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Mr. Music


The first full week of May is designated at National Music Week. The purpose of the week is “to create an understanding and appreciation of the value of music in the home, the community, the nation, and the world.” From Lawrence Welk to Peggy Lee, North Dakota has its share of well-known musicians. But today’s post is about a North Dakota musician who is not a household name.


Henry Dahners was born in Hastings, Minnesota on April 23, 1888. He left Minnesota in 1909 to join a friend in Bowbells. Henry’s plan was to go with his friend to Calgary. But Henry met a young schoolteacher and his plans changed. He married Alice Kennedy in 1912. They moved to Calgary and lived there while Henry managed the Home Plate Cigar Store.


In 1918 the couple returned to Mandan with their three children. Henry’s father-in-law had several Edison phonographs in his jewelry store, but they weren’t selling. Henry offered to sell them. With his love of music it was a natural match. Within two weeks he had sold all the phonographs and opened his music store shortly after.


Henry sold phonographs, records, and sheet music. He added player pianos, then other instruments. The business was successful and had to move to a larger location. In 1928 the store opened in its last location at 306 West Main Street. Lawrence Welk bought his first instruments from Dahner.


The Depression was hard on the business. Alice added gifts, novelties and a line of women’s clothing to help keep the business afloat. The store became known as Dahners Music and Department Store.


The store served as the original studio for KGCU, the first radio station in Mandan. The station featured music, and Henry sometimes sang live over the airwaves. Welk’s first band featured musicians from Mandan.


Henry became an advocate of music in public schools. He was instrumental in hiring the first paid band instructor at the high school. He sold instruments to students at affordable prices so families didn’t have to finance. He was determined to do what he could so every child would have a chance to play music.


Henry was a charter member of the Rotary Club and was also a member of the Elks and the Chamber of Commerce. He passed away in 1971.


Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher



The Mandan News. “Legacy Program: Henry L. Dahners.” Mandan ND. 5/2/2008. Page 4

Mandan Daily Pioneer. “Welk Bought First Musical Instruments in Mandan.” Mandan ND. 6/18/1958. Page 14.

Mandan Historical Society. “Henry L. Dahners.” Mandanhistory.org.

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