Who Was Waino Nickoli Kauppi Anyway?
by Pamela Newton
Ever since we moved to Maynard in September 2015, I have been drawn to the song of the Assabet River and to the enormous amount of music in the town’s history. Living on the river’s edge keeps me close to the harmony of nature. The Canada Geese playing early in the morning, the howling wind, water rushing over the dam, crickets and katydids on a warm summer evening, the cracking of ice falling from the trees all call me to the body of life in its fullest.
When I started reading books by David A. Mark and Paul Boothroyd, about our small Mill Town, I came across the early marching bands in Maynard’s history and a famous local musician by the name of Waino Nickoli Kauppi. I read in Paul Boothroyd’s and Lewis Halprin’s Images of America: Maynard, Massachusetts, that…
This boy wonder on the cornet became the most prominent of all of Maynard’s individual artists. At 12 years of age, in 1911, he was triple-tonguing at a band concert on a chair, so that he could be seen. He played with Teel’s Band in Boston, and was listed with the White Bureau for concerts. He played with McEnelly’s Dance Orchestra, did theater work in New York, including the Ziegfield Follies, and played with Goldman’s Band on the radio. He was considered the best cornetist in the country. He died in New York City on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1932. (p.40)
His story started to expand further for me by perusing information online. I found a post regarding a 2017 phone conversation with Paul Boothroyd and a “Mr. Know-it-all”. Waino had started playing with Teel’s Band of Boston when he was 14! He was only 16 or 17 when he started working in NYC during 1915 when he joined the McEnelly’s Dance Orchestra as a featured artist and did theater work. “How could such a young boy survive the lack of security and fast living in NYC?” I asked myself. Did his parents need the money?
It was difficult to find more specific information from books about Waino. The Maynard Historical Society was an obvious source for historical data, so that I joined the organization and first searched online for what I could learn there. At the time, there was not much available, but I wrote an email and asked to make a visit. I was lucky to come across some intriguing bits and pieces with the help of a kind volunteer.
We found a marriage certificate that included the name of his wife, the 1919 date of his wedding, and the names of his father and mother. There was even information about him having joined the Military. The correct number for the box in the Maynard Historical Society presented me with a trail to follow. But, the picture was still unclear and didn’t answer questions I had like, “Why did he die so young? Are there any Kauppis living in the area now?” And especially, “Are there any solo recordings of Waino playing the cornet?”
I started to write out the dates I had uncovered in order to create a more cohesive picture. In 1905 Maynard had a bandstand donated by Abel G. Haynes for political rallies and parade meet-ups at the corner of Main Street and Walnut Street. Waino and his family immigrated sometime before 1911. On November 14, 1913, the Maynard Selectmen put a ban on “animal dances,” (the Bear Hug, the Turkey Trot, and the Fox Trot among others) with support of clergy and a majority of adult citizens. Then, in 1915 a rift between the Maynard Brass Band and the Finnish Imatra Band caused the bandstand to be moved out of the center of town. Waino was one of the Finnish musicians, but; by now he was gone. The discord in the town may well have driven him to find work elsewhere.
The various cultural groups’ marching bands in town had long been involved in the parades, and they were often part of the dance hall revelries and political events. Along with the indoor sites, outdoor performance was alive and well when Waino Kauppi immigrated from Finland to Maynard. This town was a destination place for many with a hotel, a huge Music Hall, several dance halls, and frequent sports and political speakers for entertainment. We do know “the boy wonder” was performing with the Imatra Band in 1911, standing on a chair to be seen.
Though I haven’t been able to answer all of my questions about this talented child from Maynard, my appetite for more information has been whetted, I continue to go to the Maynard Public Library and read more about Waino Kauppi and his Suomi Orchestra visits to Finland. I have heard about the “Honeysuckle Polka” and listened to “On a Beautiful Summer Night” recorded in 1927. I found a couple of McEnelly Band recordings that have a dynamite cornet player who must have been Waino. Kauppi. I will write more about what else I discovered and am still unearthing by the end of 2019. If you have any new information, please let me know.