Gunfights and Ragtime: The Houston Music Scene of 100 Years Ago

Dick Dowling in 1866
This bar and billiards parlor was opened in 1858 by 20-year-old Dick Dowling, who would go on to become one of Houston's leading businessmen and a Civil War hero for the Confederacy before his death in 1867. The bar was said to be once located across the street from Courthouse Square at the southwest corner of Congress and Fannin, and then about a decade later at the northeast corner of Congress and Main, where it ran for many years.

Bank of Bacchus was advertised consistently in many 19th-century Houston papers as a haven where deposits of cash were to be exchanged for withdrawals of whiskey. It was said to court the city's fancy business elite, and not much music playing.

But early Houston's music ranged from fiddlers, blues, and ragtime with people drunk and sober dancing to rude music, to the local development of civic music including singing societies and then later the development of the Houston Symphony. Each culture and class created its own musical niche in early Houston.

The more high-minded Houston music of the early 20th century was to be found at the Houston City Auditorium, located at the corner of Main and McGowen. The old Houston City Hall and Market House on Travis and Prairie housed some of these shows, too, as did the Rice Hotel.

Come back next week for Part 2: The Houston music scene in Prohibition days.


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