Michelle: Today is June 28, 1986, and we are one again here in beautiful downtown San Leandro.
Berdahl: Yes, its June 28, Saturday, and we have Michelle Gluck, and Marvin Mohn, and Jamie Rawson from the Band here and we’ll continue from the conversation I had a week ago or so with Michelle, and Michelle, you take over from here.
Michelle: Would you have some extra names that you wanted bring up from last time?
Berdahl: Yes, in the early ROTC days I mentioned some things, and I was struggling for a very important band director name, who was important in the city of Oakland schools, and then had the municipal band at the Lake Merit for many years. His name was Herman Trutner Jr. Although you don’t think of him as a junior because he was an elderly man to me, but Herman Trutner Jr., and he was an eminent conductor, and had a long connection with the university, even when he was no longer officially a director there. But I knew him and respected him very, very much and I learned a lot from him.
Then there was a man in the music department, he was a Belgian and I couldn’t remember his name, and his name was Modeste Alloo. He had just left the University a year or so before, it must have been ’35, ’36 something and I came in ’37. So I didn’t know him personally, but it had been so close to his time that I felt like I practically knew him from all the conversations with people who told me about him; what a wonderful musician he was and what a great conductor and how the band was really an artistic organization under him. He brought in also many instruments, which may still be around in the inventory. Some of those big silver tubas. Still have them?
Michelle: I don’t know.
Berdahl: They’re marvelous instruments. I hope they’re appreciated because the Bersey and Hawkes are English besson, really that’s what they are, compensating valve mechanisms, that makes for better intonation than most tubas from that era ever were. And I’m afraid that they got kind of looked at as straw hat band instruments and people didn’t care if they got banged up or anything, but they were really marvelous instruments. Mr. Alloo was the one responsible for getting them out of the finer instruments that the band had in that era.
So that was what I wanted to tell you on that, and then I’ll go on if there is anything else that I have forgotten.
Michelle: Well then, let’s start on the Band after the war, since you’ve gone through the war.
Berdahl: There was one other thing. I did want to mention that when I became student director in 1938 -- have we already talked about my student director years, haven’t we?
Michelle: A little bit.
Berdahl: But what I didn’t say was that particular year Mr. Cushing was on sabbatical in France, that would be in Paris, and William Denny, who was the fair-haired graduate student, very talented, the one who fooled around later as a composer and became a permanent faculty member, and department chairman and everything. But Mr. Denny was my director in the year I was student director, and we had a very good relationship. He liked the band, too.
Michelle: It always helps when the director likes the band.
Berdahl: Yes, yes. A lot of times it helps you be a good director. He was a marvelous arranger. Some of the finest things we every played were his transcriptions.
Michelle: When did the band first go to the Rose Bowl?
Berdahl: The first Rose Bowl that I know of -- there was another Ohio State Rose Bowl way back when, but I don’t think any band went. But could have been, but I have no knowledge of it. But the first Rose Bowl that I know of was 1938. Yes, it was New Year’s day 1938, which was the football team of ’37. That was my first year as a student, and I came there from clear across the country and I didn’t know the first think about western football, who was favorites of who, and I walked in and joined the band, went to the football games and we won one, then another one, then another one, and all of a sudden I’m marching in the Rose parade, and Cal goes to the Rose Bowl. It seemed to me like this was just a ho-hum every day appearance. Nothing to that! I found out later that it is a fairly rare occurrence.
But what a team! Stub Allison was a famous coach, who played hard-nosed, single wing football. There were four or five All-Americans on that team, including Sam Chapman, who later became a famous baseball player (he didn’t go into football), and Dick Baterro, and Terry Schwartz, and Jonny Meek, and Bob Hurrig. Bob Hurrig was an All-American center who married the Windsor girl who wrote that famous novel “xxxxxxxxx.” “xxxx xxxxxx” was a big, big success at the time. His was a school boy/school girl romance that didn’t last, but he was a good center, he lives in Sacramento.
It was a marvelous team, a once in a lifetime Cal team, I think, and they were just for sure three yard first down, then three yards and three yards and three yards for a first down. And they just front-styled down the field. Passed maybe two or three times in a whole game. That’s the way football was played. Seemed to me you had to have good linemen, and then the backs picked their way, followed their interference. It wasn’t wide open football, but it was for sure....
Michelle: I’m not very educated about football strategy. What does single wing mean?
Berdahl: Single wing was the way you line up, everything since the war has been tee-formation, and everybody plays tee-formation, that’s where the quarterback is squat under the center, and the center just slips the ball back to the quarterback, but in single wing football the center centered the ball like he has to do to the punter now. That’s the only time the center ever centers the ball back and has to be accurate where he throws it. And that time you could throw to a half back or a full back. It was the style, it was the main system until tee-formation took over and single wing went out. It was about in the early forties, when Pop Shanasee came to Stanford. That’s where it started.
So much for football, let’s get back to the band.
Michelle: What was the band like in the ’38 Rose Bowl?
Berdahl: In the ’38 Rose Bowl the band was, I thought, was damn good. It was not small, somebody might think is was only a small band, but I think that fall we were easily 130. Here’s this picture I showed you. Its about that era. I can’t say that that’s the exact band. Well you can see that that’s not too small. And I think we had eight (everyone wants to count sousaphones, you know), I don’t know about this particular picture, but I’m sure that, since I was a tuba player, I think we had eight of them. Sometimes more. That’s a Sam Browne belt, white Sam Browne web belt over a blue coat. And then the pants, they’re so non-descript, white ducks I think.
Michelle: Those were in fashion then.
Berdahl: Yes. Reasonably priced, and I suppose money is always a factor in what we could afford, because the band didn’t have any budget to amount to anything.
But that time we went to the Rose Bowl the manager never lived down (Lou Fairchild was his name), and he never lived down the fact that he doled out fifty cents apiece expense money. And you know Rose Bowls now days, that’s when the bands have a fairly decent living when they go to Rose Bowls, if you ever go to one you’ll find out that they’ll take care of you very well.
Michelle: Since it hasn’t happened since before I was born, I have no experience of it.
Berdahl: So that Rose Bowl was Alabama, and we won easily, it doesn’t sound like a big score, fifteen to nothing, but there was just complete domination. They didn’t score touch downs fast, but they were sure to make it.
Michelle: Do you know if Alabama had a band?
Berdahl: They didn’t bring a band out. In those days that was too expensive. There was no conference arrangements, each school got whatever money from the athletic departments, and at that time they weren’t about to spend that kind of money on a band.
Marvin: That sounds familiar.
Berdahl: The first time the opposing team’s band came to a Rose Bowl was after the Big Ten / Pacific Coast arrangement that started right after the war. 1946/47, something like that. The conference arrangement they have now didn’t take care of the bands, but it was Michigan, it was one of them in particular, and they would do it for somebody like that. Detroit, I remember, was selling cars like mad right after the war, they sent the Michigan Band out. Ohio State, I forget how they were financed. The Northwestern band I think was sent out by Standard Oil, one of those oil companies. So they had sponsorship. And then gradually, somewhere along the line, further arrangements between the Pacific Ten now and the Big Ten there’s a certain budget for the bands to be taken care of, too. It comes out of the overall funds.
Michelle: I didn’t realize that.
Berdahl: That’s why I say that if you ever make the Rose Bowl, I’m pretty sure that the band will be taken care of. Let me check into it to be sure that it doesn’t get siphoned off somewhere.
This is the book of the year, the year book, that I was student director, and I am reminded of a few things. I wanted to get a picture, the official band picture here, if I can find it, but what that reminded me of was a very famous incident, that I suppose has been lost on present generations, that’s Wrong-way Corrigan.
Michelle: I’ve heard of him a lot.
Berdahl: You know about Wrong-way Corrigan?
Michelle: Oh sure.
Berdahl: And of course, when things like that happen, we had rallies, and the band always appeared whenever there was anything going on, and I was the student director, and I remember that very well. Wrong-way Corrigan was flying to Los Angeles and wound up in Ireland. And, of course, an overnight sensation all over. Good, then you read your history.
I think that next year we tied for the conference championship, but we didn’t go to the Rose Bowl because it was USC that beat us.
Marvin: Oh no!
Berdahl: Yes. And they went. You see, if two teams tie in the standings, the one that won their individual game goes. So we had a real fine team, but it was just not quite as dominant as the year before.
Michelle: And an upstart school got it.
Marvin: What was the score of the USC game?
Berdahl: I can find it right here...Bears fourteen, Huskies seven...Bears thirteen, Beavers seven...
Marvin: Bears seven, Trojans thirteen.
Berdahl: Yes, that’s it. Bears twenty, webbed feet nothing. And big game: Bears six, Indians nothing! They didn’t have big scores. And we only got beat by six points by the Trojans, too.
Michelle: Did Stanford have a band back then?
Berdahl: Have a band? Of course, they had a band. They’ve had a band as long as we have, I think. Certainly the Stanford Band was a big rival when I was student director, sure.
Michelle: What was the band like?
Berdahl: I suppose they were all right, but we didn’t think much of them. Slightly prejudiced. They always wore silly little high school-like uniforms. Our uniforms weren’t the greatest, but they at least didn’t look like some little beanies on your head, you know, or something like that.
Marvin: How did the Cal Band compare back then to the Big Ten bands?
Berdahl: Well, its hard to know. We didn’t know anything about each other, really. I knew more about what was going on in the Big Ten bands because I had grown up in the mid- west, and knew something about the quality of band music in the mid-west. Even in high schools and contests and other things. And I think we would have compared really quite well, because I thought the Cal Band was really something when I joined it. It was pretty good. Mr. Cushing was task master as far as musical standards were concerned, and we played well, I think. Compared to the Big Ten? There was really no way to compare the marching bands because they never appeared together. They didn’t know about us, and we didn’t know about them. And we couldn’t have cared less, I guess. All I do know is as time went on, I became more aware of the fact that our two systems were completely different. As I had mentioned before, Benjamin Ide Wheeler was the president of the university who started the ASUC idea. Students being in control of their own extra- curricular activities, largely.
Michelle: I’ll bet he’s rolling in his grave now.
Berdahl: Well, things have certainly changed, I know, and unfortunately the politics of the 60s had something to do with that. Frankly, that was the worst crime, of anything, was the activists of the 60s, regardless of causes, right or wrong, or anything like that, they ruined it for students being free with their activities and to run as they saw fit, and we began to get rules and regulations coming out of our ears, and the university really had to take over all of it to protect certain activities from getting wiped out. That’s what happened to the band. The ASUC politicians were about to not just chop us ten percent up or down from one year to the next, but to wipe us out all together because they wanted all that money for their own political causes.
Michelle: How did they justify that?
Berdahl: The band was a fascist, military organization. We wore uniforms and we marched together, and that, to them, in that crazy-thinking era, was fascist and militaristic. They had their own causes that didn’t have anything to do with real student activities, but they were causes and I’m not saying that they were all bad, some of them were pretty good causes, but the way the went about achieving it at the expense of the long-time traditional activities on campus was wrong, I think. Anyway, that’s how the changes came about, and not all pretty good, I don’t think. But, there’s always a churning of things to me. You and I may not see it, but things have cycles. But those of you who are in influential positions to maintain some of the good part of our traditions, I hope that’s what this is all about, we can remember things that were good and forget about things that weren’t so good, and continue on for the good of the future students and the future Cal Band.
Michelle: Go Bears.
Berdahl: So, I’m trying to find that picture, but I can see to find it. Why don’t you go on to some questions.
Michelle: So the next time you went back to the Rose Bowl was 1950?
Berdahl: Yes, the next time..... Oh no, that was the last of the three in a row, the Lynn Waldorf Rose Bowls. There were three in a row, because that’s when Cal had their longest running power in the Pacific Coast Conference. I think they went from one and nine in ’46, was it, I’m not sure, and then they brought Lynn Waldorf in and they went nine and one, or nine and zero, something like that, and went to the Rose Bowl. And that first of the Waldorf Rose Bowls was Northwestern. And then they won the conference again the next year, and it was Ohio State. And that affected the band a great deal because, well the Northwestern band was real good, but somehow or another, it was the first of the Cal - Big Ten Rose Bowls, and the Northwestern band was real good, and the Northwestern football team was good, but it was the first one and Cal barely got beat, you know, we never won those games, but they were always close, and a little bit of luck here in there, and so there wasn’t too much grousing in the sports press. But then after the Ohio State game, and in the frustration of losing that game, when they should have won it, really, some questionable refereeing and so on, there’s always been some controversy about that game, but they did know, and the sports writers were so frustrated, so they took it out that the Ohio State Band was so good and the Cal Band was so terrible. Now that’s the legend, that the Cal Band was so terrible and blah, blah, blah. It really wasn’t. I wasn’t there, so I can’t personally say, but I know the kind of band that it was, and they played very, very well. And they had a very clever show, but they had nobody in their announcer’s booth, and it was too subtle for the audience to know what the connections were, and it just didn’t go over. It didn’t have that smash-you-right-in-the- middle-of-the-eyes appeal that the Ohio State Band, now all brass, as you can imagine for the first time on the pacific coast with its 120 piece band, all brass instruments. No flutes and clarinets and piccs, you know, all trombones and tubas and trumpets coming out of your ears. It was spectacular. And so the sports press and those, in particular a man by the name of Prescott Sullivan, who worked for the Examiner, just murdered the Cal Band in the papers and caused such a fuss on campus, too. The Daily Cal took it up, and so Professor Cushing, who was a full professor in the music department and had the job of being the marching band director, a sideline that he received a small stipend from the ASUC for, he just resigned. He didn’t have to be judged by some sports writers. And if you knew Mr. Cushing like I did, why he had nothing but contempt for ignoramuses like that.
Of course, Mr. Cushing resigned and that’s forever in the annals, and the band is low on the totem pole as being pilloried even from president Sproul, as quoted in the Daily Cal as saying “those damned mustard yellow pants.” If you couldn’t think of anything else to criticize, why you criticize the color of the uniforms. They are your cut-off shorts, the rally shorts. Well that’s what’s left of those mustard yellow pants. That was the uniform they wore that year, and they had just been bought for that Rose Bowl. They didn’t want to be so drab as they had been before. They were fighting because the Northwestern band had shook them up a little bit the year before, and so now remember, the Cal Band was going to the Rose Bowl every year here, so the students who happened to be in school at the time, the Rose Bowl was part of their season.
Michelle: That’s like UCLA now.
