Merle Evans was born December 26, 1891, in Columbus, Kansas. Evans learned to play at a young age, but sold newspapers and worked as a bellhop to help his family. Evans began playing coronet for a carnival band, and held several other jobs with traveling bands. In 1919 Evans was hired as the bandleader for the newly formed Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Evans became known as “Toscanini of the Big Top.” Evans also recorded and directed bands throughout the United States and Europe. He was with the circus for 50 years before his formal retirement in 1969. Evans was inducted into the international circus hall of fame in 1975 and received many awards during his career as a bandleader. Evans died December 31, 1987, in Sarasota, Florida.
Entry: Evans, Merle
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2012
Date Modified: January 2016
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