of the American Bandmasters Association.

Quick Facts:

Birthplace: Columbus, Kansas

Father worked as a foreman in a coal mine

Had 6 siblings

Had an early job of selling newspapers on corners.  He used his cornet to call attention to the headlines.

Joined the S.W. Brundage Carnival Company as a cornet player

Band Director for the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Show featuring Buffalo Bill

Band Director for the newly merged Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1919. Held this job for 50 years.

Wrote 8 circus marches, including “Symphonia” and “Fredella”

Credited for saving thousands of lives during the Hartford Circus Fire in 1944, by playing Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” indicating an emergency. 

Served as director of the Columbus State Bank in his hometown

Married to his 2nd wife Nena, secretary to the owners and executives of the Circus