For the first time in 46 years, the Quaker City String Band will dance through Philadelphia’s Mummers Parade without the iconic Bob Shannon, who served as captain for 37 of those years.

Shannon, a 6-foot-10 force who couldn’t be missed as he led the band through parades across the United States and Europe, was known as the “most famous Mummer all across the world," said Harry Brown, the string band’s president. Shannon, 71, of Blackwood, died in his sleep of a stroke March 4, just a day after marching in Gloucester City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

The string band not only lost Shannon this year, but also five other members: Joe Volkert, James Shallow Sr., Charles Rowan Sr., Reese Davis, and William “Scat” Powers. The group is dedicating its New Year’s Day performance to Shannon and the others, and will host a moment of silence and give speeches before beginning the march.

“It’s going to be sad, it’s unfortunate, but we will do what Bob will want us to do and continue our tradition,” Brown said.

Bob Shannon Jr., captain of Quaker City String Band, during the Mummers Parade in 1988. The string band's theme that year was "Last Wound Up."
Bob Shannon Jr., captain of Quaker City String Band, during the Mummers Parade in 1988. The string band's theme that year was "Last Wound Up."

Shannon retired as capatin in 2008 after experiencing health problems, yet continued to march with the group. Health issues totally sidelined him two years ago, but he continued to attend and watch the march. He had participated in parades since he was 11, playing saxophone and following in the footsteps of his father, also a longtime member of Quaker City.

Under Shannon’s leadership, Quaker City won the top honor nine times. Captains are also judged for their performance, and Shannon won first place in that category seven times, a Mummers historian told The Inquirer last year.

Brown said that he hopes the memories of Shannon and the others will offer some “spiritual help” in the band’s quest to be back-to-back Mummers Parade champs.