Hoover Music Company’s store, shown in 1913. H.L. Hoover, the business’ founder, is seated at the desk. (Courtesy of Hoover Music Company)
Although “The Music Man” was set in River City, Iowa, Springfield had its very own Music Man at the turn of the 20th century. That person was H.L. Hoover, who founded Hoover Music Company.
However, Hoover’s musical roles extended far beyond simply owning the store. He was the first person to graduate from Drury College (now University) with a degree in piano performance. He conducted numerous musical ensembles, including the Shriner Band and Drury’s College Military Band, and in 1909, he founded Little Hoover’s Big Band.
“To the old timers of this area, ‘Little Hoover and his Big Band,’ used to be the chief Saturday night attraction in Springfield, with their concerts on Commercial Street and on the Public Square,” wrote the Springfield Leader & Press years ago. “Mr. Hoover became the bandmaster in 1906, at about the same time he was named instructor of band instruments at Drury College. He had graduated from Drury’s Conservatory of Music, where he studied the piano, harmony, theory and sight-reading under Prof. W. A. Chalfant. He also was leader of the College Cadet Corps band, under the instruction of Col. James Mayes.
Little Hoover’s Big Band at a performance at Phelps Grove Park in the early 1900s. (Courtesy of the Piland Collection)
“With World War I beginning in 1914, Mr. Hoover moved the Saturday night concerts to Commercial Street, and it was not until 1934 that they were again returned to the ‘pie’ on the Square, under his leadership. But it was a new era and the sound of Saturday night traffic soon drowned out the concerts forever.”
During that time, Hoover began his namesake music company: Hoover Music Company was born in 1912, and was originally located on McDaniel Street. It has had four homes during its lifetime. After McDaniel, it moved to St. Louis Street and South Avenue before coming to its current storefront on Jefferson Avenue in 1967.
In addition to being the oldest music store in town, Hoover Music is also notable for other reasons. It was one of the first music stores in the country to offer rent-to-own plans for purchasing band and orchestra instruments, and was one of the first dealers for Selmer USA, which offered U.S.A.-made instruments and were considered an affordable alternative to Parisian-made, pro-quality instruments.
Paul Hoover, H.L. Hoover’s son, stands in front of the store’s South Avenue location. Note the display for Korn’s A Krackin’, a precursor to Ozark Jubilee, in the window. (Courtesy of Hoover Music Company)
Much has changed about the business over the years. During World War II, when metal was scarce, the business instead sold things including books, greeting cards, gifts, calendars and globes. At other times, the store stocked radios and television sets. The popularity of instruments also changes from year to year. Currently, the “hot” instrument is the ukulele.
One thing that has not changed, however, is printed music. Today, Hoover Music still has almost 30,000 pieces of printed music inventory on hand — and is still owned and operated by members of the Hoover family.
Hoover Music Company moved to its current location in 1967. (Courtesy of Hoover Music Company)
Want to connect?
For more information, contact Hoover Music Company via their website.