In addition to his work for NBC, Meredith Wilson composed orchestral and chamber works including two symphonies, film scores, popular songs such as It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas and musicals. The best known of these, The Music Man, opened on Broadway in 1957, winning a "Tony" award for best musical and the first "Grammy" award for best cast album. It has been adapted twice for film (1962 and 2003).
Meredith Wilson attended a commissioning of Salvation Army Officers in San Francisco, where the words of the Cadets pledge; "to love the unloved" and "seek the lost" stirred him deeply.
Years later, in New York, he heard a distant drum beat and turned to see another group of smartly uniformed Cadets with their colourful banners marching to Sunday meetings. The words of the Cadet's pledge again rang in Wilson's ears and from this experience came his tribute to the Salvation Army, the song Banners and Bonnets which aired on NBC's Big Show in 1952. Subsequently a recording, featuring the American female vocalist Eugenie Baird, was made and samples sent to radio stations throughout the USA. No commercial copies were issued. The record is unusual in that it is a ten inch, 78 rpm, vinyl.
Brigadier Richard Holz, who was for many years head of the USA Eastern Music Department and Bandmaster of the New York Staff Band (NYSB), obtained permission from Meredith Wilson to arrange and publish the song for Salvation Army use and it was featured by the NYSB during their 1962 tour of Great Britain, with Major Olof Lundgren as soloist. The arrangement later appeared in the General Series Band Journal and became the signature tune of the BBC's Banners and Bonnets radio show, which aired on Sunday Mornings during the 1970's.