Berdahl: Yes, and so they did get new uniforms that year. I wasn’t here, I was still back at the University of Virginia, but I read in our papers even back there from the AP that our band director resigns because of Rose Bowl, or something like that, and they had the story about Mr. Cushing, and so I arrived that fall to come out to do graduate work here, because of the GI bill being cut off, and my agreement, my understanding with the chairman of the music department, Albert Elkus, that I was going to come at and have a graduate assistantship with Music 27, the big survey course. That’s where they support a lot of graduate students, because there’s a lot of sections for that. And that’s what I was going to do. I got kind of way-laid for a couple of weeks they said because there was no band director yet. They had been interviewing people all that summer (I didn’t know about this) to come. There was a problem because Mr. Cushing was still on campus, he didn’t resign and go away, he was there, and had been a big embarrassment, and I think the music department was very protective of him, as they should be, and resented what had happened, and now there was no connection between the music department, and Mr. Cushing in particular, and the marching band, so in order to get a new band director that was going to be the director of bands, the concert band as well as the marching band, there was a lot of, kind of, touchy negotiations so that they could be sure that the music department and Mr. Cushing’s feathers wouldn’t be ruffled too much. And of course they interviewed many prominent guys in the business that thought to come to Berkeley, and they had read about this, and they had many good candidates, but they weren’t satisfied with any of them. And so I walked into a void where there was no band director yet and so Mr. Elkus, who knew about my former connection with the band as a student, and that I had been doing that kind of work at the University of Virginia, he kind of had in the back of his mind all of the time that he had an ace in the hole in case they didn’t come to any big decisions in the summer time. But he didn’t communicate that to me until I walked into his office just before school started. And he said the band was very much in need, a football game was coming up very soon, and would I go down and talk to the Senior Manager, Al Cavallin, and see to help them out and help to get the try- outs organized. And then, after that is over with, why I would be coming back to my regular assignment in Music 27.
Michelle: Famous last words, huh?
Berdahl: I’m still waiting to be a section graduate assistant in Music 27. Anyway, the challenge grabbed me right from the beginning. You saw these young people hunker down in Room 5, Eshelman, like it was a fortress where they could get in there and be amongst their own, and they really supported each other, like the outside was all against us, the ASUC, the university, from the president on down, were not supportive of the band. And they felt like they had been unfairly pilloried. And I think they were, too. They were fighting back, but in kind of a defensive posture, and there were already new currents in the band wanting to do something about it and change in some few ways so that they could grab the attention of the student body and the public, in a favorable way, and they wanted to do something that wouldn’t be just like the band of the last year. Otherwise, no matter how good it was, they’d say “well, there’s that band,” you see. And so we did get some new uniforms. We didn’t wear those mustard yellow pants anymore. It seemed like every time we got uniforms, it had to be done through the Roos Brothers, that was the big clothing store on Bancroft Way. A big clothing store, and it seemed like there was some kind of a connection. I wasn’t in on the design, really, but to me that uniform looked like a bunch of hotel doormen. It was nice, but it didn’t do any good for us. Then, of course, I had a little bit more knowledge of Big Ten style, and styles of bands then, and what I wanted to do (and I think has been pretty much the point now, and has been going along now for many years now) was to have excellent performance without changing the governmental system of the band radically. You know, changes here and there, a position or something, as needs arise, but not to completely change over to a Big Ten director and his ten graduate assistants, and the students are all tin soldiers. It could have happened, I think things were so desperate, because of the quick public uproar from the band not shaping up in the Rose Bowl, that they would have done anything. And I could have asked for this and that, and probably got it -- saying “we’ve got to change this system, we’ve got to be like them, give me some graduate assistants, and cut out this business,” I think I could have gotten away with it, perhaps. And certainly, if they had hired any number of those men who interviewed that summer, that’s what would have happened, because they were coming out of that background.
Michelle: Do you think that’s why they didn’t hire any of those?
Berdahl: I don’t think so. I think the music department was aware that many of those guys, they felt, didn’t measure up to Mr. Cushing’s musical credentials. We had a good marching band then. I my major advisor as a graduate student, he was a world-renowned musicologist, just had written some of the most definitive texts on music of the middle ages and music of the renaissance, and so on. And here he was on the committee choosing a marching band director, and of course he wanted to know what these fellows knew about music. He would ask them questions, and I remember, later on when being my major advisor, I got to know him very well. He was talking about one fellow, whose name I won’t mention, because you know his name, was throwing his weight around and telling about the philosophy of marching bands, and talking in big, musicological terms, and then the professor told me that he asked him a couple of questions about this and that, and could tell that he didn’t know anything. But he was a good marching band man, he had a famous reputation.
Michelle: You are familiar with the mildly antagonistic relationship we have with the music department now. Did that start then, or could that come later?
Berdahl: I don’t know what to say about that. I’ve never found any problems, myself. I was one of them, I was a member of that department, and I still believe in their standards. And I’m not going to put anything down. I think there are some problems, some younger members of that department who don’t understand, but as long as I was active, as long as we got along fine and were no problem to them, why fine. And if I wore the department’s hat with the concert band, and did the very best I could to meet the department’s high standards, and everything else, and we were going to be just as good in that as they were in other aspects of the music department.
And the marching band was not their concern. I had different people to satisfy, and number one was the student body. And secondary, of course, the alumni public, and thirdly the general public and the sports’ writers. They were the last on my list, but you have to take that into consideration, too, because they’ve got the power of the press, and I and the officers I worked with were always aware that we were fighting up hill to get a reputation. Every time we thought we were getting better, why somebody would bring up the 1950 Rose Bowl, the Ohio State Rose Bowl. This was rather maddening, this just seemed like we were just spinning our wheels. No matter how good we got, somebody would bring that up as if they didn’t even see what was going on. We were getting better for a long, long time before we ever got credit for it.
That’s why its important to keep standards up, and once you’ve built a reputation, you can have a year or two here and there that may go down a little bit, but they’ll still think you’re as good as you were two years ago because it works the other way, too. But if you ever loose it, have some calamity like that Ohio State Rose Bowl, it takes years and years to become that. I know, and if I had known how long it was going to take, I don’t think I would have wanted to do it. I’d have gone back to the University of Virginia, and been happy to live in Lotus Land back there where we didn’t have big bowl conferences. They do now, but they didn’t then.
Michelle: What kind of changes were made?
Berdahl: Well, I can’t tell you exactly. There weren’t any big changes that first year. I just came in at the last minute, and tried to work with the students, and a wonderful bunch of officers. Bruce Flancher was the Drum Major, and Al Cavallin was the Senior Manager. And I could see right away that there needed to be some rejuvenating of the committees, and to get more students involved, because the tradition then was that the Drum Major ruled that area, and the Student Director took care of the rallies and the Straw Hat Bands, and everything like that, and the manager took care of the financial business, and made arrangements for trips and everything like that, but nobody had anything to say or input about how the others feel. To me, that’s wrong. I think everybody, every officer, in committee, has got to have some input into everything that goes on.
Well, it was in their so-called student system. I really wasn’t a completely student system, as far as I could see it, but it was an allergarchy of two or three guys, each ruling one third of the allergarchy without anybody else having much to say about it.
Michelle: The Stanford Band is run that way now.
Berdahl: I think they are kind of a reversion to the Cal Band that I inherited in 1950. They reminded me very much of some of what the Stanford band does. Not the way they play, though, but in their attitude. I liked the musicianship of the Cal Band, but its system had some flaws, and so I started gradually in the next few years pushing for a little bit more democracy, as I call it. But, you know, there was always suspicion. The old guard, who wanted the Cal Band to stay just the way it was, they wanted to thumb their noses at the student body, they wanted to hunker down and say “the heck” with everybody. But there was a new group that kind of wanted to improve and get a better reputation, without throwing the baby out with the bath water. To keep the system essentially the same, but to improve our performance and grab the favorable attention of our sponsors. And I identified with that group of younger students, but it was interpreted by some of the old guard with a great deal of suspicion, “here’s this guy who’s come in from the mid-west,” but see, I had been in the band in ’37, ’38 and ’39, but still now, I was an outsider. Maybe because I hadn’t gone four years to Cal; I came in as a junior transfer. But, this old guard didn’t trust me, and thought I was a pulling something. And I was perfectly open, and I said everything that I wanted to about getting more people involved.
For example, the drum major (and remember this was post-war when people were older, Bruce Flancher was already married in school, he was the drum major), and I say his name, not to demean him, because he was a very capable fellow, and he was going according the only tradition that he knew, but we never knew in the band what the show was going to be for Saturday, nobody. The show was planned by Bruce Flancher and his wife back in their apartment or wherever, and we didn’t find out until maybe Thursday, maybe Saturday morning, “you go here, and you go there,” and the other officers couldn’t object because it was too late. But that was the way it was done. To me, that was terribly putting all your eggs in one basket, and you could get better ideas from more people, and got our stunt committees involved. But it didn’t happen over night. That had to get gradually built up that way.
Michelle: Was any show done completely unrehearsed?
Berdahl: Yes. Sure. You see, the tradition in the Cal Band was that we took quite a great pride in our playing, and that was probably the influence of Charles Cushing, a guy I am grateful for. But, we had a good time. That was the number one thing, and I grew with this, too. I had a good time. But the interpretation of having a good time was that it didn’t make much difference -- there was no standard in the collective mind of the band of a sharp marching band. It was “oh, come out there, and get out there,” and knew it could be sharper than that. But we hadn’t got this concept, yet. And we didn’t start getting that concept until we changed over to the eight-per-five, which was a major step in the right direction of the sharper standards in your marching shows and the show aspect. But, they always wanted to play well.
Marvin: When was that change, to eight-per-five?
Berdahl: Well, I would say ’53, ’54. I already knew in ’50, ’51, I knew about eight-per-five, maybe it was earlier. Because I knew that was one way to get any decent lines, this eight-per-five, because up until then they were just old military, guide right. And when you’ve got 130 people, you’ve got ten men in a rank guiding right, it’s just going to snake all the way down the field, and it’s difficult enough with eight-per-five to get it straight, but with that it was impossible.
Marvin: I understand that the tunnel yell used to be “Pick up you heels [or feet?], turn your corners square, and guide, guide, guide!”
Berdahl: I don’t remember that exactly, but it was guide right, you know, and the trombone (the marching formation was always that old military marching band formation with trombones in front), the right guide trombone, that was a real prestigious position. The trombone player who got the right guide position in the front rank was Mr. Number One. Sort of like the saxophone player point of the wedge. But, so he was the right guide, and everyone would guide on him. We got that changed, I can’t tell you the exact year, maybe there might be something in some of the literature someplace here.
All I know is that I knew about it when I came out here, that Big Ten bands all used it, because I worked some summer camps back there in Virginia with personnel from Columbus who were teaching the camp, and I was bringing all kinds of information to my own courses in Virginia, you know, I was the band director there, and got everything I could from Ohio State, because they were a sharp marching outfit already, and had been for years. But they didn’t have the fresh ideas there, they kind of got stale doing the same things year in and year out because they didn’t have a student input system into their show ideas. They ran out, doing what a lot of us like to call “Mickey Mouse shows,” with fine personnel and doing it very well, but not very interesting.
Michelle: So prior to this, the band would do more music rehearsals, with marching at the end?
Berdahl: Well, they had two rehearsals a week, plus whatever happened on Saturday, and that was Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. So, usually Tuesday was, as my memory has it, was traditionally music. And Thursday you started going through a show. Well, you know you don’t get it very well sharpened up with one rehearsal, and then on Saturday we do whatever polishing. And I want to call your attention to this, that we still had the idea that we had to do a different...there was two shows every week, because we had to do a new pre-game, too. Heaven forbid that we should ever do the same thing at pre-game that we did the week before!
Marvin: That would be difficult.
Berdahl: That was the hardest idea to sell that I ever had. I hope I’m not being immodest here, and maybe you’ll find some bandsmen who won’t remember it this way, but I said that it was my idea, and I kept pushing it without being too hard, and I tried to make it, and I knew it would be adopted sooner if I could get some students to think it was their idea. And there were a lot of things that happened that you’ll probably hear: oh, that was drum major so-and-so, or manager so-and-so, but J. B. was planting ideas as much as I could all the time. It was a student system, after all, and if you want things to happen, you don’t do it by saying “either do it this way, or else I’ll quit.” That doesn’t go over at all.
I learned that very early. There were a few times when we came to loggerheads about things, and I just about gave up. I calmed down and did a lot better when we talked things over rather than confront.
So, the eight-per-five came in, at least by 1954 it was well established 1954 was a big visible change. The band really wasn’t that much different, but that’s when we adopted a style approaching the present style uniform. It was the navy blue, high quality, sixteen ounce wool (goodness, how hot they were in those early fall games -- still are, aren’t they?). We really did a good job of finding out how to buy uniforms. We consulted the home economics people about materials, wearing quality. Everybody that knew anything insisted that sixteen ounce wool was the only material if you wanted to buy something that would last many years. As expensive as it was, it was really in the long run the best buy.
Michelle: You got away from the Roos Brothers?
Berdahl: Oh yes. No more Roos Brothers. We worked directly with manufacturers. It was DeMoulin in Illinois who made the original set. They’re a high quality uniform manufacturer who didn’t come bug us and try to sell us a different style, “whatever you want.” We committees that worked on this design. This is what we want, and they would say “well, this will cost more because in the plant, it doesn’t work so well.” But other uniform manufacturers, particularly Ostwald, which was a very prominent uniform manufacturer, and I knew Mr. Ostwald, he’d come out himself, (and I knew him through band directors’ conventions), and he wanted to talk to me, he was used to dealing with high schools. And he thought he could talk to the director, and talk me into something, and I had to tell him, “Adolph,” I said, “you forget that these student committees are going to make the decisions. I’ll be part of it, but I cannot just say ’no, don’t do that, but do this.’” And he wanted to sell us a uniform like he would to a high school, without changing the plant routine. And this uniform of ours was a revolutionary change when it came to manufacturing, I found out. But DeMoulin would do this, but it would cost so much. Take it or leave it. “We don’t care if you hire us or not, but if you do hire us, this is the quality and that’s what it’s going to cost you.” And those were very expensive uniforms. But, like I say, they were worth it, considering everything they’ve been through. A cheaper uniform would never have gone through the seven weeks’ tour in ’65 and still be usable for years after. And the thirty-day tour in Japan in the summer. Those things were wringing wet, they’d hang them up in those blue traveling boxes, that’s when we first got those traveling boxes, the uniform boxes, was for the Osaka Expo Tour of 1970. We were in Japan, and it was just dripping humidity all the time, and we played one show after the other, and they’d put them in those boxes. Oh boy, I’ll tell you.
Jamie: I think the most recent incarnation of the uniform, which is essentially unchanged from the 1960 design except for the fact that there’s a couple of improvements, buckles in the front instead of snaps in the back, are those what you meant by Ostwald?
Marvin: The ones they’ve been getting for additional uniforms the past couple years have been through DeMoulin.
Jamie: The batch of uniforms that were delivered in 1979 were Ostwald. And Ostwald made the hats, too, which were so bad. They came in three sizes, the hats came in small, medium and large, which doesn’t cut it for the kinds of maneuvers that we do.
Berdahl: You see, they didn’t want to do individual things, they wanted to do it in a plant routine.
Jamie: And they ended up not doing some of the things to specifications. The point that I know about that is that some of those uniforms that were brand new in ’79, by the spring show of ’82 they were already showing weak seams and such.
Berdahl: I wouldn’t doubt it.
Jamie: Whereas the uniforms that were ordered in 1960, which I know were DeMoulin, were still in use in the fall of ’78.
Berdahl: That’s remarkable.
Marvin: I know that Christian [Lenci, uniform manager] has been dealing with DeMoulin, so I can’t answer for ’79, but I know that subsequent to that, at least, we’ve been dealing with DeMoulin. Now the hats, the correct hats we have are Bancroft hats. I know the old hats used to be Ostwald, but they went back to Bancroft.
Berdahl: That Bancroft was through DeMoulin, wasn’t it?
Marvin: That may be. But they’re very high quality hats.
