Farm’s history leads author to investigate cowboy band history By Natasha Mitchell - 09/17/2008 NewsOK.com
Author Carla Chlouber became intrigued with the history behind the farm on which she spent part of her childhood. The farm was once the homestead of the family of Otto Gray, who was the leader of the Oklahoma Cowboy Band after Rough Rider Billy McGinty stepped down.
Chlouber's extensive dedication and research led to "The Oklahoma Cowboy Band” (Arcadia Publishing, $19.99), which features more than 200 vintage images of the first Western string band. The Oklahoma Cowboy Band, Chlouber wrote, was the first in the nation to broadcast over the radio and appear on the vaudeville circuit. The band began in Ripley as Billy McGinty's Cowboy Band and first played on radio station KFRU in Bristow in May 1925. Initially viewed as a "hillbilly” band, the band's name later changed when members began wearing cowboy boots and hats and singing cowboy songs.
The book's photos are culled from archives of the Cherokee Strip Land Rush Museum, the Washington Irving Trail Museum and from the band members' families. McGinty, the band's first leader, was a Rough Rider with Teddy Roosevelt and later a member of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.
Readers also will learn about Otto Gray, a trick roper who took the band on the vaudeville circuit; his wife, Mommie Gray, who was the group's female singer; and son Owen Gray, who did comedy routines as the "Uke Buster.”
The band's contributions led to the cowboy image being firmly associated with country music. Chlouber's use of photos tells the story more vividly than ingesting a lot of prose.
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