Friday, August 27, 2010

House Of David Jazz Band: Playing Jazz to Reunite The Lost Tribes of Israel

House of David was (still is?) a religious commune located in Benton Harbor, Michigan. It was founded by King Ben Purnell and his wife Mary with about 200 followers in 1903. King Ben claimed to be Jesus Christ's younger brother and the Seventh Messenger from God. To join the sect, you had to give over all your possessions to King Ben and renounce alcohol, tobacco, meat, violence, shaving, hair cutting and sex. But King Ben could have sex with your wife and your daughter when she turned 14. This last part is what brought King Ben down. He was brought up on charges and forced to hide in the underground caverns beneath one of his mansions. He was eventually caught in his bed with some under aged girls. He died before his trail concluded.

House of David at one time operated and owned a zoo, the largest fruit market in the world, farms, their own island, a hospital, factories, an Oldsmobile dealership, a theme park, a night club and a motor inn to name a few. They invented the waffle cone, the first cross-propeller system for cruise ships, powdered space meals for NASA, and the first bowling alley Pinnsetter. However, House of David is more famous for it's baseball team (see this old Sports Illustrated article), which traveled around and even hired ringers like Babe Ruth and Satchel Paige, who of course, had to wear fake beards and wigs so as not to give away their ringer status.

But most interestingly, House of David had a top notch Jazz Band, that's how I found out about them. I was perusing a Jazz book I had found and saw an entire band of bearded guys. No known recordings of them exist, but a song called House of David Blues does. Some members even made their own instruments! Here is a great article with photos and video and here is the House of David Museum website, lest you think I made all this up.

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