Berdahl: Top quality hats. And expensive, you know. Now, I wouldn’t say that DeMoulin was always going to be this way, because you know how business is going these days, there are conglomerates swallowing up things here and there, and policies could change and still have the same name.
Marvin: I think that was with the recent uniforms we got. We had a problem getting the exact materials they used in the 1979 uniforms. However, the uniforms they did get were much higher quality than the ones we got in 1979. Right down to the “California” [jacket cuff] hem stitching. The ones that Ostwald did were linked, the letters were stitched together. The DeMoulin ones have monogram letters, separate letters.
Jamie: One operative detail here is that they never will again have the chance to deal with Ostwald for uniforms. They went out of business in 1981.
Berdahl: Yes, they did.
Jamie: They ended up messing up a lot of customers, and a whole lot of suits.
Berdahl: Just to clear the Ostwald name a little bit, this Adolph Ostwald was no longer in control of the company. It was still the Ostwald name, but they’d been taken over by Macmillan, or one of those takeovers. Just like all the instrument companies. There’s no longer Conn, and Selmer, who were running their own outfits. They were taken over by CBS and I don’t know.... All these conglomerates taking over companies that there’s a special technical knowledge of craftsmen. And they’re cutting costs and trying to make a line, and they cut out all the fine hand-crafting that goes on making those instruments. The same thing went on in the Ostwald uniform factory.
Marvin: Sort of the same logic of placing Michelle Woods in charge of the band’s activities.
Jamie: I had a question that’s a little bit off the topic of the 1950s. One of the things that I’ve always wondered is that I know that in band tradition a lot of songs that we sing, The Great Ship Titanic, One More River, and songs like that, that I know to be songs from military academies, I wonder if those were in use before the war, or if those were some that were brought in by veterans.
Berdahl: Oh no, no. We sung those in the ’30s when I was in the band. The Titanic has been around, I don’t know how much before that, but it certainly was there already. We sang it every time we were on the way up to the stadium. And One More River was already established. We always played that coming out of the stadium.
Jamie: That’s what I’ve always wondered, because I knew that there would be naturally an influx of veterans after the war. I just thought that it hadn’t started before that.
Berdahl: Anyways, that’s Cal Band tradition well established. Most of the traditions that I know of, and no doubt you’ve got some new things that are catching on, too, those all go way back, as far as I know, earlier than the ’30s.
Marvin: What about the Big C?
Berdahl: Big C song?
Marvin: No, the Big C, painting the big C as a freshman tradition.
Berdahl: I certainly know that we were doing it when I started with the band in 1950, because I remember Bill Pippin was a young fellow in the band, and became a drum major in a couple of years, but it was very dark up there, I think, and there was some barbed wire fence up there along the way, and he almost decapitated himself. It was a terrible accident, he tripped on a barbed wire fence. It had to do with the evening of painting the Big C, I know that, in 1950. And his neck was all cut up.
Those nights, believe me, after I became director and felt a little bit more adult responsibility than when I was just a student, I used to worry about things like that. Young kids getting carried away with the whole thrill of something new, just out of high school.
Michelle: Actually, my biggest worry about Big C was that new people were going to quit. They’ve said the Big C is a PRD’s nightmare.
Berdahl: I think for things that are a negative thing for the band, I wonder if you couldn’t gradually phase it out, or at least phase out certain aspects of it. Because, you see, you’re driving good people away. I think the band should be inclusive. Inclusive of many different types of people and personalities, people of different political bent, it should be a very diverse group, but centered on their love for bands, band music, and the University of California. Now that’s the unifying thing. But I don’t think a certain style or tradition should be dictated. And I think that’s what some of these things that go too far do. I know what you’re talking about.
One of my big things, and I probably talked about it last week, is printing song sheets for the bus ride to Los Angeles. I think that stinks. If a song isn’t good enough to be remembered, let it go, let it die. It’s the tradition of being transferred from person to person, and the good ones hang on and go for hundreds of years, and if they don’t have any merit they die out. But when you print something and hand it out to everybody and say “Now you young bandsmen, you will sing this song,” and if he doesn’t go for it, you’re hurting the band. That’s my speech on that.
Michelle: That reminds me of another thing that came up under similar debate a few years ago. How old is “God Damn Our Manager?”
Berdahl: That’s another thing that I had difficulty with. Oh that’s from my time in the ’30s, I know it was around at that time, but it was firmly established when I came back in 1950. And I never did seriously try to get rid of it, but I was very uncomfortable with it for many years there. I finally settled it in my own mind, I talked to my pastor about it. I didn’t want to be Sunday church man, you know, every time doing two different things. And I talked to my pastor about it, and I explained how it’s all in good spirit, in good fun, and its not really used in a profane way, I didn’t think. But still, those words, everybody uses them. When I get mad I can cuss, and anyone who remembers me at a rehearsal knows I use bad language at some times. But I’m not proud of that.
There was another thing...we can have expressions like that, but when the band does it as an official thing, and it becomes official, and at certain times we’d have non-band people in attendance, it bothered me. You’d have deans and people who didn’t see the band all year long, except at a football game, and they’d hear this, and it kind of was embarrassing, and I was wondering if this was proper or not. But I got over that a long time ago. I’ve settled it in my own mind that it’s OK, and I found that most non-band people who attended these things, if I sat next to them I’d explain a little bit about the condition, and try to make it seem a little bit better. Maybe I was a little too sensitive, I don’t know.
There was a certain era there, I think Hugh Barnett was an officer at the time. I think he was the officer I talked real seriously with, “can’t we...I just get so embarrassed, I was really bothered.” And he took it seriously too, I felt, and I appreciated his support. And he talked it over with the other executive committee members, and then I suggested that I was going to talk to my minister about it, and see if I could get my head straighten out about it. It went on, and then that was the end of it.
Michelle: The reason it came up was that a few years back we had somebody quit after they did that.
Berdahl: Yea, I’m sure there will be some. See, they’re so early in the game that they hear the bad language and they don’t want to associate with any of it. But that person was a good person, probably, who very well could have become a good bandsman if he could have gotten over that little hump. And I regret that. And I’m sure it’s happened to other persons. Very seldom if you found out that they dropped out on account of that, that’s unusual, because they usually give you another excuse. They didn’t want to look like a prude, or something. They’d say “well, I’m too busy studying,” or “my parents,” or working on getting a job, but I know that there have been some that was the main reason. So you never know.
Michelle: No doubt about it.
Berdahl: Well, I’d like to see diversity allowed, I don’t like to see anyone’s style become dictated to so that other band people feel uncomfortable, and can’t stay and be part of it.
Marvin: Frank Brown?
Berdahl: Frank Brown! Have you seen any of the...
Michelle: In the files?
Berdahl: Yea, there’s something in there...have you been through there yet?
Michelle: There was an article in the McCarthy paper.
Berdahl: Students for America. Students for America. It was a young people’s McCarthyite organization. An this fellow, Frank Brown was his name, played the drums, came in the second semester, I think it was. Entered the university in the odd part of the year from Richmond. And I think he was probably playing in the concert band, he was playing in some band, but he was not a member of the marching band yet, the marching band was joined in the fall, and at least at that time we didn’t have any way to become a member. But he somehow or other was hanging around in the band room and nobody was going to kick him out, or anything like that. And he was a potential member for the fall, so everyone was cordial to him. Well then, we started getting reports that, well the president of the ASUC at that time was a fellow by the name of Dick Holler, but it came down to us from Dick Holler that there was this fellow in the band, who was wearing a band jacket, that’s going out and talking to clubs and different organizations, and saying how the band was full of communists. I guess we were only part of it, he was talking about the whole university, I suppose. And then he had this band jacket on like he was a member. And we got this report, we can’t have people going out and talking, representing us, and that kind of stuff. We called him in, with ex-comm, Louie Kahn I remember was one of the ex-comm members at the time, a very calm guy, he’s been with the State Department in Washington for years and years, stationed in posts around the world, very calm, he was like a very calm judge, asking questions. And some of the rest of us were real angry, wanted to chew him out and kick him out, but he was not to be kicked out because he was not a member yet. What could we do? Then he kept saying to the Daily Cal that he was being kicked out of the band. I think he brought it to the J-Comm, the [ASUC] Judicial Committee. And the upshot was that you couldn’t kick somebody out if he’d never been in. The whole case was moot because he was not a member of the band, and the sense was that he would never become a member. He flunked out or didn’t come back in the fall, it was just a big splash there for a while.
Michelle: What year was this?
Berdahl: This would have been ’53, wouldn’t it? ’52, ’53? I forget when that Army/McCarthy hearings were held, that finally got rid of that McCarthy business.
Michelle: The article in the Students for America paper said that the Executive Committee had kicked him out because he was hurting the feelings of the socialists in the band.
Marvin: The organization that was later accused of being fascist accused of being socialist is kind of humorous!
Berdahl: The thing that makes this so ridiculous is that the band, as I remember it, the students were all conservative politically, came from conservative political families, and students at that time were pretty much the same as their families were, they weren’t coming and raising Cain, no. Aha, this must have been ’52 because of the presidential campaign, when Adli Stevensen, who was the Democratic candidate, was more liberal, and Dwight Eisenhower was the Republican candidate, General Eisenhower. And I think if there had been an election within the band, I think Eisenhower would have won by 75-25, if not even higher. I was very conservative. I was a little bit frustrated because it was Louie Kahn, Jon Elkus and I, and maybe one or two others, I don’t remember, were the only ones that I knew that leaned politically toward Adli Stevensen. Not that I disliked Eisenhower, I thought that he was a general who didn’t know much about politics, and kind of turned out to be that kind of a president, too. He was a good man, but Adli Stevensen could have been a great president, that was my opinion. But the band was very conservative. When Frank Brown saw commies and socialists behind the operation, I don’t know. It was just ridiculous. The real fact was that the liberals were outnumbered.
Jamie: They recently came out with a survey showing growing conservatism of the student body, and I suspect the band may be a bit more conservative than the student body as a whole.
Berdahl: I would think that is a good judgment. In the ’60s I think we were, too. We were just as excited about free speech, all those big issues that were going on, there was no one thinking in the band, although the Daily Cal and the politicians tried to attribute that to us because we wore uniforms and marched together. In those hairy times when we didn’t know if the university was going to be there the next day or not, I just sat down with students and the Ex-comm, and I don’t know who it was now, and I said “Now, this could very well ruin the band.” We’ve got to make a hard and fast, if not a rule, an idea, that politics stops at the band room’s edge, and in rehearsals, all of our band room associations. We’re unified only on one thing, and that’s the band. And we can have every different opinion we want on everything else, but its not going to come in to the band room and divide us so that we can’t be unified in the goals that we seek as a band. I think everybody willingly adopted that. Even going on up to the trip to Japan in 1970 we thought everything had calmed down, in the late 60’s there, with People’s Park in ’68, with terrible riots. Then it calmed down, and it comes up into ’70, and wouldn’t you know it, President Nixon pulls this Cambodian incursion, the funny names they had for all-out bombing. And right then the university blew up suddenly as bad as any other crisis we had in the ’60s in May of 1970. And we were due to leave for Japan in June. Well I thought sure that our trip was not going on in that crisis. But, there again, we calmly sat down and talked it over, instead of getting excited running here and running there, we sat down and talked it over and they, the students, I give them the most credit for this, this insight that, well, nobody was going to class (there was a whole week there was not class. There were protests all over, professors as well as students, they were not holding class, or if they were, they would meet outside some place and make it more of a protests than the subject matter of the class). And school just was not going on, so we said to ourselves “we are not well prepared, we’ve so much preparation to do for this tour, and afraid that if we don’t take advantage of this now, that we’ll still be in need of preparation before we go.” And so we just practiced during morning and the afternoon. The best prepared band we had ever been for any tour we’d been on.
Michelle: What a fascist, militaristic thing to do, to practice during the protests.
Berdahl: Well, there was still time during the day between rehearsals to do other things. But there were no classes, so we practiced during the morning and afternoon. And got a lot of good work done. We were in good shape.
Michelle: Going back to the changes in the early ’50s, when did the executive committee take on its modern form?
Berdahl: In 1950, it was a three-man executive committee. Let’s face it, there was an executive committee of Manager, Drum Major, and Rep-at-Large, which has developed into what you call the PRD. The Rep-at-Large is supposed to represent the interests of all the band members. The Manager, of course, was same as now, and the Drum Major. The Student Director, was, you know...“get lost” and got hit with a stick. The Student Director would attend the Executive Committee meetings, but would have no vote. So if he didn’t vote, sometimes he didn’t bother even going. And with three men, you never know when they would call a meeting, they’d have it by chance whenever they got together. They’d sit out on the corner and have an ex-comm meeting. Oh, by the way, the faculty member, of course, was a voting member, Mr. Cushing, and Senior Manager, and one other, now was it the Drum Major or the Rep-at-Large? It might have been the Rep-at-Large, because he represents the whole band. It was the faculty director, the Manage, and the Rep-at-Large. That’s right. And the Drum Major and the Student Director had their influence and their segment of the band, but they were not policy makers for the whole band.
Jamie: It is very intelligent not to have the performing members vote because they often tend to have a very disproportioned focus.
Marvin: It sounds like in their respective areas they had a one-man dictatorship, so that was necessarily a better power distribution.
Berdahl: Anyway, that’s the way it was, and that’s the way it was when I was a student in the late ’30s, and probably was the set-up from the beginning in the ASUC band. But, then the exact year, I don’t know but I suspect it was around 1954, I suspect and I hope you’ll find it definitely in the minutes someplace, but I suspect it was around 1954 when finally the gradual changes were, with the visible change of the new uniform, things were taking place. And, there was a constitutional revision, and Bob Dusky, whose name you may have heard, Boalt Hall and eight years in the Cal Band, he was in the band all through his undergraduate years and his years in Boalt Hall, too, was a very quick legal mind, he was always in on the constitutional revisions, and I forget who else. And it became the five- man committee.
Jamie: Who were the officers at that point?
Berdahl: If it was 1954, Bill Colscott was the Manger. The rest of the officers I’d have to see the records. I know all the guys.
Marvin: As it sticks in my mind historically Bill Colscott was one of people behind some major revisions of the constitution.
Berdahl: I wouldn’t doubt it. He was in favor of some major changes, and was a divisive character on account of it, because there was the old guard who didn’t want to change anything, and there were those who wanted to change too much, and he might have been in that category. So I was trying to bring people together, but still I was being accused and suspected by very much right-wing old guard thinkers, that I was doing all kinds of sly things to kick them out. I swear I was for nothing but the betterment of the Cal Band, and I thought that I saw increasing democracy was healthier than keeping it within the grasp of a few people. It was their tradition, and I was being accused of trying to destroy Cal Band democracy. An it turned out to be a good idea. There was a five-man executive committee, and they’re all participating, and have their areas, but not expressly their areas without input, everybody had something to say. That’s the way it turned out, hasn’t it?
Michelle: I think so.
Berdahl: I think with all the revisions in my years as faculty director I can remember I thought things were going very well, people working together, learning about other areas and supporting each other, and not throwing up barriers and stuff. And then you get some guy who comes in there and it going to run it his way...the drum major who didn’t want to talk to a manager or student director, and wanted to change things that you patiently getting, like the standard Pregame, that was very hard to bring about because there was this tradition of having something new all the time. We’d finally get that and then we’d get a Drum Major who comes in and is going to destroy all that and put on his stamp. A whole new Pregame of his own.
