Personalities | Otto Gray | Cowboys & Playboys | Country

(Bandleader, 1884–1967)

Otto Gray, leader of the first truly professional western band The Oklahoma Cowboys, is often given only perfunctory attention in country-music histories. But his group was both popular and significant – and introduced hundreds of future musicians, particularly in the Midwest and Northeast, to country music. Gray, an astute businessman from Stillwater, Oklahoma, didn’t play an instrument (though he was a trick roper). He formed The Oklahoma Cowboys in 1926 from a band created shortly before by Spanish-American War hero Billy McGinty. The group featured Gray’s son Owen on vocals and guitar and wife Florence (‘Mommie’) on vocals. The Cowboys’ often-lacklustre recordings fail to adequately convey their musical abilities or reflect their popularity, and have contributed to a diminished reputation among both fans and historians. The group was extremely important in its day, however, though it fell victim to changing tastes and the Depression, breaking up around 1936.

Styles & Forms | Cowboys & Playboys | Country
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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Music, consultant editor Bob Allen


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