By Robert Lucke
Want to know about most any professional musician in this area since 1923?
Ask Mike Farley. Chances are he will know.
Want to know what kind of music and what meals the Blue Moon was famous for?
Just ask Farley.
Ever wonder who has played "taps" at Havre funerals for more than 25 years?
It was Farley and he remembers all of it like it was yesterday.
"My dad was a pumper with the railroad and he got promoted to water inspector so when I was 12, we moved to Havre from Tagus, N.D.," Farley said. "That was in 1923."
First impressions of Havre? You bet.
"It was awful big, I thought," said Farley, grinning. "I remember I was in the seventh grade and had only two weeks to go so I went to the school and no one would even look at me so I went on home. My mother sent me back."
At that time, Farley had a baritone he had been playing.
There was no band in Tagus, so he played by himself.
"In Havre there was a high school band," Farley said. "I joined when I was in the eighth grade. Miss Hood was the band director."
There was around 40 people in the high school band, whose selections included marches and overtures.
"Instead of getting into sports, I was in the bands all the time," he said.
When Farley entered Havre High School, he joined its orchestra along with the city band. After he graduated, he traded in his baritone for a trumpet which became his trademark for most of the rest of his musical career.
During those times when not practicing, Farley or his band would play everything from special occasions at the Bear Paw Battlefield to dances at Northern to night clubs and along the way "taps" for funerals.
After Farley's early years, he joined Ted Janicke's band.
"There were only four of us in that band and I played with him for many years until 1954," Farley said.
After that, Farley joined Wally Rathbone's group playing at first mostly college dances.
"And we played at the Hi-Line Club for 10 years," he said. "There was Rathbone, Gary Dow, Wilma Bassett and myself."
By 1937, Farley had moved to Great Falls for a few years. He played for everything there he could but always saved room on his schedule to get back to Havre for Music Festival.
"I played in most of the Music Festivals," he said. "I wouldn't miss one of them."
And back in Havre, he played in some sort of rough night clubs like the Blue Lantern. When fights broke out, the musicians just stopped until the place quieted down again.
During those times he was listening to the jazz of Black Americans at the Blue Moon.
"I remember that there was one fellow who could play the piano with one hand and a trumpet with the other," Farley said. "He was really good. And they served great chicken dinners, too."
In the 1940s, the Havre Elks Club had a German band. Naturally, Farley played in that as well.
Farley said he thinks Gary Dow was the best of all the older musicians to play in this area. And he said he has no doubt that these days Marge Holt is the best of all.
"I just wish I could have played with her," he said. "She is the best!"
Of all of the music Farley has played, jazz is his favorite. His professional playing came to a halt in 1971 when he had his teeth pulled and could no longer play his trumpet. Still, though, he bought an organ, and taught himself to play it.
Farley's wife, Marian, died in 1990. Two of his five children have also passed on. Daughter Pat lives in Havre, Bill in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and Virginia in Pasco, Wash.
Farley said he thinks that a healthy diet of music is just great for all children.
"I bought a few horns for my grand kids," he said. "They play in the Glasgow Scottie Band."
And the tradition reaches full circle. From a 12-year-old kid starting to play music in Havre in 1923 to his grandchildren in the Glasgow band.
That's a real Montana musical family.