Buffalo Bill Show
Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley were American Superstars - They were easily the most famous Americans of their time - in the 1880’s and 1890’s
They were more famous than Theodore Roosevelt
The year is 1917
Come with us and experience a celebration of William F. Cody’s life
100 years ago...
Two Years in the making, this tribute to Buffalo Bill is a multi media event (large projected images from archives at the Buffalo Bill Grave and Museum).
with original songs from Jim Salestrom.
Colorado crooner salutes Buffalo Bill
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Sean Clancy
May 28, 2018
Music and stories about a Wild West raconteur who made a living being a legend were part of the curriculum for elementary pupils at eStem Charter School in Little Rock on a sunny morning last week.
Colorado singer-songwriter Jim Salestrom, who has toured and recorded with John Denver, Dolly Parton and others, performed folk songs interspersed with tales of the larger-than-life William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody.
“He was our first superstar,” the 62-year-old Salestrom said before performing the first of three sets for the pupils. “He had this incredible rodeo called Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and he played all over the world. He was friends with kings and queens and princes.”
Cody was born in the Iowa Territory in 1846 and claimed to have delivered mail for the Pony Express when he was 14.
He was a scout in the Third Cavalry and also hunted bison for the Army and the Kansas Pacific Railroad.
In 1872, he led Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia on a well publicized hunting expedition in Nebraska. Cody cut a dashing figure in printed reports of the hunt, Salestrom says.
“All the newspapermen came from New York and Chicago and wrote about him. He was so popular. People were reading about this guy in buckskins who gave his horse and rifle to the grand duke.”
Started by Cody in 1883, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West was a sprawling touring show featuring 650 performers and included American Indians, cowboys, Cossacks, buffalo, horses, a Pony Express ride and a re-creation of Custer’s Last Stand with Lakota tribesmen who were at the original battle. Lakota chief Sitting Bull also toured with the show, and sharpshooter Annie Oakley performed with Cody for 16 years.
“He had cowboys and Indians and everybody got along,” Salestrom told the students as a slideshow of Cody’s exploits played behind him. “Nobody had any problems because he was such a good leader and he was so good to everybody.”
The show, which made stops across the United States and Europe, carried on for three decades. In November 1910, it made a one-night stand in Argenta (now North Little Rock). For a month each year for 25 years, Salestrom says, the show played to crowds at Madison Square Garden in New York.
At the time, there could have been a pretty impressive six-degrees-of-separation game with Cody, as he hobnobbed with the likes of Thomas Edison, Mark Twain and Bram Stoker, the latter of whom (it is believed) based the American character Quincy Morris in the novel Dracula on the cowboy showman. Cody “gave the public a taste of the real West, which was quickly disappearing,” Salestrom said. “He gave them a taste of what it was like. He also put a face on the American West and America as a country for a lot of people in Europe.”
Last year, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Cody’s death in 1917, Salestrom organized a one-man show for schoolchildren, featuring songs, stories and rare videos of the Wild West show. He worked with curator, author and historian Steve Freisen of the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave in Golden, Colo., to create the tribute.
Salestrom, who was born in Omaha, Neb., has been a musician most of his life. He was 15 when he formed the band Timberline, which was signed to CBS-Epic Records and recorded The Great Timber Rush in 1977. The album was produced by Bones Howe, who also produced the 5th Dimension and The Association.
After Timberline broke up, Salestrom started a solo career and worked as a sideman. He has been an on-and off member of Parton’s band since 1979. He played banjo and sang backing vocals on Denver’s album Different Directions and performed with Denver at concerts. He was a member of the Wild Jimbos — with Jimmy Ibbotson of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Jim Ratts of Runaway Express — and had a novelty hit with their version of John Prine’s “Let’s Talk Dirty in Hawaiian.”
His recent solo albums include Music From the Mountains and Shady Pine.
Salestrom’s sets at eStem were mixed with Cody facts, popular folk tunes and adlibbed songs played on a Martin acoustic guitar. His affection for Denver was evident as he sang “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”
The third group of children he played for joined in quickly and unprompted as soon as he started singing Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”
“Oh, you know this one,” he said.
He also nodded to Arkansas’ folk and country roots with a version of “The Battle of New Orleans,” written by Jimmy Driftwood of Timbo.
“Everybody from The Who to Dolly Parton has cut that song,” Salestrom said, while setting up for his first performance.
Amaia Lewis, an 8-year old second-grader, was in the audience for Salestrom’s first set on the school’s playground.
“It was good,” she said. “I liked ‘Puff the Magic Dragon.’ It was pretty funny, but it was a good song.”
Salestrom hopes that his music and Cody’s story light a spark in his young audience.
“It would be great if you got just one child at every performance to say, ‘Maybe I can play guitar like that guy,’ or ‘I want to learn more about Buffalo Bill,’ and go to the library and find a book on him.”