Pendleton Cowboy Mounted Band
In 1910 after
the first Pendleton Round Up, R.W. Fletcher came up with the idea of a horse
mounted band. Its first public appearance was leading the Westward Ho! Parade
in 1911. That band continued until 1938. Mr. Fletcher and his family also
traveled, and advertised the Pendleton Round Up and Happy Canyon, with the
Fletcher Family Jazz Band. He also developed and acted as several characters
for the Happy Canyon Night Pageant and produced and led the Happy Canyon Hick
Band. That band and those characters are still portrayed in Happy Canyon today,
some of them by members of his family.
Pendleton Cowboy Mounted Band was formed in 1985 by Judge Richard Courson and
local band director Robert (Bob) Herbig to reprise the original Pendleton Round
Up Mounted Band of 1911. 1985 was the 75th anniversary of the
Pendleton Round Up and the band was to be an historical re-enactment that was
to last for one year. Twenty musicians, many of them students of Mr. Herbig,
were gathered from Oregon and Washington to learn the Sousa and other Marches
that were mandatory parade fare. Outriders then brought horses to the round up
grounds to get acquainted with their new riders and the instruments. Some
horses never adapted. A few musicians didn’t either although a large majority
of the current membership has been playing on horses for twenty or more years.
The one year
commitment has elongated into 30 years. The all-volunteer band has played at
rodeos, fairs and parades in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Nevada.
The band members come from Oregon, Washington and Idaho. They wear no
prescribed uniform but dress “western individual”; appropriate for this diverse
bunch from three states. Most members play instruments in the band but there
are also flag bearers, ground help, and the critical outriders who retrieve
wind – driven music sheets or dropped drum sticks or help control a nervous or
fast paced horse.
One of the
songs the Mounted Band plays is “Meet Me at the Round Up”, the theme of the
Centennial year. It was written in 1924 for the Pendleton Round Up by
Portlander Emil Berggren for a vocalist with piano accompaniment and arranged
for band by Chris Thomas of Pendleton. It was adapted for this Band by Randy
Morgan, the current music director. You can see the cover page from the
original music on some of the flags carried with the band.
Leadership includes Greg Dennis, livestock and transportation director. Mr.
Dennis joined the band in 1988 to help his mother, a band member who had been
injured one week before the first show. In addition to showing concern for his
mother he demonstrated a working knowledge of horses and equipment and a very
good work ethic. He was adopted as an outrider. While his responsibilities for
the band increased he also became active in the Happy Canyon Night Pageant. He
is a guard at EOCI and an EMT. He is a medic and tank mechanic in the Oregon
National Guard, Fox Company.
The Music director is Randy Morgan. Mr. Morgan is a band and choral director,
math teacher and athletic director at Enterprise HS. He is a long time member
of the Elks Lodge and has worked in leadership roles in the organization
throughout Eastern Oregon. He plays trumpet with the Inland Northwest Symphony
and the Wallowa Valley Symphony and is associate conductor with each. He has
adapted numerous songs for the Mounted Band which he joined the band in 1987.
The Parade Director since 2002 is
Dr. John Groupe. He is a retired veterinarian whose services the band has used.
He is a knowledgeable and entertaining trail guide He is also a published
author with two well written and detailed books. One about most of the horse
packing trails in eastern Oregon and another on his observations of living in
this wonderful part of the world.
The Organizing Director since 2001
is Dr. Gary Zimmerman, a Pendleton Chiropractor who is active in the College
Community Theatre and the Pendleton men’s chorus. He is a former vice president
of the Oregon Chiropractic Association, President of the Oregon Board of
Chiropractic Examiners, and president of the Umatilla County Fair. He has been
a cast member of the Happy Canyon Night Pageant for over 40 years and now leads
the Hick Band for which he has written and arranged music. He plays clarinet or
saxophone in the Mounted Band.
As is consistent with all of the
volunteers that help put on the Pendleton Round Up, in all of its aspects. The
entire band has devoted countless hours of volunteerism and miles traveled. It
is made up and sustained by a core group of dedicated hard working band
members, outriders, barn and support help.
Jeff Zimmerman, trombone player,
said back in 1985 when the current band was formed for the 75th
anniversary of the Pendleton Round Up, we were all hoping it would have a
unique and festive impact on the audiences. We had no idea that it would have
so much personal influence on the individuals involved. Through their
involvement with the Cowboy Mounted Band, some of our members have become
comfortable around horses and others have built confidence in their horsemanship
skills. Lifelong friendships between musicians and wranglers have been
developed through these past 29 years of practicing, traveling, and caring for
livestock and cleaning barns. Many of the musicians that hadn’t played with a
group since school days were enticed to start playing again in order to ride
with this fun loving, close knit, one-of-a kind band of merry makers. The band
is enthusiastically accepted wherever it performs. Every fair and rodeo in the
country has a queen and court, but when the Cowboy Mounted Band rides down the
street blaring out a recognizable march, people immediately think of The
Pendleton Round Up! Let’er Buck, in time with the music.
On this, their 30th
anniversary, we congratulate and thank the entire unit for their service to,
and representation of the Pendleton Round Up and the community as a whole.