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Theodore Finney (1827-1899)

Theodore Finney came to Detroit in 1857 from Columbus Ohio. He became a well-known violinist and bandleader.

He formed a band with his good friend, partner, and fellow violinist John Bailey. The Bailey and Finney Orchestra had become extremely successful and was among the first bands to feature syncopated music. The orchestra was a popular ensemble that performed on excursion boats and special events. It was also considered a “society band” and played at swanky parties at Harmonie Hall, Detroit Boat Club, and at the Masons’ famous St. Valentine’s Day Ball. They played waltzes and quadrilles and then would step it up, adding syncopated music as well.

After Bailey’s death, Finney reorganized the orchestra and for several years it performed on the Frank Kirby steamer that traveled the river between Detroit and Sandusky, Ohio.

Finney was a gifted and versatile man with interests in music, business and a host of civic affairs. For over 20 years his orchestra would be an important institution and served as training ground for some of Detroit’s finest musicians. He employed and mentored musicians who would become very influential in Detroit’s ragtime and jazz culture, including violinist and bandleader Ben Shook, jazz cornetist W. Jack Johnson, and bandleader Fred Stone.

Finney died in 1899 and is buried in Section O, Lot 80.

Theodore Finney