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John Reginald Kehoe

Musician / Performer / Teacher

Born: 11 February 1901, Columbia, Pennsylvania USA

Died: 10 February 1978, Lancaster, Pennsylvania USA

John Reginald Kehoe (on stage, he was simply 'Reg Kehoe') was called "The Marimba King" along the East Coast of the United States, in some circles, he was known as "The Marimba Maestro." Reg Kehoe and His Marimba Queens was one of the most sought-after musical groups to come out of Lancaster County. As a young lad taking piano lessons from his mother in Columbia, he later became a well respected teacher of drums, accordion, and marimba, beginning around 1920—teaching up to the age of 73. He maintained a music studio on the fourth floor  of the Buch Music House (formerly, Troup's) at 38 West King in Lancaster.

Reg Kehoe was born to Andrew Thomas Kehoe (1874-1939) and Anna Elwilda Detz (1872-1944). At the time of Reg's birth in 1901, the Kehoe's lived at 805 Locust Street, Columbia. A few years later, they relocated to 33 South Sixth Street. After Andrew's passing, Reg's brother, J. Kenneth Kehoe (a noted musician in his own right), took over the house and cared for his mother until her passing.


Reginald Kehoe started out playing marimba for various other established bands in the early 1920s. In 1924, he went on his first tour with a band that accompanied Ruth Malcolmson, one of the early Miss Americas. He organized his first band in 1930. It was an instant hit. As his show developed, young ladies were playing both the marimba and accordion. The act included dance routines which were directed by his wife, Fern Henry Kehoe. She remained with his band throughout its 32-year history. 

His band was usually comprised of 5 to 7 young ladies, plus an idiosyncratic character from Hershey, Frank DiNunzio, who mastered upright slap bass (watch the video and hold on to your hat). Reg Kehoe and band gave more than 4,000 performances and appeared in such venues as the Steel Pier and Hamid's Million Dollar Pier at Atlantic City. Another memorable engagement was playing the old Madison Square Garden, in NYC. Years later, Madrenenn Greer Yoder of Pequea, one of the ladies in the band, recalled a gig in a Broadway club, with Jackie Gleason acting as bartender and master of ceremonies. 


Over the decades, Reg and his various bands shared equal billings with the likes of Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and the Dorsey Brothers. He and his band played the 'state fair circuit' from Maine to Florida and into the mid-West. They toured Western Canada twice. In a world that's seen a lot of swing kings, rhythm monarchs, and stick-wavers in past decades, Reg Kehoe's unique ensemble and stage performance stood alone.  

Reginald and his wife, Fern, share a final resting place at Mount Bethel Cemetery, Columbia. 

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