Hear the phrase “cowboy band” and you might think of singing cowboys like Gene Autry or maybe a western string band beating out jigs and reels on fiddles and guitars for a country dance. But in Dodge City in the 1880s the cowboy band was a whole different animal. Sporting cornets, tubas and other horns, the Dodge City Cowboy Band brought cow culture to the brass band craze of the late 19th century and drew both praise and criticism for its popularity. In its promotion of Kansas cattle interests, the band spread new myths about cowboys' genteel respectability and perpetuated old myths of cowboys as desperadoes. Selected materials on cowboy bands are now available on Kansas Memory.
This 1889 roster shows the band with twenty-three members and standard brass/wind instrumentation for the period, including many horns we would hardly recognize today.
This photo shows some members of the Dodge City Cowboy Band on a round-up in Indian Territory, possibly in the 1890s. The photo may have been a publicity stunt meant to prove that band members were "real" cowboys.
Additional materials on cowboy bands are available by searching "cowboy band." See Community Life - Arts and Entertainment - Music - Musicians - Bands for more materials on bands in Kansas. See Business and Industry - Occupations/Professions - Cowboys for more materials on cowboys in Kansas.
For more information on the Dodge City Cowboy Band see Clifford Westermeier's article "The Dodge City Cowboy Band." Kansas Historical Quarterly v19 n1 (February 1951) : 1-11.