Michelle: Were the area divisions, the committees more or less the way they are now?
Berdahl: Secretary was a newer thing that came in a little later. I don’t think it happened right away, even when we first changed the constitution. I don’t think that committee structure just blossomed immediately. I think it evolved, and became really more effective. I think the thing that developed the soonest was the drum major’s subcommittee. It was so important to the band -- we’re past the old guard fading out and the new idea’s taking over of excellent performance and trying to make a reputation amongst our following. Trying to get rid of that old image from the Ohio State Rose Bowl.
And by the next Rose Bowl, January 1st, 1959, with Iowa, we were building up our numbers. We had 120, which was pretty solid for those years, ’57, ’58, and the stunt committee, I’m sure, became a stronger committee structure earlier than some of the others.
Marvin: I had a look at the pre-1966 constitution, 1966 being the year that the current constitution was written, and apparently what I saw was that the Ex-comm had the five officers appearing now (Rep. at Large instead of PRD) and two non-voting associate managers. A third one was later added in the early ’60s. And underneath it, the only committee that existed at that time formally was the Stunt Committee, which apparently every other committee was modeled after. That included not only band members at large, but also the director and the student director.
Berdahl: I believe so. Because we wanted as much representation in there to stir the creative pot with good ideas. I think it’s worked and I hope it still works. Along in there a fellow by the name of Larry Austin, who was a graduate student with us, a very talented composer and arranger, did a large stack of our arrangements, and he was called our assistant director. But it was more or less for his arranging ability.
So he was involved with the stunt planning, too, because they were designing shows and they’d give it to him for refinement, because he’d be close enough by, not like an arranger in San Francisco. So he’d confer with how many bars of this and how many measures of drums in between pieces, or something like that. And it worked. And it got pretty complicated; you’ve heard of the Camelot show haven’t you? We did a Broadway show in ten minutes. Unfortunately it rained that day, but we used pre-recorded singing and costumed acting, and it really was over ambitious, I think, for a football Halftime show, but it was a tremendous idea, and Larry Austin wrote the whole thing. And Mike Flier, one of our more well known drum majors, had the leading part. All the speaking and singing was pre-recorded on tape. And boy, if you don’t think that’s a nerve wracking job for the fellow standing on the sideline conducting, because I had to have cues ahead. And also, I though that when we pre- recorded that music that the tempo was real steady, but I found out that after I got on the field with this tape that it sped up and slowed down, and the guys were marching and going too fast, and I had to pull in on the reigns. It was quite remarkable how much difference tempos, when you’re just sitting playing, change. That was a problem. Then there was the problem that on a rainy day, the tape leader broke. And there I’m standing twenty seconds before they could get that tape started again. And twenty seconds, that’s like a lifetime when you’re in the middle of something like that. And I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t dare go because the most important part of it was on the tape. They could march around out there, but....
The other one like that was when we did a Gershwin, Porgy and Bess, with pre-recorded business going on, singing. We doubled our musical output by pre-recording the singing and accompanying live out on the field our singing. It was a wonderful idea, but it’s too nerve wracking, and I would never attempt that again. And fortunately they didn’t push me into it. You might try a simplified version of that again sometime. I think it’s really got merit. Another thing you’ve got watch out for, however, is when we did Porgy and Bess later in the season, the day turned out to be cold. When we were sitting in the inside temperature, the pitch was this way, and then we get out there and we’re flatter than a pancake. We can’t get our instruments up to the pitch that was on the pre-recording, which was done inside. We didn’t think about that, it just didn’t occur to us. But there is a remedy for that, we found out. There’s a tape marching that’s adjustable speed. Monospeed, the pitch was sharp on that cold day, but you can adjust that back and get it right back to where your instruments are. So there’s an answer to everything if you’ve got smart engineers in the band like you do.
Marvin: The Porgy and Bess show was also ten minutes?
Michelle: You didn’t have many opposing bands?
Berdahl: Well, we always did those when we were sure we had time. Probably when it was Washington State or Oregon State, or somebody like that who wasn’t traveling down here. I think they travel a little bit more now than they used to, but those bands from way up north seldom come to Berkeley. Washington used to once in a while, that’s why we went to extreme lengths to raise enough money to get up to Seattle once in while, twice that I remember, because we felt kind of embarrassed that they’d come and we would never. They kind of pressured us on that.
Same way with Salt Lake City. That’s why we went to the University of Utah because they came to Berkeley and were giving us all kinds of pressure for not returning. So we went there and risked our relationship with the Chancellor because we took the money that was supposed to take us to Los Angeles, and went to Salt Lake instead. We got away with it, but they said don’t every try it again. The Vice Chancellor, Alec Sheriffs, was in charge of getting us back into line. He was a good friend of the band, thank goodness, but with kind of twinkle in his eye said “Well, you have to go to Los Angeles, that’s all there is to it. And we honor you student system, that you made that decision, and you’ll get away with it this time, but don’t every try it again.” So they got the extra money to get us to Los Angeles from the Chancellor’s office.
Michelle: When did the coordinating committee system begin to evolve from the Stunt committee?
Berdahl: You know, it’s funny, I guess that’s what kind of person I am. I was interested in the function of the band and the more they could have good functioning committees, I was all for that. But, I don’t remember. I can’t answer that question. I just know that along in the ’60s we were improving our organizational structure a great deal. I was really working better and better all the time. Even with what was happening with the rest of the university. Maybe it was on account of what was happening to the rest of the university. We were so anxious to make a go that the students were given all sorts of rope to keep that band functioning in those trying times. So I can’t answer definitely about the co-comms, but I’ve just known that name for so long. But this wasn’t my interest, I never was really into that, as long as they were working and the results were good.
Michelle: Were there any other major changes in performance that went in after the Ohio State Rose Bowl?
Berdahl: Major changes I think I’ve already mentioned as far as the marching was concerned I think was the eight-per- five, and a higher step. High step won’t work with a military length step. You know, six-per-five. There you just stride out. But with eight-per-five, a shorter step, you can get your knees up, and in fact it helps to make that line straight. Somebody who does not have high step will probably not have the right interval.
That, of course, was the major thing that I went over before. And as far as performance, I think the addition of technical things like pre-recording was certainly a major thing. I don’t think any band had done such a thing before. I had never heard of it, and maybe for good reason, but we were just crazy enough to try things like that. And it wasn’t entirely unsuccessful, it was just so risky. And I still think that small things like that, with the way the band sings so well, with some improvements in the technical end of it, being more sure of having good leaders, in case its a damp and rainy day your tape won’t break on you and things like that, and being able to adjust pitch so you’re not out of tune with your tape. I think those are things that are well worth doing. Mr. Briggs might not appreciate my bringing it up.
Michelle: It’s not something he’s fond of?
Berdahl: Well, I don’t know. It’s a very high pressure job for the conductor, because it either goes or it doesn’t, to keep the band in sync with the pre-recorded tape, which is going to go where it’s going to go.
But let’s see, an other major changes in performance. In the ’60s, of course, we developed, not for football shows, but we developed the so-called “Total Band Entertainment.” TBEs. That came out of the ’65 Cross Country Tour. We had to develop concerts. And then a refinement on that in 1968 with the tour of the state of California in the interests of the centennial of the university. That was, to me, like the band has arrived. You know how I mentioned earlier about striving to get a reputation from your sponsors, from your own people, student body, faculty and administration, and alumni. And the band was chosen as a symbol of the state-wide university to advertise and promote the centennial activities. We went on a tour of the whole state in the interest of the state-wide university, not just Berkeley. But we were chosen. Not the UCLA band, but the UC Berkeley band was chosen, and they got up 25 or $30,000 appropriated. It was the first time in my memory that we didn’t have to scratch for every penny to make our own tours, but we were asked to do this, and we presented the budget to do it.
And Professor Garf Wilson was instrumental in that. He was the Chancellor’s right hand man, for public ceremonies, and this idea came up to the ceremonies committee, and was probably hashed out in the state-wide ceremonies committee, about what are we going to do about the centennial, and this idea was put in and the Cal Band was chosen. To me, that is a significant symbolic arrival of the band being accepted for excellence, after dragging up all the myths and legends of the 1950 Rose Bowl.
Michelle: Hadn’t that changed when they went back in 1959?
Berdahl: We did all right in 1959. We hadn’t arrived yet, in the general public, but we were doing better. I think gradually getting a better image with our student body, but there was still this disgusting bringing up of 1950 once in a while. But the band was performing really well, and did a good show at the Iowa Rose Bowl, January 1, 1959. And I certainly think we equaled, perhaps surpassed, but there wasn’t any Big-Ten embarrassing the Pacific Coast Conference. We knew that, and we did a particularly nice thing that I always remember from that show. I think Clark Kerr had fairly recently become President of the university, he’d been a chancellor for the Berkeley campus, after President Sproul retired. We were all hoping for our chancellor to become president of the university, but it seemed politically impossible with all southern California getting more influential politically in the state in Sacramento, and with the Regents. How could they ever do that? Then lo and behold, Clark Kerr was appointed, and we were all delighted about that. And so that Rose Bowl was perhaps fairly soon after he became president, and we did a script spell-out of Clark Kerr. Maybe it was just “Kerr,” I’m not sure.
Jamie: About the Brussels tour, regarding the image of the band, in the summer of...
Berdahl: Summer of 1958. In the middle of a recession. That was Eisenhower’s bad recession, in his second term. And to raise money was doubly difficult, but we got there. Thanks mostly to Ralph Edwards, and a man by the name of Tom Knudsen, of Knudsen dairy. You know that name. Well, Tom Knudsen was still living then and he was the officer, important official of the special Danish-American fourth of July celebration over in Denmark. An so Ralph Edwards and Mr. Knudsen, some of us on the executive committee met, and it came out that Ralph Edwards got this deal with Continental Bus lines to transport us to New York and back, and also supposedly made arrangements with some European bus line to take care of all of our transportation in Europe, too. But, somehow or another, that was a bunch of baloney, that didn’t happen. We were terribly disappointed financially, and embarrassed by it. But we did have transportation all the way to New York and to return again. It wasn’t the fastest way to get there, but it was fun.
In conjunction with the European side of things, Mr. Knudsen arranged for us to be a featured band at that huge Fourth of July celebration up in Denmark. The island in the farthest north part of Denmark. In a town named Aalborg. It’s the nearest city to the Rabild national park, which was bought and donated to the Danish people and the Danish government by Danish-Americans in honor of their new country and in honor of their old country. They raised a lot of money and bought this beautiful park area and made it a national park and gave it to the Danish government with the provision that every Fourth of July, there will be a Fourth of July celebration. And it’s the biggest Fourth of July in the whole world. This is where the bands play and speeches are made, and the King and Queen come. They’re very popular monarchs, The Danish monarchy always come, and they came this year, and there were 40,000 people sitting in a bowl down there with heather covered hills all around. And we played for them, including Victor Borge and Lawrence Melchior, famous movie stars. Anybody who is anybody in the Danish-American community shows up over there.
That, of course, helped us financially because it took care of us after our one week at the Brussels fair (what were we going to do?), and then we’d go up and arrange something on the way to Hamburg, Germany, and then to Copenhagen, and we were there for two or three days just kind of sight-seeing. Then we got ready to go up to Aalborg for the Fourth of July celebration, and played there. It was just one day, but there was a big dance that night, and it was a lot of fun. Then we directly came from there back down to Brussels to fly home (through London).
By the way, between the Expo and the trip to Denmark (Germany and Denmark), there was a whole week vacant in there. So what to do with that? We just let everyone play their own little mini trips. Whatever they could afford, whatever their special interests. We just gave up trying to plan for a hundred people guided tour, where everybody did everything. That didn’t make sense. That made good sense in Berkeley when we planned it. Then after I got over to Brussels, on that last day when we were going to break up for a whole week, and then meet at the middle station in Brussels, at such-and-such an hour a week from then, I though “Oh boy! We got 17 year old kids here that have never been past Reno; probably never been to Reno, and their going to be all over the face of the Earth! How many of them are going to make it back?” So I had my worries there, too. But I needed not worry; they all showed up. Two guys didn’t make it to Brussels, but they joined us in Germany. George Link, who now is a Regent, I think.
Michelle: I didn’t know he was a Regent.
Berdahl: You know George Link?
Michelle: Oh yes.
Berdahl: Well, he’s a big man in the alumni association.
Marvin: He was president of the alumni association.
Berdahl: But anyhow, he’s big in the California university system, he’s a big lawyer down south now. George Link was a glock player. He lost his passport coming back from Switzerland and was stopped at the border. It took a lot of doing, but he couldn’t get back to Brussels in time. so he joined us the next date. And Larry Josephson, a character, we called him sheep, he didn’t march with the band. He was our photographer, had good photographic material. He eventually became a student director, but he couldn’t march. He was very heavy and had the flattest feet. Just couldn’t march. But he wanted to be in the band and there were exceptions to all the rules, and he was a member of the band and even became an officer, and never marched. On tours he took pictures and did a lot of things for us. A lot of that stuff when we moved into the new student union, in the control room between rehearsal halls, any of that stuff where you see holes in the walls where wire come through, Larry Josephson did all that to connect things up because it wasn’t done to suit him. But he also didn’t make it back to Brussels because I think he ran out of money (he was a photographer, I think he was buying a lot of camera stuff in Germany), and sent home for money and was waiting for that. But he never missed anything, and joined us the next day, too. That was pretty good. I thought it was going to be a lot worse than that.
Jamie: I wouldn’t want to be stranded alone in Europe, either, so I would make sure to get to the beat.
Berdahl: I think that was a motivating factor for quite a few. But they were going mostly in groups of three, four, five, and rented a car. Some of them went clear to Switzerland and all over, traveled a lot, and some just down the Rhine. I, myself, was very tired after that one week in Brussels, and I wanted to get away from the band and I didn’t want to join any groups. I went to Paris. Stayed in Paris a whole week. Just went to concerts and had a ball. Visited the Louvre (my hotel was just a half a block from the Louvre), and I could spend a whole day in there and still not see half of it. It turned out really quite good, and what we didn’t know, of course, was (he had non-band people along, but no officials -- I was the highest university official that was on that trip. There was no dean, no ASUC executives
Berdahl: And people in the United States were reading t dispatches from the AP. about how the California Band was drawing all the customers away from the big Soviet pavilion.
Michelle: This was John Hall?
Berdahl: Yea, John Hall. He was our journalist. He was doing all this stuff and we didn’t know about it, and when we came home people know all about us all over the country. The Russians had already put Sputnik up and they were riding high, and we were just floundering; we hadn’t gotten anything up in space at all. And they had this huge, dominating building, that was sort of the personality as we saw it of the big bear, the Soviet Union, and the American pavilion was smaller, but beautiful. Kind of indoor- outdoor, with trees and stuff inside, very beautifully done, but it was being highly criticized in America because we weren’t doing something as big and spectacular, and that Russian pavilion was outdoing us.
