Before the dawn of the Jazz Age, concert bands accompanied the social swirl at dances and events in the 18th and Vine community. Like the popular Sousa and Pryor bands, these early African-American concert bands had descended from Civil War military bands and the European concert band tradition. Usually sponsored by fraternal organizations, the bands were decked out in full military regalia and performed a varied program of classical, popular standards, plantation songs and spirituals.
Dan Blackburn, a pioneering band leader in Kansas City, led the Municipal Band that played a popular summer Sunday night concert series in Parade Park, beginning in 1919. Originally from St. Joseph, Louisiana, Blackburn apprenticed with a German Marching band in Illinois. In 1894, he moved to Kansas City and joined the Midland Band. In 1915, Blackburn organized the 19-piece Knights Templer Band sponsored by the Masons. Two years later, Blackburn, along with educators Charles Watts and Major N. Clark Smith, helped established the Colored Musicians' Union Local 627.