African-American Bandleaders in American Circuses

a chronology, 1874-1974

Chronology of African-American Bandleaders in American Circuses

1824
Francis Johnson, bandleader for Joseph Cowell Circus (BWag 58.1: 2014)

1858
J. Mulligan, negro singer, with Sands Elephant Show. NYClip Jun 26, 1858, 78079

1860
Robinson & Lake’s Circus Company with Negro Show. NYC June 23 1860: 78-79

1863
Thayer & Noyes’ Great United States Circus with company of negro performers NYClip April 11, 1863: 414

1866
Jno. Robinson’s Circus attacked at Crittenden, KY April 25 by Regulators wanting to regulate “the negroes,” reign of terror. NYClip May 5, 1866: 30-31.

1867
John Robinson Circus & Menagerie, trouble w/ negro performers on sideshow, run by Frank Rosston. NYClip Oct 26, 1867: 230-31.

1887
S.H. Barrett Circus w/ Solomon P. White in it but not leader OoS 376

1889
Sells Brothers Circus B&M with Solomon P. White OoS 376

1890
Washburn & Arlington Shows with Dan Chaver’s Colored Band & White Cloud’s Troupe of Indians. NYClip Mar 29, 1890: 27, 46, 47

June: ad for 10 p colored band for Wm W. Davis & Co’s RR Shows, Circus, Museum & Menagerie. NYClip June 14, 1890 215, 223, 224

1890-1902
Eph Williams Circus, Prof. Williams’ Great Northern Shows with band, 1890-1893 (Jensen: 103)

1891
April: Walter L. Main’s New Monster RR Shows, Double Circus, Roman Hippodrome, Elevated State, Menagerie, Museum, Aquarium & Free Horse Show, with Prof J.O. McNutt’s colored brass band & jubilee singers. NYClipApril 11, 1891: 74, 76, 79

Washburn & Arlington’s New United Shows, Wild East, Wild West, Circus, Menagerie, Hippodrome & Congress of Nations, with colored band in annex.

McCabe’s Colored Minstrels being run by Geo W. Orrin of Orrin Bros Circus. NYClip April 25, 1891, 17 et al.

Washburn & Arlington’s New United Shows, Wild East, Wild West, Circus, Menagerie, Hipodrome & Congress of Nations with Prof Simus 8-p colored band. SoS 376

1892
Snyder & Zimmerman’s Colossal Colored Carnival BB Mar, 2, 1912: 22-25

Miles Orton’s Show with Prof. W.H. Jacobs’ Colored Band, 8-p. SoS 37

Hunting’s Circus with Prof Payne’s Colored Female Band NYClip Feb. 6, 1892: 792 etc,

Sells Bros Circus with Prof. C.W. Jones, cornetist, colored band & Sells & Renfrow Circus with prof C.W. Jones band leader NYClip Oct 1, 1892: 472

April: Miles Orton’s Show with Prof. W.H. Jacobs’ Colored Band. NYClip April 2, 1892: 50, 64

Orrin’s still running McCabe’s Colored Minstrels. NYClip April 16, 1892 82 etc.

Walter L. Main’s Show with Baldwin Allen leader of colored band, 8-p OoS 377

NYClip April 1

July: Cook & Whitby’s Circus w/ 15 colored musicians. NYClip July 16, 1892: 292

1893
Walter L. Main’s sideshow band, led by Prof J.O. McNutt colored band, OoS 378

Cook & Whitby’s English and American Circus with the Black Hussar Band & Jubilee Singers OoS 378

Great Wallace Show with C.W. Jones’ colored 10-p band OoS 377

1894
Huntington’s Circus & Menagerie with Prof Jacobs’ colored band opens Mar 31. NYClip Mar 31, 1894: 53 etc.

Sells & Rentfrow’s circus with [James] Wolfscale’s Algerian Band & Jubilee Singers OoS 378

Wallace Circus with Jones’ Peerless Black Hussar Band and Sunny Brook Quartet OoS 379

Aug.: Cook & Whidby’s Circus w/ Prof Jones’ Black Hussar Band & Rooster Orchestra OoS 379

1895
Walter L. Main’s sideshow band, led by Prof J.O. McNutt colored band, OoS 379

Wallace Circus with Jones’ Peerless Black Hussar Band and Sunny Brook Quartet OoS 379

