Column: Striking up memories of Santa Fe Railroad Indian Band

"The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad’s “Santa Fe Indian Band” was formed in the summer of 1923 at the railroad’s hub in Winslow, Ariz. A Laguna Pueblo gentleman and two Hopis played for the railroad shop’s picnic – they had a cornet, a badly dented tuba and a bass drum – while a white guy who worked for the rail company conducted with a broken yardstick.

From those modest beginnings, the band grew to include as many as 50 musicians, all railroad workers or their children. Charles Erickson, who conducted the first concert with that broken yardstick, managed the band as its director and booked hundreds of concerts. The marching band was much in demand: It traveled all over the country, playing in parades, at Harvey House hotel openings and even at a presidential inauguration before it dissolved in 1963.

The band grew out of an unusual arrangement between the rail company and the pueblo that sent hundreds of Laguna men to work on the rails at the dawn of the 20th century."

Get the Story:
Leslie Linthicum: Strike Up The Old Indian Band (The Albuquerque Journal 11/11)

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