No, I think we had a very fine display, showed America exactly like it was. With all of our spots, as well as all of our good things. There were photographs of beautiful things and we just painted America as it was. But it was true, that first day, there was a big reflection pool out in front of the American pavilion, and on the other end of it was were the steps of the Soviet pavilion, and what we did, we’d march. We’d been down in a plaza, where we did a marching show, then we’d march back from there, and come around this reflecting pool and come back on the steps of the American pavilion to do our final show, and then we’d reverse that procedure in the evening (but this was around noon time). And so we were coming around that, it was a heavy day of attendance, there were a lot of people in the fair that day, and they were just streaming, all wanting to see Sputnik, they wanted to see the latest space thing. And going up the steps, here comes the Cal Band around there, and those people just kind of all came back down and didn’t follow any further, and we just had a whole pied piper parade. And, you know, the guys in charge of the American pavilion, (they’d been under some strain because of the criticism in the American papers about not doing well in attendance, and we showed up there in the end of June and started bringing them in by the hundreds away from the Soviet pavilion like that) they were just grinning ear-to- ear. It was just wonderful. And I think we deserved a little credit for that. I thought there was a lot of talk, too, but I saw it happen. It really was true.
Michelle: So we came out of it just as our reputation was starting.
Berdahl: I think so. That was a landmark, the Brussels trip. We gained some national recognition from those dispatches. And when we came back then to the airport at New York, we already had the message waiting for us that we had to come to Washington. Stanley Macaffy, who was the head of our alumni association, arranged this for us. And so we came to Washington and we had a special reception for us in the old senate chambers, where we were met by the California senators, Rolling and the other fellow at the time [Keeting?], and Vice President Nixon.
Michelle: What an honor!
Berdahl: Well, he as still a reputable man at that time. But we were really received royally in Washington. And from there on we came home in our buses. We were driven by managerial people rather than the regular bus drivers because, because wouldn’t you know it, their drivers were on strike. And we couldn’t come in to any of the major terminals. We came by all blue highways. You know the term ’blue highway?’ On the map, not the main red lines but the blue roads. We’d be on the main highway, but as soon as we were coming into a city where they had a terminal, we’d go off someplace because of the pickets, they didn’t dare drive in there. For instance, when we finally got out to Salt Lake City, we didn’t get in to Salt Lake City, we came through Spanish Fork, that little town below Salt Lake City. We were just skirting the edges of Kansas City and all the big cities. We’d go by country roads around these places. Going to New York, still at the beginning of the trip, I established a little place of my own on the back seat where I could lie down, and this was bus number one, and we didn’t have many people in it because this was were we carried uniforms all hanging up, and so there were a couple of seats so we could have an Ex-comm meeting in the front of the bus. And then uniforms all the way, and then I had my little apartment in the back seat. So I had all that noise of anyone who was up front cut off from me. I could just go to sleep and I would not hear it all.
Michelle: How long did that take, to New York and back?
Berdahl: Oh, four to five days, I think.
Michelle: Especially at the end of the trip, that must have been tiring.
Marvin: That was a straight trip, no performances or anything?
Berdahl: No, we just had to get home. As usual, when a trip is made in the summer, that’s the end of that band. Then you start all over from scratch in the fall. We had some continuing, of course, but it’s always been the saddest thing for me, particularly after some of our summer tours, that last performance was it, and then we have to start all over again.
And boy, that ’65 band was so sharp, so good, that it just killed me. Our first game that fall was a TV game with Notre Dame, and also it was the Ed Sullivan Show. Everybody catches on too late. We tried every-which-way to get on the Ed Sullivan Show, which still came from New York at the time, and we knew we were going to be back east because we were going to the New York fair, after all, it was the end of our tour, before we came back, and we had a good Total Band Entertainment show that summer, it was really good, and the band, of course, playing every day, every day, was really sharp, in good form. We didn’t tap the right keys, somehow, or they didn’t want us.
But we got out at the end of trip, and we were in southern California, and were doing various alumni association engagements in Pasadena and I forget where else, Long Beach, I guess. And I’m at an afternoon movie, you know, the guy who does the movies in the afternoon and comes on between scenes and talks in between time, they got me on one of those to help publicize the concert that night, our show that night. And I was in Burbank, NBC I think it was, and I came down out of that interview, which was strictly a PR thing, and “Ho-hum, I’m glad that’s over with,” had a few more hours before the show that night, because I was tired. And before I went out the door, somebody said “Mr. Berdahl, you’ve got a message.” So I got on the phone, and the message was from New York, the producer of the Ed Sullivan Show.
Now this was in July, I suppose, and they were, that fall, ’65, they were going to transfer the origination of the Ed Sullivan Show from New York to Los Angeles, and it was in color. The first time they were going to have color TV from the west. And they wanted us on that show. And they specified the weekend. You see, it was a Sunday night show, and we were to come down on a Friday night, and rehearse all Saturday, and do the show on Sunday. And you know, it was the same darned weekend as that Notre Dame football game, that was a TV game, too. Well, even if we wanted to, our obligation was to Berkeley, and to the University of California. I don’t care, there was no way that we weren’t going to be home in Berkeley when there’s a football game. Even if it wasn’t TV, I think we would have had to turn them down. But then we weren’t going to get on the first show, but then they said how about the next weekend. Well, the next weekend was a bye weekend, and we were available. So we were on the second Ed Sullivan Show from the west coast. And that was quite an experience.
Michelle: Was that live?
Berdahl: It was live and pre-recorded. Boy, those technicians! We worked out in the parking lot, we worked out the marching part. The first thing we did down there was they set us down and we recorded. They’d been up the week before, some of their men from the show, and we decided the music we were going to do, and we rehearsed it there. So, we get down there and the first thing they do is sit us down and they record all the music. We rehearsed a little bit and now we recorded. Some producer would say “that piccolo was sharp” or something, and we’d do it again. Finally, they were satisfied and we got all the music recorded.
Then we spend all afternoon out in the CBS parking lot to do the marching aspect of things. And this took a lot of time. We had to do things over and over, and it was getting dangerously late, the light for playing was getting questionable, but we finally got it all done. And what they did, the music that was recorded and what we did in the parking lot, we did a bunch of stuff, they dubbed over somehow, and then they showed us marching on in from the parking lot into the studio door, and then on Sunday night, they picked us up live, playing, coming in. It looked and sounded so perfectly matched, you’d never know all that putting was done. My hat was off to the technical ability of the TV people. I didn’t realize that could be done. So there we were, coming in that night, and we did well, played well. A short segment.
Michelle: Marched and played?
Berdahl: We marched in and, what else did we do? It’s hard for me to remember. All I know is that Ed Sullivan and I had a picture taken either just before or after the show. Somebody snapped a picture of us, and he’s got a wide grin on his face, and I look like Ed Sullivan’s supposed to look! It’s too far back for you, but he was always know as a very solemn face, he talked about our “Great Show!” and he had wonderful people, but he was the worst M.C. in the world! How he had such a popular show for so many years I’ll never know! But he always got new people, like I’d never seen Sonny and Cher before. Sonny and Cher! I’ll never forget Bill Elsworth when we first saw this couple back stage, he said “What rock did they crawl out from under!” It was just awful!
Marvin: Was this the same night the Cal Band was on?
Berdahl: Yea, they were on the Ed Sullivan Show that night. They were just new coming up stars, that was their first big break. Many stars got their first big break on the Ed Sullivan Show. Also, I had never known her before, that little black gal, that good looking black girl who sang with Mitch Miller, you’d know her because she’s still singing in movies, but that was her first time. So we were in good company. We weren’t on with the Beatles -- that would have been fun. It was just about a year before that the Beatles came.
Well, needless to say, after that ’65 great performing outfit that had been seven weeks playing every day, then I had this invitation to the Ed Sullivan Show, and I thought “Oh my goodness, why couldn’t we have done it in New York, when we would have been in the middle of our tour, in good playing shape, and now I’ve got to come down there.” This was the first football game at the time, and those are the days when football games came on the Saturday before classes began. I’m not sure about that particular year, but I know it was very touch and go to have the band organized, let alone rehearsed to go down and play on such a major performance as that. But we had to do it, and it was all right, but it was a terribly green and inexperienced group. We hardly knew each other’s names yet.
Marvin: How was the performance?
Berdahl: Pretty good. And it was a limited performance, so we didn’t have a chance to show good or bad too much, but that band from the summer before would have been ten times better.
Michelle: What kind of numbers drop did you have that year?
Berdahl: Numbers drop after that big summer tour? Usually is some; that’s kind of traditional. After the Brussels tour, I think we might have lost a few, too.
Michelle: So how big was the band your freshman year, Jamie?
Jamie: My freshman year, there were 120 people. We marched a 92 man wedge. That was fall, ’77, which was your last year with the band.
Jamie: You retired that fall, didn’t you?
Berdahl: No, I had retired at the end of June in 77. So if you came that fall, I was already retired. But I suppose I was around then.
Jamie: You still had your office there.
Berdahl: Well yea, because I had to go to the hospital, and I was recuperating. I retired on the last day of June, and I went into the hospital on the 7th or 8th of July.
Jamie: I just remember the name on the office. The following spring you were around.
Berdahl: Yea, the department brought me back to do the concert band.
Jamie: In ’78, Bob Briggs did the concert band.
Berdahl: Perhaps, I don’ know exactly. But I know for a few times after I had retired I was asked to do the concert band. I finally said no more of this, because I wanted the department to get off the dime and make some decisions about what was going to happen in my area. And they made the wrong decisions, unfortunately.
Michelle: What happened around there. That’s an area I don’t know much about.
Berdahl: I really don’t know what their decisions were. All I know is what happened. In 1978 I made a trip to Japan. It’s possible that in the spring I might have done the concert band. I’m not sure. Then from ’79, ’80 and ’81 I was in Japan more than I was home. And if that’s when those decisions were being made, I don’t know, but I know that Mr. Briggs was asked to do the concert band by the department one year, (whether it was more than one year, I don’t even know now) and then all of a sudden I woke up to the fact that he was no longer doing it, and that he was organizing the Cal Band concert band. And the department, I think, at first had somebody else, then they eventually gave that up, too. So I don’t know. It is a pity.
You know, when I took over in the early ’50s there, there was marching band in the fall and concert band in the spring. And we didn’t get the chance to sit down and play concert music until the second semester. And I certainly thought that was an unbalanced situation. So that’s why I figured out this (I’m still a little uncomfortable with the name, it sounds a little too precious for a band name, but I didn’t want to call it wind ensemble, I wanted to call it a band) so I called it a chamber band, to indicate that it was a smaller instrumentation. And it was exactly the same time that Fred Fennel started the Eastman Wind Ensemble, which was the same idea, one on a part playing, except for two more clarinets so that you could play band literature. But you have to be very careful about what kind of literature you do choose for that instrumentation, I think, because some pieces need a full, big, symphonic-sized band, but others are much better in a chamber band size. And I explored all kinds of music that wasn’t necessarily band music, that would fit in. I could do from five people, ten people, ensembles, to a full 40-45 piece band piece. And I think it was good, because the more serious type musician, one who wants to play, shouldn’t be discouraged from playing for a whole semester. And the orchestra had room for only a few clarinets and not enough winds, and all these good players had no place to go. I realized that, and it worked out very well, and the department appreciated it. They thought it was a good idea.
Marvin: I was reviewing the scores you had in there. It seems like that chamber band in those days have much more of a relationship with the music department. It seems that somebody in the music department wrote most of those scores.
Berdahl: Very often, they were like Jonathan Kramer, who was a T.A. for me. See, the department always furnished me with a teaching assistant for concert band, and sometimes we’d combine it with an ASUC salary to assist with the marching band. Like Sherwood Dudley, who was a fine musician, and has been a professor a long time, now, at U.C. Santa Cruz, was not only a T.A. in the concert band, but was an assistant director in the marching band in the ’60s. And Jonathan Kramer was another one, and Doug Levi, and many of them. Good musicians. And so we had a good relationship with the music department, and it makes me feel bad to get the feeling that you think there has been a long time anti- band feeling in the department. After all, Charles Cushing was one of the most respected faculty members of the department. He had that bad scene with the marching band, on account of Ohio State and the sports press, but he loved the concert band, and that was his baby. And the department respected that very, very much. I hope I followed along in that groove, I was a Cushing student, and that’s where I learned to see the possibilities of a band as being a fine musical organization. This fiddle player who thought bands played at sports events and marched up and down the streets. I had that warped view of the band that so many people do. But he long ago dispelled that idea around the music department, unless it’s crawled back in, again, with some recent people.
Michelle: It’s not that we think it’s always been that way. My feeling is that I can’t understand why there is an anti- band sentiment at all in the music department.
Berdahl: Well, there shouldn’t be. I agree with you, but I really don’t know the situation. I suspect it’s a little bit of several things, and one of them is money. You know, every department is fighting for budgets, and if they can get along without that, why that cuts out (what do they call it) an F.T.E. [Full Time Equivalent], a position that they can save money, and put it in to something else. I don’t know, but I suspect that money is a part of it.
Michelle: That’s probably true. But the way the situation has developed now, it’s almost impossible for band members to be in the orchestra, because even if they are considered good enough to get in, the conductor does not like for those people to be playing in the band, and won’t ever make allowances for it.
Berdahl: I wonder why. He was never that way with me. We had various people, not many, but let’s face it, I had some outstanding clarinet players who played in the orchestra. That fellow who is teaching over in Marin Country, Bob Colonico [clarinet player, is director of U.C. Jazz Ensembles], he played in the orchestra, too. We was better than anybody. And Mike certainly did want in, sure, and various people.
Michelle: We do have a couple of people in the orchestra who are also in band, but he puts a lot of pressure on them.
Berdahl: Well, I think that’s very bad, and I think that’s up to the student. Sometimes it might be a good idea, depending on how much time you have, whether you’re spreading yourself too thin. But that’s up to the student to decide, not for the professor to put the pressure on. Maybe some counselor someplace, that is neutral as far and band and orchestra goes, who just sees that student doing too many things, could say “Don’t you think you should choose one or the other?” That’s not a bad idea, but I think it’s up to the student himself to decide his own time.
Berdahl: I’ve already talked about the McCarthy incident, and didn’t we talk about that L.A. incident last time?
Michelle: No, we didn’t. You mentioned it, but I don’t think we got to it.
Berdahl: You want to go back and pick that up, then? The only other thing was key personnel during the 50s. I wish I could look up where we had a line-up of every officer in those years, and I did know them for a long time.
Marvin: We’ve got the list somewhere.
Berdahl: If I had that in front of me, I’d be a lot better. So maybe we’ll save that for when we can do that. Or else you could just put down from the list. It comes to mind right now key personnel. Tony Martinez was the drum major in 1951. We followed this good friendship. Tony was just a young fellow. 1953 was Cy Silver, I think, and 54 Bill Pippin. Terrific Guy, a kid from Alabama. Played the trombone, a good Dixieland trombone player, used to sit out on the steps at noon hour with a Dixieland band. The managers, seem to fade away more than others for some reason. I’ll think of many of them, but right now.
Of course, around the Brussels time, that was very outstanding leadership, we needed there. Dick Coleman was the ’57-’58 senior manager, ’58-’59. They had a duel executive committee on that tour, both committees, guys in the band made up songs about a sixteen member executive committee, and we had one big, big divisive issue on that tour. It was while we were going from the plaza back to the American pavilion, whether we were going to carry the American flag with us or not. Can you imagine? There were those there who wouldn’t know if they weren’t close enough to read your patch, whether you were a German band, or French or English.
