Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Rich Hill First Band

The Picture comes from the Bates County History Book. The story is from Ed McQuitty's 1955 Historical Memories.

Rich Hill's First Band
Rich Hill's first band and orchestra for Rich Hill was organized in 1881 by Charles and Bert Covall, who had embarked in the grocery business on East Park avenue. The establishment, the third of its kind started in the town was known as the Blue Front Grocery. That musical in­strument was never manufactured that the Covall broth­ers were unable to "make talk" Charley wrote and pre­pared much of the music for both band and orchestra and was the director. A baton in his hand would have been just another hickory stick. He used, instead, his own cornet and joined in the themes at all times when extra emphasis was required. Bert's neck was encircled by a bass or tuba instrument which, on a guess, would break a mule's back to carry. A massive man of 190 pounds, the notes from his horn would come forth in such volume as to blow a man's hat off at twenty paces. The Rich Hill band had an envious reputation throughout the southwest. There were few musical events within a radius of two hundred miles that it was not the main attraction. Its services were constantly in demand and in contests where prizes were offered, Mr. Covall and his organization, without exception, always came home with the bacon. For years the Rich Hill band had the honor of being placed at the head of the old Priest of Pallas parade at Kansas City. Mr. Warnall, who was one of the prominent promoters of the great pageant, once said, when it appeared doubtful it the band could attend: "No Rich Hill band. No parade."
Being a mere strippling in 1881, the writer is unable to recall the names of all of the members of the organization, but does remember that other than the Covall brothers, William Swallow, Andy Speers, James Chastain, Ed Bertrow, Andy Hackett, Tom Hackett and Billy Jones were on the roster.
Frank Koontz was ever present wherever the band was engaged tho it is my recollection he was not a member just a friend and enthusiastic follower. Having Mr. Koontz in mind at the moment it is ap­propriate to recount one of his experiences that could well have resulted in dire consequences, not only to himself, but the entire band, as well, although Frank had nothing but fun in mind. Mr. Koontz was a ventriloquist of no mean ability, so one day while he and the Covall band were on the depot platform at Ft. Scott awaiting transpor­tation home, a passenger train arrived. In the express car were the remains of a deceased Negro. Six stalwart Negro men, (pallbearers) one a minister, were at the station to take charge of the body. As the casket was being lowered from the car to the baggage truck, Frank slowly and sol­emnly "threw his voice" into the coffin with the words: "Let me down, gently boys." Whereupon the casket was let down, but not gently. It crashed to the platform. With-out further ado the pastor shouted as he started running, hat in hand: "I dunno what's on you alls mind but for my­self Is gwine from heah." Frank immediately had busi­ness elsewhere while the train crew gathered up the wreckage.

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