Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote a poem about them. Amy Tan’s mother was serenaded by them as she lay in state. Jessica Mitford’s memorial procession was led by them. And more than 300 Chinese families a year hire the Green Street Mortuary Band to give their loved ones a proper and musical send-off through the streets of Chinatown. The band traces its roots back to 1911 and the Cathay Chinese Boys Band, the first marching group in Chinatown.
The Green Street Mortuary Band, made up of mostly Italians playing Christian hymns and dirges, accompanies traditional Chinese funeral processions through the streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Tubas, gongs, firecrackers and spirit money tossed in the air, ward off evil spirits and carry on a tradition that dates back to 1911.