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On the Tramp March
On the Tramp March from The Complete Marches of John Philip Sousa: Vol. 1


“On the Tramp” (1879)


“On the Tramp” was the first of Sousa’s marches to have the characteristic “Sousa swing” in the final section. Ironically, he received little for his efforts, and the conversation with his publisher went something like this:

            “We won’t give you twenty-five dollars for it."
            “Will you give me fifteen dollars for it?”
            “We wouldn’t give you fifteen cents for it.”
            “Would you give me one of your new dictionaries for it?”

The march was based on the song, “Out of Work” by Septimus Winner. In the 1880s, the phrase “on the tramp” was a slang expression meaning “on the lookout for employment.”

Paul E. Bierley, The Works of John Philip Sousa (Westerville, Ohio: Integrity Press, 1984), 76. Used by permission.