One of the most interesting pieces of western history has to do with the formation and continuation of the Dodge City Cowboy Band. It was organized sometime in 1881 and played at various places including the famed Long Branch Saloon. I had the opportunity to visit that saloon before they tore down all the buildings on Front Street. I was a small boy and my grandfather on my mother's side, went there to pay his union dues. I may have been 10 or 12 years old at the time. The buildings were tall three story affairs and the stores very narrow and reached many times from the street to the alley. I recall how old and musty and just plain drab it was. Old plaster walls with wooden floors and a long bar down the east side of the wall.
The early band had the opportunity to play many venues including in the Tabor House in Denver made famous by the mining magnate and his wife the famed Baby Doe Tabor. They also played in Washington D.C. for the inauguration of President Benjamin Harrison. There were many professional musicians in this original band and it was known for its fantastic selection of music. The band leader kept time to the music with a nickel plated revolver and of course this was a hit everywhere they went.
I am trying to ascertain the year of this and as near as I can tell its about 1911. This would put his age at 22 and it seems about right for his face. My son looks a lot like this photo of my grandfather and that's interesting to me as well. The accompanying photo is of the later band of which my grandfather, Fred Kirkpatrick, Sr., was a member. He can be seen reclining on the front row, lower left, with the tuba and his hat turned up. Quite a cavalier photo.
The band continues to this day and they perform in Dodge city on special occasions. They have a face book page located at,
I have many recollections of my grandfather smiling as he told the stories of playing in that band. The First World War came along shortly after that and I think it changed him in a lot of ways. But those stories are for another day and another blog.