And I think the people in the pavilion were so proud of what we were doing that they were pushing us to carry the American flag as identification to the pavilion on our parades. But there were some independent, anti-political people who thought that was flag waving. To tell the truth, I would have never been one of those flag-waving Americans who want to sing God Bless America at the drop of a hat. The only time I liked God Bless America is when Kate Smith sang it. And so I didn’t want to hear it at any football game, or so on, it is a poor tune. But flag waving kind of stuff, I didn’t go for. But on that occasion, I thought for identification, that’s the sure way, the U.S. flag.
We had many executive committee meetings, knock-down, drag-out arguments about that. Dick Coleman was a good, easy, calm guy. He always lent calmness to everything, and was persistent, never quit on anything, even if it seemed impossible. He should have given up the campaign to go to Brussels much earlier, but he kept hanging in there, and we finally did put it together. It’s unbelievable. Hugh Barnett, he was the junior of the two managers, he was also an extraordinarily competent fellow. So we were lucky in the leadership we had at that time.
Michelle: Who was the incoming drum major?
Berdahl: Incoming drum major for the ’58 season? Chapman Dix. Berkeley boy, I think. Albany, I’m not sure. These two alternated in performing at Brussels. Sometimes the current drum major would take a parade, and the next time Chap Dix would do it, and so on. Student directors from both committees were operating, so we gave everybody a chance to work at that fair. We had a group performing all the time, throughout the day.
Michelle: Dan Cheatham mentioned some things about that.
Berdahl: Dan Cheatham was on that tour, of course. He was the number one drum major, and Chap Dix was sort of the junior. Dan was one of the best looking drum majors. You know, he still is a slim fellow, even at his age, now. But you could imagine him in college, he was slim, tall and flexible. He could bend his back clear to the ground and still keep his feet. He instituted the idea of the drum major wearing spikes. I don’t know if anybody still does it or not. Track shoes. He actually wore track shoes with spikes, so that when he went back (we called him “oops” because he tried to do that with ordinary drum major’s boots and he went flat on his can. His feet wouldn’t stay stuck in the turf). He recognized that, he wasn’t stupid.
And Bill Elsworth, of course, was a very key person in those days, and remained that way for many years after. Maybe that’s where we got him started doing a lot of announcing for the band. He announced all of our things, he was our English announcers. And somebody else we’d get from where ever we were. Maybe it was the fair association who assigned a French speaker and a Belgian speaker. Everything we did was three languages, because Belgium is officially a dual language country. So we’d have English, French and Flemish. That was a must because that was the country’s policy. So Bill was our announcer, he’d just get such a big kick out of this three language deal going on all the time.
And we talked about the change to the high step already, and the change to the new uniform. Talked about when I came in as director, I came in for two weeks and stayed forever.
Marvin: The change in the uniforms. You changed in ’54, and you also changed in ’60. You mentioned that the design was revolutionary. Was that both the ’54 and the ’60 uniforms or just the ’60 uniform that was revolutionary?
Berdahl: How much different is the ’60 uniform from the ’54?
Marvin: Well, the ’60 uniform introduced the whole overlay thing.
Berdahl: That’s right. In ’54, we just had straps. It’s the ’60 one that was the revolutionary one, with that front, that stiff, bulging front. What do you call it?
Marvin: The bullet-proof vest!
Jamie: Although it was adopted 13 years before women were in the band, it’s amazingly unifying.
Berdahl: It’s terrific. It wasn’t adopted for that reason at all. In fact, the guys who were most instrumental in adopting that uniform were the biggest hold-outs for having women in the band. Colscott and the company. Everyone looks alike in that, male and female. We got into the ’60s, you know, and hair was a problem. Band guys were getting very shaggy, long, down on to their shoulders. But with uniform, when everybody got it tucked up under their cap, boys and girls looked the same.
Marvin: The other thing we kind of passed over when we were talking about the Rose Bowls was ’51, the Michigan Rose Bowl.
Berdahl: Well, that was the last of the consecutive Waldorf Rose Bowls. And I was involved with that. I had just come in, then. I was going to stay for two weeks, and I was going to stay for the rest of that football season because nothing was happening yet. I thought there a new director was going to be on the scene, and then I found out there wasn’t, so I was asked by music department and the band would I stay on, so I said sure.
Michelle: Did you ever see this picture?
Berdahl: That’s an old painting done from a photograph, a guy by the name of Barry Evans used to have a shop up by North Gate, on Euclid, the first block, and he did these like it was an oil painting. The band presented that at the end of my twentieth year.
The ’50 Rose Bowl team had a picture because it was just winning, all year long, and I think Big Game was just 16 to 15, or some ridiculous one point score like that. And so there we are, going to the Rose Bowl again. But the first time for me for a long time. For me this was the first time since that Alabama Rose Bowl of January 1, 1938. But I was bound and determined to march it through. I wasn’t going to just meet the band at the end of the line, I marched all the way through the parade. And of course, it was New Year’s Eve the night before, I wasn’t feeling all that good on New Year’s morning, and it was a tough walk. And particularly since our players learned nothing but the show. That Michigan band was ahead of us, they’d be falling all over the side walk, tongues hanging out.
Marvin: How did the band fare during Halftime as opposed Michigan?
Berdahl: Well, Michigan, of course, had a wonderful band, but we didn’t fare all that badly, at all. I don’t think we could compare to their sound, we didn’t have that big a band yet, and we weren’t that much different, and that’s why I say the band the year before wasn’t that bad, either. It’s just that we got into that legend that everybody kept repeating, and made it worse than it was. I think it was a good band year, before, but they didn’t have crowd pleasing, simple show that grabbed you. It was rather subtle. And you can’t be subtle in a stadium with 100,000 people in there. You’ve got to have something that will reach people quicker than that. So we had a show that was current and went over very well. As far as I can remember, the reaction was a great sigh of relief around Berkeley and everywhere else, that the Cal Band did fine. I can’t say that we were better than Michigan. We certainly weren’t, I know we weren’t. But we were on our way.
Mrs. Berdahl: May I just say something? The first years, when he first became the director, we got two free tickets, so I would go up to the game to watch the show. And the announcer would say “The world famous California Marching Band,” and the kids would say “Oh, here comes daddy’s band.” And I’d say “Shh.”
Berdahl: You didn’t want to admit that you were connected with them.
Mrs. Berdahl: Not when you first took over that band.
Berdahl: That’s because of all that irresponsible talk that was going on. In the newspapers, and in the Daily Cal, and everything else. It was a tough thing to crawl out from under, I’m telling you. I thought we could do it in a couple to three years, easy, but it really took us until that ’58 Rose Bowl before we were beginning to feel secure again.
Marvin: As I recall, what I’ve heard is one of the results of that was the creating of the “Cal Band Great” yell at the end of Pregame. My understanding is the origin of that was something like “Cal Band Stinks.”
Berdahl: Oh, sure. “The Cal Band Stinks, hey! The Cal Band Stinks, hey!” Very often, that was started up there in the stands by a bunch of Glee Club guys. We had a very great rivalry there in the old Eshelman Hall. The Glee Club and the Treble Clef had their quarters up in the top floor of what is now Moses, what was called Eshelman Hall. It was an activities building. And we were down in the bottom. And they’d be water-bag us and everything else. It was generally kind of a friendly rivalry, but sometimes not always so friendly, either. Competing for ASUC funds. So lots of times, I remember, the band would yell “The Glee Club stinks, hey!” We’d give it right back. But that got started up in the stands, and I’m pretty sure it was the Glee Club guys who started it, and then the whole rooting section would pick it up.
Marvin: When did that change to Cal Band Great?
Berdahl: To me, it’s relatively recent. We started getting the crowds with us and applauding us whenever the band came on the field, giving us a big hand and all that, but we were still having trouble with the rooting section, card stunts cooperating with the band, very late in the game. I forget what years, now, but when we were already established and people knew we were good. We still had those card stunt committees and Rally Committee people who would ruin our Halftime show because the didn’t care about us. They just wanted to “1-2-3-4 everybody do this” on the megaphones. Until finally, and it was in my time sometime, but I don’t know what year, we got them to start to cooperate, and bring their card stunts when the other band was on. Isn’t that the way we’re doing it now?
Jamie: I remember in the fall of ’77, at the USC game, they started the card stunts before we were all done with our Halftime show. And they were very apologetic. It was unintentional.
Berdahl: What happened over the years is that the band’s prestige started going up, and the band’s power in the student circles...they didn’t want to butt the band anymore. And so they cooperated. But it was a long time coming, I thought it was way overdue before we had that established reputation that we could say “Now you card stunts, wait ’til we’re through.” Before that, they were much more important, politically at the ASUC.
Marvin: Had influence, but no money.
Berdahl: Well, money is a relative thing. I know that compared to some years we have plush budgets. I know your costs are higher now, so you have to worry that way, too, and you have a bigger band. You should really get proportional to the size of the band, up to a certain point, I think, in order to pay for you costs. But I don’t think it’s underfunded. Why do I say that? I guess that from my long point of view we didn’t achieve that kind of budget for a long, long amount of years after we though we deserved it.
Michelle: What do you mean by that kind of budget?
Berdahl: What is it? $31,000, $32,000? You operate with more money than that, but you got away with it. It’s a whole different ball game, and I don’t know, I thought that the band was the only one that had to do that, but every department and every area in the university is doing that now. They’re not operating on the money provided by the Regents at all.
Jamie: I agree with you that it would not be wise for us to put in for a plush budget with the university, however I don’t think it’s right that we don’t get an adequate budget. There is quite a bit to be said for keeping it on a little bit of a shoe-string budget, but there is a difference between keeping it on a shoe-string and simply not giving you an adequate amount of funds. That’s what’s forcing us to fund-raise.
Berdahl: I don’t disagree. I was thinking in terms of 31 to 32 thousand, that’s quite a percentage difference than 125.
Marvin: Our entire budget is about $100,000.
Berdahl: That’s a whopping budget.
Marvin: There’s been a bit of inflation over the past ten years. If you consider inflation, compared with past budgets, it’s not that unreasonable.
Berdahl: Well, I hope that you can get this endowment eventually. That’s the answer, you’ve got to have replenishable funds from the interest so that the original amount will not become depleted, and so you can go on from there. It’s the only way, because it’s inevitable that the university funds are going to be often hard to get.
Marvin: But anyway, that’s one reason why we don’t talk too much about money around here.
Berdahl: Another thing that I must say is that I think it behooves you, if you are having money troubles, and I’m sure you do this (I don’t mean to imply at all that you don’t), but that budget has to be really looked at, really scrutinized for every dime that’s spent. Is it worth it as against this? In other words, where are your priorities?
Mrs. Berdahl: Do you still have a camera crew that follows you down to Los Angeles, and do you pay for all their expenses? And do they take a lot of pictures that you see later on?
Marvin: The pictures that are taken now are not nearly as expensive as they used to be, with video tape. Video tape is quite a bit less expensive.
Mrs. Berdahl: This big camera crew would follow along, all expenses paid. And you never saw any pictures.
Berdahl: To me, there are other places in the budget that need money terribly, and this was a luxury that we couldn’t afford. But you know why it was there? Because the influential powers were involved with that.
Marvin: In the first place, since they are video taped, they are seen much more readily. In the second place, film is much more expensive to have developed. Maybe in those days it was less expensive, and the band didn’t have video tapes.
Mrs. Berdahl: Who was on the camera crew? Alumni?
Jamie: All but one are alumni. There’s Joe Palino, who was on the band’s ’76 tour, who is in charge of the camera crew. And he’s not an alumnus, but he’s alumnus in spirit if not for real. And then there’s Monica Johnstone, who is a graduate student, getting her doctorate in rhetoric, and also a former bandsman. Myself, a former bandsman, and Michael Markowitz, also a former bandsman.
Berdahl: You know the Markowitz boys, you know their dad.
Jamie: I sometimes questioned why the camera crew had to bring five people to L.A.
Berdahl: That’s why I say I think they should examine very carefully, and it’s hard to do it without personalities being in the way of things. But really scrutinize very carefully where your priorities are, and if you can get along without something there to help some other area that’s really in need....
Marvin: I agree with you. Given the scrutiny we’ve been under the past couple of years’ budgets, I think I can say with some confidence that there’s not too much fat in there. I think that could have been be said about some points in the past, but I don’t really think that statement can be honestly made, that we have fat in our budget.
Berdahl: How is the business of how the band’s handled between you and student activities? The manager is in charge of the band’s finances, and committee people can go out and charge things to their budget without any question, or how much supervision is there over individuals in the band?
Marvin: As far as being able to spend money, anything that has to be paid for by the university has to go through the senior manager ahead of time. The exception for that, of course, is that you can put in for a check request, which is what happens most of the time. It has to be approved by the senior manager. The risk, of course, is that if it is deemed inappropriate, you can get stuck paying for it yourself. All payments have to be made after you get the manager’s O.K. and Michelle’s [Woods] O.K.
Berdahl: From time to time we’d have things get out of hand, we hate get things tied down into red tape because students’ time is valuable. That’s where they would run afoul of the law sometimes, because they had to go off and do something without approval, and then we’d have to try to justify it, we had to do it through the back door. Sometimes I’d get tired and say “Now look, we’re going to go according to the rules, and you’ve got to plan ahead, and not get stuck with a last minute thing like that.” I did go up and down that way.
Marvin: It’s reasonably under control to the extent that even if it’s not handled correctly through the red tape, the spending should have the approval of the officer, the senior manager, and that’s what’s going to be prudent to have in time for the budget. And at least nowadays we are fairly closely watching that we’re not spending outside our budget. We’re keeping our eyes fairly closely on that. And as long as it’s prudent ahead of time in the budget, you’re not supposed to have a problem, anyway. We end up working it out most of the time getting it through Sproul.
Berdahl: The only reason I bring in this subject at all is because I think it’s very important to the future of the band, and that’s what I’m always pointing towards. You are temporary, you people who are officers right now and immediate alumni, people who are close and can help. You are temporarily caring for the band’s responsibility to the university, its reputation, and so on. And if that ever gets broken completely in any one time, then it’s for the future to have to climb back out again, and that’s not a legacy that any of you want to leave. People hear the band and see the band, but the way you carry on your business is a very important part of the reputation of the band. That’s the inner circle of administrators and people that you have to work with and get along with, regardless if you like them or not. You’re not going to help the cause any by being, in their eyes, impossible. I don’t know this Woods person. Is that Maples person, is he retired yet?
Marvin: He was given considerably less responsibility. I don’t really speak from much authority. That’s what I heard second hand.
Berdahl: That sounds to me like that’s probably what happened. It happens quite often in a big bureaucracy, if somebody comes in to a job that somebody could have reasonably expected to be promoted to...
Marvin: They couldn’t fire him and they couldn’t demote him, so they basically created a position for him at the same level, but they didn’t give him the responsibility he had. That’s when Michelle stepped in.
Berdahl: Where’d she come from? Was she already an employee of the university in some other position?
Jamie: She was something in the office of student affairs. I can’t remember. I’ve heard her biography a couple of times.