1896
Forepaugh & Sells Minstrels band, P.T. Wright’s Nashville Students Wright, leader, w/ Mose, Dan F. Desdunes

1896
Forepaugh – Sells M&B with Sol White bandleader

1898
Forepaugh & Sells Minstrels band, P.T. Wright’s Nashville Students under direction of PG Lowery (Wright having died in March); Lowery left company in June to perform at Omaha Expo World’s Fair

1899
Forepaugh-Sells Bros. Circus, P.G. Lowery’s Band & Vaudeville company BiB 159

1900
Forepaugh-Sells Bros. Circus, P.G. Lowery’s Band & Vaudeville company BiB 159

1901
William Sells & James H. Gray United Shows, Prof James Wolfscale dir. of annex band BB May 4, 1901: 30

Forepaugh-Sells Bros. Circus, P.G. Lowery’s Band & Vaudeville company BiB 159

1902
Sells & Downs Circus with James Wolfscale’s band BB. Feb. 15, 1902:11

Forepaugh-Sells Bros. Circus, P.G. Lowery’s Band & Vaudeville company BiB 159

May: Howe’s Great London Circus opens w/ 2 white bands & one black band led by Harry Pramplin w/ Laura Pramplin, cornet soloist GW 253

June: Buckskin Bill Show with Prof Reed’s colored band & cake walkers. BB Jun 7, 1902: 4, 5, 6

Sept.: Cheatham’s Colored Cake Walkers & Jubilee Singers BB Sept. 27, 1902: 6, 8.

1903
Captain Stewart’s Family Shows with Walter Lyons Colored cake Walkers & Jubilee Singers & Buck & Wing dancers, his 12 yr w/ show BB Feb. 7, 1903: 8, 14, 15

Baldwin-Melville Circus advertising for colored band to give concert & minstrel entertainment BB: Mar 28, 1903: 12

Sig Sautelle Shows with Prof Lumford Davis’s Colored Coon Shouters & Jubilee Singers BB Mar 14, 1903: 10, 11.

Gollmar Brothers Shows with Frank Prins’ Colored Jubilee Singers BB: July 11, 1903: 9, 10

Louella Forepaugh-Fish Shows, with P.G. Lowery’s band and vaudeville company

1904
Welsh Bros. Show, Prof Louis Gilbert’s jubilee singers & brass band NYClip May 28, 1904: 327

Forepaugh-Sells Bros. Circus, P.G. Lowery’s Band & Vaudeville company BiB 159

1905
Campbell Bros Consolidated R.R. Shows, JC O’brien mgr. Prof Reed’s Tennessee Minstrels (black?) NY Clip June 17, 1905, 431

Great Wallace Circus, P.G. Lowery’s Band & Vaudeville company BiB 159

1906
Forepaugh-Sells Bros. Circus, P.G. Lowery’s Band & Vaudeville company BiB 159

1907
Hagenbeck – Wallace Shows w/ PG Lowery Concert & Minstrel Company w/ roster 1907 Show world Circul incl. Wm May Tom May & Billy Arnte.
         Lowery’s Sunflower Minstrels & Creole Belles is name given to show in NY Clipper (w/ sideshow cast but not band roster) May 16, 1908

March: John Robinson Circus with William H. Reid’s colored band.  BB Mar. 16, 1907: 35, 50, 58, 76-77

Norris & Rowe Circus with [white?] Walter Shannon’s colored band BB Mar 23, 1907 30-32.

May: Frank A. Robbins Show with W.H. Jacob’s Colored B&M. BB May 11, 1907: 18, 23,24

1908
Ringling Bros. has no colored band this season BiB 163

Sells-Floto Circus, [Bismarck] Ferris’s Satisfied Musical Entertainers biB 183

July: Campbell Bros. Circus, Prof. C.H. Clark’s Colored B&M. BB: July 11, 1908: 16, 17

1909
March: John Robinson Circus with Alex A. Berry’s Colored Band & Concert Col. BB March 13, 1909: 19, 40

Sells-Floto Circus, [Bismarck] Ferris’s Satisfied Musical Entertainers biB 183

Welsh Great American Show, Col. M.H. Welsh owner/mgr, colored band for side show dir. by Roy A. Temple NYClip July 10: 556 [also BB July 10, 1909 18-20]

