Documentary film will tell the story of the Scottville Clown Band

April 19, 2023

From left: Herb Early, Jim Frost, George C. Wilson and David Ladd.

Documentary film will tell the story of the Scottville Clown Band

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

This year seems to be the year of local history. The City of Ludington is celebrating its sesquicentennial, House of Flavors Restaurant and the now-separate ice cream manufacturing operation are celebration being in existence for 75 years, the SS Badger is 70-years-old, and the “Big Noise” from Scottville, our beloved Clown Band, turns 120.

To commemorate its rich history, I am in the process of producing a documentary film on the band. Filming began last weekend with the gathering of four senior members of the band, fittingly at the Scottville Clown Band Museum of Music at Historic White Pine Village. The interviewees included Herb Early of Idlewild, president; David Ladd of Fruitport, vice president and street leader; George C. Wilson (son of “Big George” Wilson), board member and street leader; and Jim Frost, past president and one of the famous band strippers. Their two hour conversation will be the narration track of the film. 

The Clown Band’s origins date back to 1903 when a group of Scottville musicians gathered to entertain the town folk. At that time it was common for small towns to form community bands that dressed into various costumes. Many of those bands were called clown bands, though the formal name, Scottville Clown Band, wasn’t adopted until the band was re-formed in 1947 following a hiatus during World War II. The re-formation of the band is credited to Raymond Schulte, who was a business owner in downtown Scottville and a second generation member of the band. His father, Bert, was one of the founding members of the original group. 

My vision for creating a documentary about the band actually started in 1992 when I was a film/video student at Grand Valley State University. At that time, I made a short 10-minute video about the band, using state of the art technology of the day, VHS. That short film included some interviews of some of the elder members of the band who have since passed away. I’m hoping to incorporate some of those interviews into this new documentary.

I have been a member of the band since 1986 when I was 15-years-old. Since that time, I have become a life member and have served on the band’s executive board as a the treasurer since 2008. I am, sadly, one of only two band members to actually live in the city limits of Scottville. Professionally, I have had a career as a journalist, editor, historian, photographer, and, most recently, film producer. This film allows me to integrate all of those areas into one project on a subject that has been an integral part of my life. 


The film has been commissioned by the band with research and material support by the Mason County Historical Society.

I believe that it is fitting that this year has historical significance to House of Flavors, the Badger and the Clown Band — all are iconic symbols of Mason County. 

While the narration segment of the film has taken place, there’s a lot more work to be done. The Clown Band has been blessed to have accumulated 120 years of photographs and newspaper clippings in its archives, which are being cared for by the Mason County Historical Society, which also owns and operates White Pine Village. My plan is to digitize several hundred of these photographs and clippings and integrate them into the film. This, naturally, will take some time. Following that will be the actual editing of the film. With that said, my goal is to have the film completed by the end of the year.

Stay tuned! pun intended.

Scottville Merchants’ Band, 1910, predecessor to Scottville Clown Band.


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