Berdahl: Was she from Smith’s, you know, the vice chancellor for student affairs?
Jamie: I think that is correct, but I couldn’t swear to it.
Berdahl: Because if that’s her background, that kind of explains some things. The vice chancellor for student affairs was a man by the name of Smith, who came to the university when we were trying to balance positions by race. That’s a good policy, but he had no background, I think, for such a big responsibility. Maybe a similar position at Merritt Junior College. He could never understand the long background of the ASUC, traditional activities, and the band, particularly. He just didn’t understand all that.
Marvin: I think the biggest problem with Michelle, you were talking earlier about somebody who was trying to manage position that they were really unqualified for. That’s the problem with Michelle. She’s in charge of the band. She doesn’t have an understanding sufficient to manage an organization like the band, and with the budgetary situation, she’s trying to nickel and dime us.
Berdahl: This is turning out for me to be more of interviewing you than the other way. I’m sorry. I understand that Carol Young is the head of musical activities now.
Michelle: It’s supposed to be a rotating position.
Berdahl: That’s about the only way to do it. I’ve always liked Carol Young, and I’ve always thought that she was a good, fair person. I think it was one of the better appointments I made when I was there to get her. The choral activities were in a very sad state when she came on, and she did a pretty good job with them. I don’t know about the last few years.
Michelle: She’s very efficient, but one aspect of that is that she is not very fond of student management.
Berdahl: Is that right?
Michelle: That’s my understanding of it. From what I’ve heard.
Berdahl: You mean you’ve heard something from the choral kids?
Michelle: I’ve had several friends who were in the choral management. She gave a lot of lip service to it, but didn’t really believe in it and wanted to run the whole thing herself. And she feels similarly about the band, finds it rather frustrating.
Berdahl: That’s been a traditional feeling of choral. And Bob Deminuae, he ran a dictatorship, he ran that thing like a tight ship of his own. He though I was stupid to let the band get student leaders. He though I should take over, too. But I said no to Bob, and it turned out that during the ’60s, that outfit fell apart completely. And the band went on through thick and thin, no matter what the outside disturbances were. We had a solid organization, a student structure that you can’t destroy overnight. And I think there were many times in my memory that I thought to myself “Wow, did I do right, or should I have got that thing and made a Big-Ten outfit right from the beginning when I think I might have gotten away with it?” But I always settled the question in the other direction, after all, my concerns at the moment were always fick and fair, but there are times when working with students can be very frustrating. I don’t have to tell you that.
Jamie: I have a question about something that is always been somewhat shrouded in myths and secrecy, and I guess it’s an uncomfortable topic, so perhaps it’s not something you want to delve into, but in (I guess) 1971, when David Tucker was with the band for one year....
Berdahl: He’d been with us for several years.
Jamie: He did arrangements and such, but there was one year when he was actually directing the band. And there was some conflict that lead to his replacement.
Berdahl: Most of that happened, of course, when I was in Japan. When I had that leave in ’71. Two falls I missed. I missed one whole academic year and one quarter. But I missed two football seasons because I was asked to stay on in Japan longer than my original plan. And it was probably a mistake when you stay away that long. You see, the problem was that jazz was becoming an important activity, and I had no known plan or idea to have that jazz become a separate organization or anything. I wanted it to be part of the whole band establishment. It was a natural interest of students, many wanted to play jazz, and I wanted to see it within rather than on the outside, because I had seen all the way up through the ’50s, up coming and going, just little, independent jazz groups. Some fall, there was very much interest in this, and get something together and go to the ASUC to try to get some support, and would go up and down, and that student would graduate, and it would die out, and pop up again. But I thought sometime that’s going to catch on. Somebody’s going to get a hold of that thing, and get in there, and get a budget, and it would be completely out of any band influence or control whatsoever.
So, when Dave came on, (he came to Cal to get a bachelor’s degree, from Sacramento City College) he was amenable to work with us as an assistant, and write arrangements. He was good at that, and to handle what little student jazz was going on. I kind of kept an eye on it, but I wasn’t actually directing anything. Because I didn’t have the time for that. And so he gave it a little bit more stability, and a little bit more part of the program, but I didn’t want to become separated. I wanted Cal Band people who are interested in jazz to be able to play. And if there was somebody who was not in the band, but wanted to get into the jazz band, they had to get into the band in order to do that. Well, believe me, this was handled very poorly by the band. It wasn’t all Dave Tucker’s fault. He’s partially to blame, but when I was gone, there were certain band people that for whatever reason, they didn’t like him, didn’t like jazz, (they were pretty square, as I recall --square-type band people who didn’t like that kind of thing) went over heads and tried to get him fired. He was the assistant director.
Bob Briggs helped in many ways, he was an alumnus who came over from Fairfield to get a degree, too. But Tucker was senior to Bob Briggs at the time, and in all fairness, at that time, was the assistant director. And when I went to Japan, we divided things up between those two so that they both had something to do. And I was so intent to see that this thing didn’t get out of hand, that I practically knocked heads together, sitting up in the ASUC executive director’s office, with band officers, and the kids mostly interested in jazz, and Dave Tucker. And I got an agreement, and it was signed, that the jazz group was going to be officially part of the Cal Band, and under the Cal Band structure. And that’s the way it was when I left.
And when I was over in Japan, somebody did something, as I understand it, tried to go over to some vice chancellor or something, to try to get Dave Tucker fired. And it boomeranged to the disadvantage of the band at that time. He was kept on in a separate position, and there was a jazz activities, and that was a reality I faced when I came home. In other words, the band scrapped the agreement. Who were the individuals responsible? I have an idea, but I don’t really want to talk about that. There might have been a legitimate beef, Dave Tucker might have done something that they didn’t like, but that was a situation that should have been resolved after I got back, and not behind my back. And I resented that then, and I still resent it, because we had this situation that looks very bad. The cat’s out of the sack, and you can’t get him back in.
Michelle: There seems to be an improvement in the relations between the Cal Band and the Jazz Ensembles.
Berdahl: I think there’s a better feeling between...
Michelle: He left for a year for health reasons, and while he was gone his books were investigated and he was asked not to come back, as I understand it. It turned out they had been siphoning money off to a separate checking account that would not be under the auspices of the university.
Berdahl: I think when they played for things and got paid, they didn’t put the money back into the general fund.
Michelle: They kept their income account separate, and he was applying it himself.
Berdahl: Well, you just don’t do things like that around the university. I think it was poor judgment, but I don’t think Dave was a crooked guy at all. I don’t think he would ever do it for his own. He might have been sloppy, or something.
But the reason why I resent it, and said it to band people at the time, I don’t advertise it much now, but it’s come out, I’ll tell you my feelings, it brought about a situation where they thought the band was powerful enough to go to vice chancellors and get Dave Tucker taken care of and out of their hair, and I’d come back to face a reality of “Who’s running that damned band?” They wanted me to get the picture that I wasn’t running anything, either.
Mrs. Berdahl: You’re saying the band students?
Berdahl: Alumni. But very much in control of the students at the time. This was a signal to me, too. You see, I had really worked hard, maybe rather strong-armed about it, but I always did it with everybody talking, and I made my case, and I got the ASUC executive director and everyone around, by negotiation, to agree to what I though in the long term would be the best for the Cal Band, and the best for jazz activities, to keep that in its corner, where it belonged, and not be a big activity. I didn’t think it was healthy for some kid to come here who was a good instrumentalist and just play jazz all year long. What kind of musical activity is that? He should play in the concert band, he should play in the marching band. And now, if there is a free quarter somewhere, if he wants to concentrate on jazz, fine. But we’d be under the same structure, we’d adjust our rehearsal schedules and use of the rehearsal rooms, and everything, accordingly. If it’s all under one structure, that’s possible, but when it gets out there to be independent, you’re just throwing yourself out at your competitor. Right at your neck, all the time. And that’s what the band did. It was stupid.
Jamie: Was it competition, or exclusionary?
Berdahl: It was a stupid move that was made by pure power grabbing by the fellows that reacted. They won’t admit it to this day, but that’s what happened.
Jamie: Sometimes, people who have theoretical power try to use it and discover the actual limits of their power may be somewhat different than the theoretical limits.
Berdahl: That gets my blood pressure up a little bit, because that is one of the saddest things to ever happen to the Cal Band, and to me. When something bad happens to the Cal Band, it happens to me, too, because that wasn’t my idea of a student instrumental department, to get cut up into segments like that. The choral groups and all that, that can be divided because that’s natural, I guess, but not instrumental. It puts too much emphasis on jazz. I think jazz is a wonderful, part-time activity, but you’ve got to learn to play your horn, to play legitimate music before you can take off on that stuff. Some fellow said all I got to do is pick up a horn and blow something like a chicken with its head cut off, and call it a tone quality. But you know you’ve got to know your instrument, first. Then you learn how to play jazz.
Jamie: I’m not so certain if you didn’t have a rival jazz department that you wouldn’t be much easier to build a larger band.
Berdahl: Of course, it would.
Jamie: And you wouldn’t have all the problems with the Jazz competitions.
Berdahl: I’m just amazed that you get the turnout that you do, because a lot of kids coming out of high school now have lousy concert bands, and have some pretty good stage band work going on now. That’s part of the thing. And they come out of that, and they see “I can do this, or I can do that,” and they don’t want to march; their high school band is terrible and their image of it is terrible. Or else they’re burned out, they’ve had enough of that, and they’re going to be a big boy, come to the university, or a big girl, and put that high school stuff behind me. You see, you’ve got all that going against you, we could have enticed them with that, and during the marching band, say “Here, spend some time with that.” There’s a hundred people, just like that.
Michelle: It’s hard to say, because they always claimed each group individually, and there are a lot of the same people.
Berdahl: Added them up? But they have had as many as 75 to 100 people, I think, in their whole thing. I don’t know how it is now, but if you take that and add that to the Cal Band, we’d have our choice. We could have 225, 250 people, or if we don’t want that big a band, we’d have more people to choose from.
And the budget competition! Frankly, that’s why I retired when I did. I didn’t have to retire in 1977, but I was getting so sick of the Jazz Ensembles wanting to be equal to band all the time. You know, “Me too! Me too! You get this, we get this!” And I was under an unattainable position, and a band is a much expensive organization, and it isn’t equal dollars, it’s equal needs, what do you need for, that’s the difference, the way budgets have got to be judged. I knew, and I saw, and I only approved what I thought, generously approved so they couldn’t accuse me of being unfair. In my own mind, anyway, I approved budgets for them that they could use legitimately, and not just to get great big thousands of dollars equal to the band budget.
Michelle: Who is the director of musical activities now?
Berdahl: Carol Young. It’s a rotating thing now.
Jamie: The don’t have quite anything equivalent to you former position now?
Berdahl: No, the just eliminated me. I retired and they never replaced me.
Marvin: They have a unit student musical activities, and they have a rotating head, and all that is, really, is somebody to put the final application through. Budgets go directly up to Michelle.
Berdahl: I goes directly up the student activities office, now, and they’re more involved with running our groups than they should be. I think we should have handled it down at our level more.
Michelle: It’s only Michelle Woods, but her immediate superior, Bud Travers, who is an assistant vice chancellor.
Berdahl: Bud Travers is just a financial figures man, that’s all he’s ever been. He’s never been anyone to know what the activity is. He’s a budget man. He sits down there with figures, and he doesn’t get any closer to the reality that those figures represent at all.
I finally went up to the retirement benefits office (I’d been paying into the retirement with part of my checks for years and years), just to see how I stood, what would happen if I should think about retiring. And oh my gosh, after my first appointment with, his name was Harry Cranston, a wonder guy, and he convinced me that I’d be stupid to keep on working any longer. I’d do better in retirement than I would staying on. I mean just as good, financially. It was really strange.
And I was so frustrated, in a now-win position. We got choral groups, jazz groups, and even the band against me. The band resented anything I approved for anybody else. In my position, what I had to do. And then I’d work like the dickens to get budgets in the ASUC, it had certain formats and had to be done just according to certain rules, and I’d stay up ’til midnight, night after night, so that it wouldn’t be rejected because I did it wrong. And then, at the end of all that, we’d get word back from Vice Chancellor Smith, or someone at that level, say the band’s budget was $75,000 (just as an example, maybe it wasn’t that much), he’d just say $35,000 without any saying cut here, after all of our work to justify, being interviewed and justifying this and that, it was just a decision. Because the deadline came and budgets had to be in, he just gave us that reply. So I gave up. I was kind of bitter when I retired. I’ve lost a lot of that now, and once in a while when I think about it show it, because I didn’t have the good feeling of anybody, including the band. I don’t say all the band people; I have wonderful band student friends. But I was removed from being close to them anymore; Bob was doing the marching band completely. That I wouldn’t have needed to do when I came back from Japan in 1971, 72, and he was doing the marching band, of course, when I was gone. And then I was still nominally the director of the marching band, as well as the concert band, but he was doing all the work, and I just showed up at the end of a rehearsal. But I was more or less nominally and not really there, so I thought it was only fair that he be the director in name. But I knew I should have held on to that a little bit longer, because it is from then on that my relations with the personnel, with the executive committee, from then on for the three or four years I had before I retired, got pretty awful. They thought about me perhaps like you feel about Michelle Woods. But I just couldn’t remedy the situation at all.
Michelle: Begging your pardon, but I find that one rather difficult to believe.
Berdahl: That’s not a good example, but they didn’t like me. They didn’t think I was fair, because they expected me, with my background as the director, to give them favor, and to do everything they wanted. And I couldn’t do that, but I did the best I could. And, of course, I wasn’t doing nearly enough for the Jazz Ensembles, according to their likes, the choral groups were the same way. Carol Young I found to be much better to get along with than Milton Williams, the guy before, who practically bankrupted the ASUC with his big productions. He paid no attention to budgets. He’d put on something in Zellerbach Hall, when Zellerbach Hall hired the Oakland Symphony to do Bernstein’s...what’s the name of that opera? Anyway, it was a big, big production, cost a lot of money, and the professional people, the casting, he could have had students do it. It wasn’t a student activity anymore. It was just an ego trip for Milton Williams, and the students were just welcome mats for him to achieve a big production like that.
So that’s what I decided, that I wasn’t going to suffer financially, and I’d just get out of it and go back to Japan. From then on, I was just loose, I didn’t have a regular job, and was invited back to Japan. That’s the best job in the world to have. You can’t read, and you can’t write, and there’s no possibility of doing any kind of administrative work, they’d do that all for you, and all you have to do is walk in to study your scores, and walk in to rehearsal and walk out. And you couldn’t care less about how things are arranged, because you can’t participate because of your language barrier, in policy matters or anything. That’s all done between the students and their administrators. I’m just the musical director, and I’d choose the program, and I met with the students, of course, which was always my habit here, to confer with them and talk about a program, if they had some suggestions and input, fine, but I’d decided it.
Marvin: The pyrotechnic incident down in L.A. in the early 1950s?
Berdahl: Oh, all right. The fellow who donated the present Pelican building that up there, near Moses, in the old Eshelman Court, you know, the Pelican Building?
Jamie: They now call it Anthony Hall, because Anthony donated it. They used to always call it Pelican Building until they decided not to give it back to the Pelican.