Oct.: Frank A. Robbins Circus with Anderson’s Colored Band. BB Oct 9, 1909: 18-20

1910
Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, [Bismarck] Ferris’s Satisfied Musical Entertainers biB 183

Young Buffalo’s Wild West, Billy Harris’s band & Georgia Minstrels BB July 2, 1910

Jones Bros. Buffalo Ranch Wild West, Jas. Wolfscale’s Georgia Minstrels, BB sept 3, 1910: 30 [w/ Roy & Troy Wolfscale]

Forepaugh – Sells, Annex B&M, Alex N. Parker, orc leader, Thomas May band leader, H.L. Rawles gen mgr NYClip July 23, 1919: 582

1911
Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, [Bismarck] Ferris’s Satisfied Musical Entertainers biB 183

Sparks Circus with Alonzo Turner B&M BB: Aug. 9, 1913: 23, 24

Downie & Wheeler Shows with Palmer’s Colored Band. BB May 13, 1911: 30, 33.

Downie & Wheel3r side show with Clark Bros. Colored Band & Georgia Minstrels. BB: July 1, 1911: 24-27

W.H. Coulter’s Railroad Shows, W.R. Bell & 12 colored fun makers, BB Apr 15, 1911: 27-29

May: Hagenbeck & Wallace Circus, P. G. Lowery’s Band & Minstrels roster BiB

Howe’s Great London Circus, H.L. Rawles’s B&M roster BiB

Ringling Bros., R. Roy Pope’s Band roster BiB

June: Forepaugh & Sells Bros., James Wolfscale’s B&M roster BiB

July: Young Buffalo’s wild West, W. I. Horne’s B&M roster BiB

Buffalo Bill Wild West, Bismark Ferris’s B&M roster BiB

Aug.: Mighty Haag Shows with Walter Deans Colored Band & Minstrels BB Aug. 5, 1911: 26

Sept.: Kit Carson’s Buffalo Ranch WW, Grant Cooper’s B&M roster BiB

1912
Sparks Circus with cornetist Alonzo Turner B&M BB: Aug. 9, 1913: 23, 24

Feb.: J.W. Moore & Son’s one-ring circus, w/ Prof Lawrence Nelson & b&M colored musicians. BB Feb. 1,1912: 22, 23, 50

May: Ringling Bros, R. Roy Pope’s Band roster BiB

Young Buffalo’s WWS, W. L. Horne’s B&M roster BiB

June: Kit Carson’s Buffalo Ranch, A. Turner’s B&M roster BiB
Haag Show with Prof Nelson’s colored band BB: June 29, 1912: 38, 39, 78.

July: Gollmar Bros. Circus, James A. Harris’s B&M roster BiB

Two Bills Show, Bismark Ferris’s Satisfied Co. roster BiB

Yankee Robinson’s Circus, John Eason’s B&M roster BiB

Aug.: Hagenbeck & Wallace Circus, P.G. Lowery’s B&M roster BiB

1913
Jan.: Yankee Robinson Circus & Texas Bill’s Wild west Annex with Prof Bridgewater’s Colored Band & Concert Company. BB Jan3, 1913: 22,30

May: Barnum & Bailey Circus James Wlfscale’s B&M roster BiB

101 Wild West, LK Baker’s B&M roster BiB

Frank A. Robbins Circus, John Eason’s B&M roster BiB

June: Hagenbeck & Wallace Sho, PG Lowery’s B&M roster BiB

Howe’s Gt. London Circus, Annex Band & M roster BiB

Gollmar Bros. Circus, James Harris’s B&M roster BiB

July: Ringling Bros. Circus, P.A. Venable’s Band roster BiB

August: Rentz Bros. Circus with Prof Willis’ Colored Band & Jubilee Singers BB AUg. 30, 1913: 24, 26, 27

Sept.: Young Buffalo’s WW, William H. Reed’s B&M roster BiB

[end of season]

