Chief Redbird on film

Vintage movie of Otto Gray’s Oklahoma Cowboys features Detroit bandleader Chief Redbird as a young man.

This Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, the first book signing event takes place at D:hive in downtown Detroit. Click here to see the flier. Friday evening we’ll present tributes to guitarist Al Allen, and bandleader Chief Redbird. Redbird died in 1978, and many of us never had an opportunity to meet him. Thankfully, Redbird’s daughter Della will be with us to reminisce, along with Al Allen himself, who played guitar for Redbird on many occasions. Stories about Chief Redbird and Al Allen can be found in the book “Detroit Country Music: Mountaineers, Cowboys, and Rockabillies.”

Chief Redbird’s first break into the top tier of show business was with Otto Gray’s Oklahoma Cowboys. He was known as Chief Sanders, then. From about 1927 to 1933, Redbird worked with the group, performing in vaudeville circuits and radio stations across the Midwest and East. Lucky for us, the group was so popular that they were invited to make a motion picture with sound. Here are parts one and two of the film, which give us an inkling of the immense talent Chief Redbird brought to stages in Detroit and across Southeast Michigan.

At the start of the first video, Redbird plays a cello (at right, in the still). At the start of the second, Redbird plays fiddle (second from right, in the still).

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