Stagecoach band celebrates 50 years of ‘church’ this Sunday

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – How many memories? How many two-steps, waltzes, and swing dances has the Stagecoach seen at Sunday night church?

The Stagecoach Band—considered by many to be the longest continuously-running house band performing today in America—will celebrate 50 years this Sunday. That’s some 2,600 performances minus a few missed weeks in there somewhere.

Live set from the KHOL 89.1 FM Studio.

The idea was hatched by the late Ron Scott. Along with cofounder Bill Briggs, those first performances were done as a trio, unamplified and just strolling occasionally through the bar crowd of cowboys. Eventually, John Sidle joined up and turned the acoustic gigs into more of a dance band kind of thing.

Briggs continues to front most every “church” session at the Coach on Sunday nights. At 87 years old, the banjo picker has seen it all. About 18 different members have alternated in and out of the band. Currently, the Coach band includes Briggs, Christine Langdon (bass), Derrick Hufsmith (guitar), Ed Domer/Mike Calabrese (drummer), and newest member Kenny Palmore (keyboards).

The Cooke-Sidle era. (JenTen Productions)

Through the years, some serious heavyweight musicians have sat in with the band. Bob Dylan played a few tunes with the group at the invitation of a band member one Sunday. Bluegrass singer-songwriter Tim O’Brien used to drop in often when he lived in Wilson. And Jerry Jeff Walker popped up out of nowhere to play the first set with the Coach crew at their 1,000th performance, which was held in the parking lot on a flatbed truck because of the large crowd.

“Expect most anything,” Briggs told KHOL today about this Sunday’s show. “I don’t know where we are going to fit all the people this Sunday.”

Neither does Stagecoach Bar manager Wayne Johnson. Johnson advises people headed to the 50-year anniversary show this Sunday carpool or take mass transit. Parking will be tight.

Church this Sunday will have extended hours in order to accommodate the expected guest musicians who will undoubtedly drop in. Johnson said the band will perform from 6:00 to about 11:30pm.


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