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Flashback Friday: Cowboy Band Edition

August 5th, 2016

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 28,000 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Photograph of the KU Cowboy Band in front of a bandstand, 1941-1942

KU Cowboy Band in front of a bandstand, 1941-1942.
Note that the bass drum says “University of Kansas Band.”
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 22/1/m 1941/1942 Prints:
Fine Arts: University Bands: Marching Band (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of the KU Cowboy Band on a race track, 1941-1942

KU Cowboy Band on a race track, 1941-1942. The image is stamped on back
“R. R. Doubleday, 2523 Ave. A, Council Bluffs, Iowa,” indicating that this picture
was probably taken by renowned rodeo photographer Ralph R. Doubleday.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 22/1/m 1941/1942 Prints:
Fine Arts: University Bands: Marching Band (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

A Lawrence Journal-World article from October 27, 1942, described the Cowboy Band.

The cowboy band, made up of the topflight members of the University of Kansas band, which has played at fairs and rodeos the past two summers is fast growing into a permanent organization at the University, Russell L. Wiley, band director, said today…

The summer trips for the group, which dresses in cowboy boots, big hats and crimson or blue silk shirts, are apparently over for the duration but there are strong possibilities that they will hit the big rodeo circuit in a big way when the war has ended.

Last year the group played for the Sydney, Ia., rodeo, one of the big wild west shows of the country. As a result of that engagement they now have been approached by the management of rodeos including the famous Frontier Days at Cheyenne, Wyo., Madison Square Garden, the Boston Garden, the Empire State fair, Billings, Mont., Fortuna, Calif., and Midland, Tex. Bids have come for the group to play at the Ft. Worth Livestock show and the Little Rock, Ark., Livestock show.

Because Neodesha, Kan., two summers ago, found itself in desperate need of a small band organization to furnish music for its rodeo and called Wiley for help, the band was organized.

The type of music played and the scintillation of its arrangement appeals to both the brilliant young musicians, who formed the organization, and the public, who heard it each day for three hours at rodeos and clamored for more.

In scarcely 18 months the Cowboy band has been developed into a distinct organization with a repertoire of about 115 numbers. Last summer it had been booked for five weeks, but this schedule was set aside in large part because of the war and the cancellation of many fairs and rodeos.

At Sidney the band hit its stride. The members played a total of nearly six hours a day, and yet the youth and vigor of its membership showed no evidence of fatigue. The last numbers of the day’s program were given with the elan of an opening performance.

The group developed a reputation as a singing band and a little humor is injected now and then as well as the singing of popular songs like “Jingle Jangle” and “The Last Roundup.”

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt, Megan Sims, and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants