History lesson: Leader of Buffalo Bill’s band hailed from Lowville

Buffalo Bill's bandleader
Published: Jun. 30, 2023 at 6:37 AM EDT
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LOWVILLE, New York (WWNY) - You’ve probably heard of the famous Buffalo Bill in your childhood history class.

He was a gun-toting American soldier with a knack for hunting, scouting, and cowboy showmanship.

But why are we talking about Buffalo Bill? He was not local to the north country.

Because, in 1883 he founded Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, a traveling cowboy show.

“It was a phenomenon in the United States,” said Lewis County Historical Society associate Morgan Aubel. “It was very, very popular. Everybody loved to go to the wild west shows.”

And what’s a show without some music. That’s where Frank Thompson comes into this story.

“He came to Lowville around the mid-1880s and was the leader of the Lowville Village Band for 20 years before going to be the director of the wild west shows with Buffalo Bill,” Aubel said.

A coronet on display at the historical society was given to him by Buffalo Bill himself.

Thompson directed Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Cowboy Band for years. It traveled all over the country and Europe as a display of what American cowboy culture looked and sounded like.

The coronet is no longer played. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West is a thing of the past. But the Lowville Village Band that Thompson dedicated 20 years to still performs every year, just without cowboys and buffalo.