Musicians recall 50 years in the Cowboy Band

Percussionists Jim and Marlene Howell kept the beat for the last time, at the Cowboy Bands final performance of the year during last week’s Burgers and Brats.

 

Cowboy Band’s percussionists Jim and Marlene Howell with their plaque.
Cowboy Band’s percussionists Jim and Marlene Howell with their plaque.

By JENNIFER GARREAU | Record Editor

Percussionists Jim and Marlene Howell kept the beat for the last time, at the Cowboy Bands final performance of the year during last week’s Burgers and Brats.

The Howells were awarded with a plaque for their more than 50 years of devotion and dedication to the band at the event.

“Jim and Marlene were always very reliable.  I could always count on them to be at rehearsals and performances.  They were both a lot of fun and brought a lot of character to the band.  Jim served as the group’s historian and it was fun listening to his band stories,” said Gina Joyce, Cowboy Band director.

His fondest memory is when the band performed in the Bison parade and the drums didn’t make it there.  “We didn’t realize it until the parade began.  Pilot, Jim Haggert flew me back to Hettinger to get the drums and we saddled up and joined the parade in progress,” said Howell.

“The Days of 76 parade was always the highlight of our year.  One year they had closed the road going into Deadwood because the parade was about to start and the truck our drums were in was shunted off and sent to Sturgis.  Somehow they got there just in the nick of time,” he said.

Jim’s music talents began when his mother introduced him to the piano.  “It was clear that I wasn’t going to be an athlete, so my mother made me learn to play the piano,” he said.

He played the clarinet in High School and was encouraged by his High School band director to join the Cowboy Band in 1952.  He also played both the clarinet and snare drum in the Army Marching Band during his time in the service, at the University of Utah and in the Orchestra in Arizona.

Marlene joined the band after marrying Jim in 1997, playing the bass drum and cymbals.  “I really didn’t want to be in the band but he dragged me into it.  It has been a fun summer event for us and we will miss it,” she said.

“What I will miss most is when we have a full band and everyone is doing it right and Gina gets this angelic look on her face.  I am so impressed by her organizational skills, to plan weekly rehearsals and performances.  She has really stuck with it and I think it’s often a thankless job,” she said.

Since the percussionists are the backbone on the band providing the foundation for the rest of the band to follow, the skillful Howells will be greatly missed.  The drummer has to keep a strong beat that will keep the tempo and rhythm of a song together and a great drummer can make up somewhat for other musicians who may not be at the same level of expertise.

“We love them very much and are truly going to miss them!  The band is so grateful for all their years of service,” said band member Colette Ahmann.

The couple will retire to their home in Gold Canyon, Ariz. where they have resided every winter since 2000.  “Hettinger will always be home, but we have established a life there.  I don’t think I can go through another North Dakota winter,” she said.

“I will miss getting together and playing music and finding out that there is so much talent here,” he said.

 







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