Owen Mitchell and Fayetteville’s Jazz Men

Mitchell’s jazz band circa 1930,
the Arkansas Travelers

Owen Mitchell started teaching music when he was seven years old. A neighborhood boy wanted to learn to play so Owen shared what he knew. That was 1892. He would go on to become the first jazz band leader in Fayetteville. … In increasing demand, the Owen Mitchell Orchestra performed for dances across the region to audiences eager to break out of the war years’ gloom and embrace the new styles of music and dance. The band was among the first to be heard on the new University radio station, KFMQ, in 1924. By January 1925, Mitchell’s radio programming split fifty-fifty between fox trots and waltzes.

… In a lengthy 1949 article in the Northwest Arkansas Times, reporter Doug Jones provided an overview of the local music scene.

“…What I’m talking about are the guys that have and are still living in and around Fayetteville that plenty of local citizens have heard about. All in all, there has been a lot of pretty good music produced in this area, homegrown and home-consumed.

“To those who have followed music, there have been trends in this town reflecting the jazz of the whole country. There might be a few raised eyebrows when I say jazz, but that’s what it was and still is. Jazz music is the basic foundation for all native American popular music. Even more important, to those who haven’t heard, jazz is the only original art form this country has produced. Everything else, Europe or China did first. But jazz is ours, and more and more it is becoming recognized by critics as a true art form.”

From Chapter 3, The Music Men of Turn-of-the-Century Fayetteville, available in paperback at Amazon. $19.95

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