Sparks Circus, Prof Murdock’s B&M roster BiB

1914
Wheeler Bros. Shows with D.W. Batsell’s colored B&M BB Jan 24, 1914: 22-25.

John Robinson Circus, J.B. Forester sideshow band BiB 192

March: Barnum & Bailey, James Wolfscale’s Black Hussar’s Military Concert Band  32-p. roster BiB

April: Tompkins Wild West & Cooper-Whitby Circus with Ethel Tucker’s colored ladies band BB: Apr. 4, 1914: 22-25

May: Circle D Wild West, Pop Adams’ B&M. IF 5.2314: 6 nt

Sparks Circus with Prof. Wright has in his colored band Mack Carter, Isaiah Wildes, Eugene Peterson, Tony Barnfield, Sam Kennedy and J. J. Clark, and for vocalists, Dorothy Burton and Cleo Potette. BB: May 16,1914: 18, 28, 29, 30, 31, 59.

Jones Bros & Wilson’s Circus, J.C. Miles’s B&M roster BiB

Gollmar Bros Circus, James A. Harris’s B&M roster IF 6.20.14: 6 nt

June: 101 Ranch, L.K. Baker’s B&M roster IF 10.10.14: 6 Notes

July: Young Buffalo Show, Edward Rucker’s B&M roster BiB

Robinson’s Famous Shows, Eugene Clark’s Band roster IF 10.31.14: 5 nt

Ringling Bros. Roy Pope & Band IF 10.31.14: 5 nt

1915
John Robinson Circus, Eugene Clark’s Minstrels, Jerry Martin annex bandleader BiB 192

April: Jones Bros & Wilson’s Circus, J.C. Miles’s B&M BiB 179

Ringling Bros. Circus, H. Roy Pope’s Annex Band roster BiB

Sparks Circus, A.A. Wright’s B&M roster BiB

May: Yankee Robinson’s Three-Ring Circus, John Eason’s B&M roster BiB

Barnum & Bailey Circus, James Wolfscale’s Band roster BiB

101 Ranch, L.K. Baker’s B&M roster BiB

Gollmar bros. Circus, James A. Harris’s B&M roster BiB

July: Robinson’s Famous Shows, Eugene Clark’s B&M roster BiB

Nov: 101 Ranch Shows, LK Baker’s Annex Band roster BiB

1916
opening season:
Barnum & Bailey Circus, Wolfscale’s B&M roster BiB

Jones Bros & Wilson’s Circus, J.C. Miles’s B&M BiB 180

Cole Bros. Circus, J.C. Jones & Co. IF 4.22.16 rt

Smith’s Greater Shows, Old Kentucky Minstrels, C.M. Haring, mgr & dir.    IF 4.22.16: 6 nt

