Sousa became conductor of the United States Marine Corps band in 1880. He had some success with his earliest works like "The Gladiator" (1886), but his first big hit with the public was "Semper Fidelis".
This march is sometimes thought to be the prototype for American marches. Until "Semper Fidelis", American marches had taken European marches as their models. It was "the first musical composition to receive the official recognition of the United States government." "Semper Fidelis" is the only march authorized for a service by Congress. The USMC uses it for the march-pasts in parades and reviews. It was played along the parade route for Bill Clinton's second inauguration. The march has an AaBbCcDd form. Its meter is 6/8. Other marches by Sousa are "The Stars and Stripes Forever" and "The Washington Post".