25 March 2013


As someone interested in both the history of the English Language and the history of  bands, I was pleased to come across the origin of the expression 'one-night stand'.

In the early days of the brass band movement in America (I'm talking of the middle of the Nineteenth Century), most concerts were given in the open air. At that time, not many towns had yet built permanent bandstands. So some of the bands had their own bandstand in portable kit form.

Rather like the equipment of travelling circuses, the portable bandstand could be erected for a single performance and dismantled afterwards. That is why such bandstands became known as 'one-night stands'; and that is the origin of the expression.
Half-way Stage - between One-Night Stands and Permanent Bandstands
These bandstands were moved around on horse-drawn carts. And incidentally, carts themselves were often used as 'bandstands'. Later, as in the photograph below, motorised transport was used in a similar way.

It's interesting how such expressions change their usage over the decades. People today speak of a 'one-night stand' without any idea that the original 'stand' was a bandstand.
Here's an English jazz band on the back of a truck in the 1950s.
Even in more modern times, bands sometimes appear on the backs of carts. Here's a jazz band in Wisbech, England, in the 1980s. Incidentally, the boy on banjo is Sean Moyses, who went on to turn professional and become recognised as one of the best banjo players in the world.
And here is another: very much a modern one-night (or one-day) stand.