John Robinson Shows, Eugene Clark’s Band & Co. IF 10.28.16: 5 rt

April: 101 Ranch, L.K. Baker’s Annex Band roster BiB

Yankee Robinson, Pop Adams’s Annex B&M roster BiB

May: Le Tena Shows, Eugene Clark’s B&M roster BiB

Ringling Bros Circus, P.A. Venable Band roster BiB

Sparks Circus, AA Wright’s B&M roster BiB

Wheeler Bros. Circus, Martin Bros. Band & Minstrels. IF 5.20.16 (5) rts

Orton Bros. Circus, Homer Butler’s B&M IF 5.20.16 (5) rts

Cole Bros. Circus, J.C. Miles Band & Co. IF 5.13.16:5 rt

June: Howe’s Gt London Shows, R.N Jackson’s Band roster BiB

Gollmar Bros. Circus, James Harris’s B&M roster BiB

Coop & Lentz Three-Ring Circus, JS Riggers’s ANnex Band roster BiB

Sept: Hagenbeck & Wallace Circus, PG Lowery’s B&M roster BiB. Photo OoS 377

1917
J.H. Eschman Circus, R.H. Loveless’s Band BiB 201

Gollmar Bros. Circus, James Harris’s B&M BiB 177

Yankee Robinson Circus,  Edwdard Rucker’s Band BiB 201

April: Cole Bros. Circus, J.C. Miles B&M BiB 181

John W. Sparks’ Big Shows, Arthur A. Wright’s B&M roster BiB

La Tena’s Circus, Eugene Clark’s Band roster BiB

May: Hagenbeck & Wallace Circus, PG Lowery’s B&M roster BiB

John Robinson Circus, R.N Jackson’s B&M roster BiB

June: Barnum & Bailey Show, James Wolfscale’s Band roster BiB

July: Coop & Lentz Circus, J.S. Riggers’s B&M roster BiB

Honest Bill Show, Elmer Payne’s Band roster BiB

Aug. : Al G. Barnes Circus, Bismark Ferris’s B&M roster BiB

Sept. John Robinson Circus, Cornetist T.E[verett] White’s B&M roster BiB

Ringling Bros. Circus, PA Venable’s Band roster BiB

Jess Willard-Buffalo Bill Wild West, LK Baker’s B&M roster BiB

1918
John Robinson Circus, Robert Clark’s B&M roster BiB

Barnum & Bailey Show, James Wolfscale’s Band roster BiB

June: John Robinson Circus, Marcus Veal’s B&M roster BiB

July: Cole Bros. Circus, J.C. Miles B&M BiB 182

Aug.: Hagenbeck & Wallace Circus, LK Baker’s Band roster BiB

1919
John Robinson Circus, Eugene Clark’s Black Devil Minstrels BiB 194

Walter L. Main Circus, Homer Butler’s Annex B&M BiB 205

July: Gentry Bros. Circus, Prof Irvin Brown’s B&M roster BiB

Hagenbeck & Wallace Circus, R.N. Jackson’s B&M roster BiB

Aug.: Sparks Shows, AA Wright’s Georgia Minstrels roster BiB

1920
April: Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey Circus, PG Lowery’s Band roster BiB

May: Sells-Floto Circus, JS Riggers’s B&M roster BiB

Hagenbeck & Wallace Circus, R.N Jackson’s B&M roster BiB

June: Howe’s Great London Circus, Montell Proctor’s B&M roster BiB

July: Rhoda Royal Circus & Old Buffalo Wild West Shows, F. Bennett Hargrave’s roster BiB Hargrave’s B&M

Walter L. Main Show, Eugene Clark’s B&M roster BiB; Louis Gilbert also listed as dir. this season BiB 204

Aug.: Sparks Circus, R.J. Simmons’s B&M roster BiB

Oct.: John Robinson Circus, LK Baker’s B&M roster BiB

1921
Ringling Bros & Barnum & Bailey Circus, PG Lowery’s annex band

Hagenbeck & Wallace Circus, R.N Jackson’s B&M (BB 5.22.22)

Downie Bros., Edward W. Washington’s band

1922
Ringling Bros & Barnum & Bailey Circus, P.G. Lowery’s annex band

Walter L. Main Circus, R.N. Jackson’s annex band (BB 5.22.22)

Al Barnes Show, Ed Farrell annex band (Jackson, Growing Importance”)

1923
Ringling Bros & Barnum & Bailey Circus, PG Lowery’s annex band; Lowery replaced by Thomas May

Sparks Circus, Rastus Airship’s annex band BB 6.23.23: 50 Minstrel & Tent Shows

Walter L. Main, R.N Jackson’s annex band BB 3.17.23: 62

Al G. Barnes, Arthur A. Wright’s band BB 3.17.23: 62

1924
Walter L. Main Circus with Walter E. Mason’s annex band (BB 11.24.24:51)

Rubin & Cherry Shows, W.C. Steward, band & orch leader “Minstrel & Tent         Talk” 5.3.24

John Robinson Circus, D.C. Oileer, musical director (“With John Robinson”          Billboard 24 May 1924: 47

Sheesley Bros. Circus, Prof James annex band BB 8.23.24

1924 – 26
Sparks Circus, Charles A. Holloway band leader (Sparks Notes, Freeman May 17, 1924: 8) & Carver

1925
Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, R.N. Jackson’s annex band (“Hagenbeck- Wallace Annex”)

Rubin & Cherry Shows, with J.B. Cullen’s Magnificent Minstrels, W.C. Steward band & orc leader (Cullen’s Minstrels”)

Bernardi Shows, with S.G. Paris’ Dixie Minstrels, Leonard Phillips, band leader (“S.G. Paris Minstrels”)

