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They're Playing Our Song - Part 6

Community Bands in Kansas

Dodge City Cow-Boy Band, 1884.

Cowboy Bands

Symbols of pride for a town and its cattle industry, cowboy bands were formed in several western states. Kansas boasted cowboy bands in Dodge City, Sharon Springs, and Dickinson County.

Dodge City Cow-Boy Band

The Dodge City Cow-Boy Band (top, right) was the earliest of its kind, organized in 1879. Members sported unique uniforms of cowboy hats, leather leggings, spurs, and pistols. The director used his nickel-plated six-shooter as a baton.

Dodge City Cow-Boy Band chaps, courtesy of Boot Hill Museum.These chaps (top, left; courtesy of Boot Hill Museum) were worn by a member of the band in the 1880s.

Questions regarding the authenticity of members as "real" cowboys arose several times during the band's existence. Founder Chalk Beeson made it clear that all members were "old cowboys who had spent the past ten years in the West and on the ranch . . . . I have boys in my band who can throw a steer over a horse."

The Dodge City band's greatest triumph was marching in President Benjamin Harrison's inaugural parade in 1889. Led in the parade by "Buffalo Bill" Cody, the band reportedly was the greatest attraction that day. Following this engagement, the group disbanded and their equipment was sold to an Idaho cowboy band.

Clarinet from Sharon Springs Cowboy Band.Sharon Springs Cowboy Band

Floyd Carter played this clarinet in the Sharon Springs Cowboy Band after returning from the Navy in World War I.


Gillette's Cow Boy Band

G.G. Gillette's Cow Boy Band from Dickinson County appeared at events from Abilene to Kansas City around the turn of the century.

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They're Playing Our Song: Community Bands in Kansas is an online exhibit developed by the Kansas Museum of History.

  1. Military Bands
  2. Town Bands
  3. Music in the Schools
  4. Fraternal Bands
  5. Railroad Bands
  6. Cowboy Bands
  7. Ethnic Folk Bands
  8. Circus Bands
  9. Bandwagons and Bandstands

Contact us at kshs.kansasmuseum@ks.gov