A few weeks ago, I posted an article on The Last Trombone about Fake News and The Trombone. One of the things that has caused a lot of confusion about the origin of the trombone is the fact that the King James Bible (1611) translated an Aramaic word for a form of lyre as “sackbut.” Sackbut is an early word for the trombone and, faced with an Aramaic word they didn’t understand, the KJV Bible translators substituted a word for something they DID know that sounded similar. Hence, the myth that the trombone dates from ancient times (rather than the 15th century) gained traction.
In my ongoing research on the trombone for several of my book projects, I came across a recording made in 1954 by a doo-wop group, The Collegians, with the Sid Bass Orchestra. I saw the 45rpm record on sale on an auction site and sight unseen, I decided to buy it. The title of the song? The Sackbut, the Psaltery and the Dulcimer.
That got my attention. Those are three of the instruments that are found in the King James translation of the Bible, in Daniel, Chapter 3, verse 5:
That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the King hath set up.
The connection between the recording and the Bible verse was immediately apparent to me. So I bought the record, not knowing what I was getting. And, wow, I am glad I bought it. I found myself owning a recording of an absolutely charming song. The songwriters – who are only identified as Hoffman-Manning-Sloane – crafted a clever story about six musicians at in ancient Babylon who played sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, harp, cornet and flute. They stuck the harp in for good measure. The Sid Bass Orchestra’s trombone section has a prominent role, of course. It’s well sung and played, and adds something to what we know about how the trombone was used in popular culture.
You can hear this cute song on YouTube by clicking this link or click on the video image below (if you’re reading this message in an email message, you won’t see the video image below):
If you don’t smile when you hear this, you don’t have a pulse. The trombone in Biblical times? No, that’s fake news. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun with the idea. The Collegians sure did, and we can, too.