1926
Ringling Bros & Barnum & Bailey Circus, PG Lowery’s annex band

Miller Bros. 101 Ranch, J.H. Doc Oyler’s side show, with Walter E. Mason’s band

1927
Ringling Bros & Barnum & Bailey Circus, PG Lowery’s annex band

Miller Bros. 101 Ranch, J.H. Doc Oyler’s side show, with Walter E. Mason’s band

Downie Bros., John Matthews’ colored band & minstrels BWag. “Downie”

1928
Ringling Bros & Barnum & Bailey Circus, PG Lowery’s annex band

1929Ringling Bros & Barnum & Bailey Circus, PG Lowery’s annex band

Downie Bros., W.L. Watkins’ Maryland Minstrels

1930
Ringling Bros & Barnum & Bailey Circus, PG Lowery’s annex band

1931
Ringling Bros & Barnum & Bailey Circus, PG Lowery’s annex band

1932
Downie Bros., Edward Washington’s annex band BW mar-apr.

1933
Downie Bros., Edward Washington’s annex band Georgia Minstrels BWag mar-apr. [includes photo of band & sideshow]

1934
Downie Bros. Circus, Edward Washington, director of minstrel band

1935
Downie Bros. Circus, Edward Washington, director of minstrel band

1936
Downie Bros. Circus, Edward Washington, director of minstrel band

1938
Downie Bros. Circus, Joe Brantley’s annex band BWag sept.oct ‘76

1939
Downie Bros. Circus, P.G. Lowery band leader, Georgia Mnstrels. BWag sept.oct ‘76

1942
Cole Bros Circus, PG Lowery B&M

1930s until 1948
Ringling Bros & Barnum & Bailey Circus, Arthur A. Wright’s annex band

1948 – last year of a black sideshow band on R.Bros & B&B
Ringling Bros & Barnum & Bailey Circus, Arthur A. Wright’s annex band

1948 – 55
King Charles Weathersby bandleader, Al G. Kelly & Miller Circus (BWag)

1962 – 63
King Charles Weathersby bandleader, Kelly-Miller working big top & sideshow

1964 – 67
King Charles Weathersby big top bandleader, photo w/ Von Bros. Big Show

1967 – 74
King Charles Weathersby bandleader, Hoxie Bros. sideshow band

Sources

Bradbury, Joseph T. “Downie Bros. 3 Ring Circus pt. 6, 1938 and 1939.” Bandwagon. Sept-Oct. 1976: 11-25

Bradbury, Joseph T. “Downie Bros. 3 Ring Circus pt. 3, 1932 and 1933.” Bandwagon. Mar-Apr. 1976: 3-14.

Bradbury, Joseph T. “Downie Bros. 3 Ring Circus pt. 3, 1934 and 1935.” Bandwagon. May-June 1976: 15-26.

Bradbury, Joseph T. “Downie Bros. Circus, 1926-1929.” Bandwagon Nov.-Dec. 1975: 4-19.

Carver, Gordon M. “The Sparks Circus – through 1928.” Bandwagon. Sept./ Oct 1978: 24-33.

“Cullen’s Minstrels with R. & C.” Billboard 7 Mar. 1925: 53

“Downie bros. Band in Circus Scores Big Hit.” Chicago Defender 19 Sept. 1921: 5.

“Hagenbeck-Wallace Annex Band.” Billboard 28 Mar. 1925: 51.

Jackson, James A. “The Growing Importance of the Colored Fair.” Billboard 18 Mar. 1922: 67.

Jensen, Dean. The Biggest, the Smallest, the Longest, the Shortest: A Chronicle of the American Circus from Its Heartland. Madison: Wisconsin House Pub, 1975.

“Minstrel and Tent Show Talk.” Billboard  17 Mar. 1923: 62.

“Minstrel and Tent Show Talk.” Billboard 3 May 1924: 51.

“S.G. Paris Minstrels.” Billboard 20 June 1925: 49

“The Sheesley Bunch.” Billboard 23 Aug. 1924: 49.

“Sparks Notes Indianapolis Freeman 17 May 17 1924: 8

Talburt, Lane. “King Charles Weathersby: 1927 – 2014”

Bandwagon 58.1: 2014: 6-17

“The Walter L. Main Band and Minstrel.” Billboard 27 May 1922: 51

“With John Robinson.” Billboard 24 May 1924: 47.