Berdahl: So they got around it by naming it for that old guy who gave them the building. Well, he was one of the early editors of the Pelican, and it was his pride and joy, and the university hated to accept the money for that building. They needed a building for the Pelican magazine like they needed a hole in the head. He had an awful lot of money, and a lot of influence.
Michelle: I only saw it on its last legs. Was it really that different?
Berdahl: It was the raunchiest magazine! It varied from time to time, but there was a time, even old Cal Bandsmen riding the bus to L.A. would blush reading the thing! It had its ups and downs, but there was a time when it wasn’t even funny, it was just raunchy. But Anthony had been a early editor, so that’s what he thought he wanted to give, a building to the Pelican magazine. None of you would know what disrepute it was in on campus at the time, but the university authorities didn’t want to turn him down, because he was kind of a contentious old fellow, and they know he had a lot more money, and he was proud of being an alumnus from Berkeley, they wanted more where that came from. Donating $100,000, $150,000 was just a drop in the bucket for him.
Michelle: So this was all before Anthony got his building?
Berdahl: Oh yes. It was much before. When Anthony built the Pelican building, it must have been in the late ’50s or early ’60s.
Marvin: Around 1960 or ’61 is when they built the new student center.
Berdahl: ’61. Well, it was before then, so it was probably about 1959 or ’60.
Well, in the fall of ’53, (this is now the beginning of the third year since I came as the director; no, it was the fourth year, or it could have been ’52. I’m not sure). Anyway, if you look in the record book of officers, Bill Pippin was the Drum Major the year it happened. It was a USC football game, (and I missed the whole second half of the game, unfortunately, but as it turned out, we lost the game anyway), but it was touch and go as to whether the whole band was going to follow me when they dragged me out to take me back to the police station. The whole band was up in arms; they were going to rise up en masse, right out of the stands, and follow me out. “If Berdahl goes, well, we go, too! Arrest us all!” That was the attitude.
Well, I stood there, and turned around, and I said “No, no, no!” It would have created a bigger sensation if they had done that, but not everybody in the world knew about this individual going out. If the whole band had walked out of there, it would have created a bigger stir. I’m kind of sorry now that I didn’t let them do it! But I said “No, no, no, you stay there and play for the football game.” Because I thought it was a misunderstanding, it was easy to explain. My goodness, in my own mind it was just a matter of our show that was planned a whole week ago. We weren’t doing anything underhanded.
Jamie: What was precisely what you guys did?
Berdahl: We had a show (and I have a tape of it, by the way; not a bad show, from the radio), the Mardi Gras was the theme, we were doing shows that were on themes, we did theme shows. And the finale ended up in a whole bunch of fireworks popping, and steamers. Very inconsequential little fireworks, nothing that could have been dangerous at all. And it was a repeat, as was our custom, and we still do it some, I think, we did that show first the week before at a home game in Berkeley. So we had that much more experience, and we wanted to be good down there in the Coliseum.
So we go down in there and do this show. And to our great surprise, after the Halftime is just over, and everything is busting loose in this Mardi Gras, why a couple of cops come and get me, and pick up drum major Bill Pippin, on the other side, and drag us over, across the field, and out the running track, down the tunnel there, and out to where they had the sheriff’s station out by the stadium back there. In front of 90,000 people. It was a big crowd.
And all I heard was “You smart-alecks from Berkeley, you thought you could get away with it, didn’t you! I thought we told you not to pull that off, and who do you think you are, anyway!” He was treating me like some punk. And here I am, I wasn’t all that old, but I was a good deal older than any student. And I was a representative of the University of California at Berkeley, with seemingly some kind of dignity and responsibility in me. And they were treating me like some dog, or like some punk radical. I can understand a little bit how some policemen turn students off, if they all had mentalities like these two. They were awful! And they were all USC enthusiasts, and thought people from Berkeley, even in those conservative times, were just a bunch of punks!
And finally I started to get them calmed down to listen. I said “We did this show last week in Berkeley. It’s just a repeat, with no intentions of breaking any rules. I don’t know where this comes from. What in the world is going on here?” Then Earl C. Anthony comes up.
So here’s what happened. I found this out after the fact, but it still was a mystery to me while Halftime was going on. Earl C. Anthony was a big wheel, politically, financially, in the whole city of Los Angeles. Like I said, he owned the radio station KFI, he owned automobile agencies, and half the real estate, I think, of the business area. And he was known, well known to get in his cuts, once in a while, and when he did, his favorite idea of having a big time was fireworks. He had a bug about fireworks. Even when he dedicated the Pelican building, he wanted to have a lot of fireworks, but the university wouldn’t allow him to do that when he dedicated that building. So, he was calling the Fire Marshall for permission to shoot off $10,000 worth of fireworks that he had flown in from Hawaii. He had already flown them in; he didn’t ask permission first and then fly them in, he flew them in and then he, as a formality more or less, was going to call the Fire Marshall and say “Incidentally, I want to shoot off these fireworks at the Halftime of the USC - Cal football game,” just expecting a formal “Oh, sure, Mr. Anthony.”
“No,” the Fire Marshall was tough, he said “No, that’s too big a crowd. That’s too dangerous. You can’t do that.”
Michelle: And then you came with fireworks!
Berdahl: And so Anthony, (I checked this story through police departments and the Fire Marshall’s office, afterwards to find out about this) sure enough, he was blowing off his mouth. He wasn’t used to being talked to like an ordinary civilian. He was used to being looked up to as a power. And when he got turned down flat, it made him mad, and he said something to the effect of “What will you do to me if I do it anyway?” He threatened him, you see? Well then, they were ready. We walked right into that trap! Can you imagine such a coincidence? Poor little babes-in- the-woods from Berkeley walked right into a trap and got accused that we and Earl C. Anthony were in cohoots, and we were doing his dirty work as part of a plot!
Marvin: What made them leap to that conclusion?
Berdahl: He had threatened them, “What are you going to do if I do it anyway?” So now, here comes the Cal Band, and they were watching out all over for fireworks. Ah, the band had fireworks, and so there was their answer. And it was just a forgone conclusion. They didn’t stop to think of the ridiculousness of it. And I was in hot water, believe me! You’ve perhaps seen that front page of the L.A. Times, haven’t you? With that article, and the picture, in front of all those people.
Of course, that went right back the Berkeley, and when I got back home, I had to go right to President Sproul’s office. President Sproul, himself, wasn’t in this conference, but a lot of his aides, his boys, were there and grilled me something awful! And I finally got them convinced that it was just a plain coincidence that we walked into.
We should have had a permit. That I know after the fact. You know, how you get permits for your “bomb.” Up until that time, we maybe once or twice had some fireworks, but we were too innocent to know that we needed a Fire Marshall’s permit for anything. We didn’t have one the week before, and nobody said anything. Berkeley cops, in those days, were friends with students. A Berkeley cop was a student’s friend, and they’d protect you. If you did something really wrong, they’d protect you and see to it that you didn’t get a record. Now they would just as soon throw you in as anything. But they were very protective of students, and we had always good relationships, and nobody told us we’d done anything wrong, so we were very innocent when we went down to L.A.
And then they said “Where’s you permit?” They said that was part of the plot, that we did this cerepticiously, without asking for a permit, because that would have given away things. That was the most unbelievable coincidence, that we walked into such a trap. And that man is responsible for it, and he never had the decency (he must have read the paper, or somebody must have told him what happened to us), he never had the decency to inquire about what happened to me or the band, the aftermath of that for us, and then he comes back to plant a building to the raunchiest magazine that ever was on the Berkeley campus. And right next to our band room, and we had to come and play for the dedication of that building.
Jamie: Were the cops USC cops?
Berdahl: No, they were stadium cops. Were they deputies? I think they were sheriff’s deputies, and Fire Marshall people.
Jamie: In November of ’82, at the Cal-USC game (you were down for that one), at that game I met a friend of mine who was in the USC band, a high school buddy of mine who was a tuba player in the USC band, and we arranged to meet so he could give me a ride home. And we were meeting on the USC campus. I, of course, was dressed in Cal paraphernalia, made a mistake! I was very nearly hauled into jail just for wearing Cal paraphernalia. I had literally done nothing more perverse than to walk across the campus with my had that said Cal, and a shirt that said Cal about this large.
Berdahl: But they just expected that you were out for no good, if you were there at all.
Jamie: The interrogated me, and demanded my I.D., and of course, being a good, legalistic person, I said I wasn’t going to show them my I.D. because they didn’t have the right to demand it. That was a mistake. I did end up giving in, because I said even if it was a matter of principle, I was not going to spend all night in jail on that.
Berdahl: Well, how about that! That’s the way they are around there when there’s a Cal football game going on. They’re just absolutely .... How would you like to be the coach of that football team if you don’t win all the time? That’s bad, too. Like that coach a year or so ago. Has he still got a job? I don’t see how he can last if he doesn’t win every game.
Michelle: He’s on his last legs, from what I hear.
Berdahl: That’s the kind of mentality they have down there. Now, did we cover everything? So I got back, and explained everything to everyone’s satisfaction. It haunted me for years and years, because people ragged me about it wherever I went, “Hey Jim, how about getting arrested down in the L.A. Coliseum?” I wasn’t arrested, I was detained for a Halftime, I never was formally arrested.
Marvin: Yea, I ran into one letter that was kind of interesting. I don’t know if there was anything behind it besides special interests, but it’s a letter from the ASUC Executive Committee, about 1953, informing Ex-comm (apparently Ex-comm couldn’t agree that year on who was the senior manager appointment, and they ended up with Wayne Peterson, that was the guy’s name, and they ended up having to send it up to the ASUC Executive Committee to make the appointment).
Berdahl: This was a very divisive time. This was still a three member band Ex-comm. Voting members. And that was me, I was the faculty director, and there was this guy, a judge up in Alaska now, Art Robson, and a fellow in San Francisco. We’ve been friends for years, but at time, he still represented what I call the Old Guard of the band that was suspicious of anything new, or anything that would change. If I was in favor of it, it must be wrong. “He’s trying to take away some of our rights.” As you all well know, I was trying to spread out the influence of more band members to get into things, rather than oligarchies. That was my whole thing. But it wasn’t perceived in that way.
So, the way it turned out, it was a bad situation to decide issues. Wayne Henderson won out, but we had to kick him out later because he went completely off his rockers in the middle of school. He was on the right side of things, but he carried on in such irresponsible... He was trying to fake everyone out “Oh yes, I’m doing school, I’m doing this and that.” He was just faking us all out, and we finally caught up with him, and that’s when Louie Cohen became the acting manager. He had been the Rep-at-Large and ended up being the manager for the rest of that year.
Marvin: Did he resign, or was he kicked out?
Berdahl: He was out of school, and when we found out that he was out of school, for that reason you are no longer a student, so therefore “Wayne, we’re sorry, but you are no longer the manager.” The same thing happened, more or less, to that incident about the McCarthy situation, Frank Brown. He was never a member of the band, and so therefore we couldn’t be accused of kicking him out of something he had never belonged to. And in this case, ASUC Executive Committee had to make the appointment. Now why? I think there was some flubbing around. I think Art Robson was on a rubber band between me and third member. The third member of the committee was for -- I don’t remember who it was now -- and I was for Wayne at that time, because I had no indication to me that Wayne was going to so haywire as he did, but bad judgment on my part. I wish I could have seen it and saved myself a lot of headache. So, we were stymied. The swing vote was Robson, you see, and he’d go with me, and then he’d change his mind and go the other way. And that happened several times, and I guess that then I said “Well, we can’t decide, Robson can’t make up his mind,” so we sent it up to the ASUC Executive Committee. That’s the way it came out. Very unusual.
Marvin: That’s what struck me as unusual, going up to the ASUC.
Berdahl: We would never do that nowadays, but there was a lot more respect for ASUC in those days. We really belonged to the ASUC and were proud of it. We thought that the ASUC was a real fine student activities organization.
Michelle: These days I keep hearing Michelle Woods say that she wants to go back to the ASUC.
Berdahl: Thank goodness that this never, ever had a ghost, even a suggestion of being a precedent.
As it turned out, as each year went on, and this was kind of at the height of the divisiveness over the future of the band, whether we were going to make any moves at all to try to, like I say, to capture the respect of our clients, which were the student body and the alumni, and the Cal people. To get the band up to a prestige level where it belonged. Or to get started. There was that very conservative Old Guard that said “The heck with all of you! We don’t respect the president of the university, we don’t respect the ASUC, we’re just going to be for ourselves, and we don’t care!” I could understand that frustration, I felt the same way about the unfair treatment the band had gotten in the press, and from everybody in that Rose Bowl incident, but it was no way to get out of it. No way, you had to do something more positive than that.
Michelle: What exactly prompted the move out of the ASUC. We talked about that earlier somewhere else.
Berdahl: The move into Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs area. Student activities under the administration rather than under the ASUC. Well, this, of course, was a natural follow-up to the complete irresponsibility of the ASUC affairs in the ’60s. The destruction of everything. The budget-making processes, ASUC politicians who had their own political motives in mind, and their own political causes, that everybody had in those days, rather than what we thought were more legitimate concerns, the student activities. Guys in very responsible positions on the Senate, and even the ASUC presidents, were all out, taking their money away and disposing of it in ways that they thought were much more enlightened.
And so, we managed to weather, somehow or another, without getting killed completely, from year to year, but it was getting worse, and worse, and worse. And the university had to, I think a few times before we came out of the ASUC, we were supplemented by some university funds to make up some obvious gaps that we’d been cut down by way too much. I remember one fierce budget time, in about ’67, when Dick Dewards was the manager, red-headed, very fiery guy, very strong person. And he and I were down there, in the ASUC sessions; it was all but coming to blows over this and that. And I had to lower myself. I tried to remain in some position of adult dignity, let the students wrangle all they want to, but they brought me right down with them. You couldn’t help it. And I wrote letters to the Daily Cal, and I wrote letters to Dan Macintosh, who was then president of the ASUC, he’s probably some responsible executive of some corporation now, and probably as conservative as they come, he was one of those guys who was out there to rip us off, because of politics. I wrote a letter to Dan Macintosh that I hoped would show up in the files, where I called him every irresponsible name in the book, I said “I think it’s a disgrace to the university, and a disgrace to the ASUC and the idea of the ASUC is unfortunately gone now. And you brought the final touch, as far as I’m concerned, to be so irresponsible and so dishonest.” And I cited some things that he said one way and acted another way. I really had confidence in him. I thought he was a pretty level-headed guy. And then, at the last minute, in that budget session I was telling about, he showed his colors, and he was really a rat. And had been all the time, but he was trying to fake us out.
Michelle: What year was the final break?
Berdahl: Let’s see. I think we were still ASUC when we went to Japan in 1970, and then fall of ’71 is when I took my leave, and negotiations were going on all this time. But it took a long time, and frankly, I was never brought into it. Here the band was being negotiated, all the time, about being protected, and the university wanted to take it over, and it purely was in our interest, I suppose, but don’t you think they should have at least brought one of us. They didn’t bring any student, and they didn’t even bring me into the discussions between the ASUC representatives, like the Executive Director at the time, who had been store manager the before, and Carol Ents, who was personnel manager, and people like that, ASUC executive level people who were negotiating with the university about the band moving out of ASUC and into the university. And it was an accomplished fact, and I no input into the details of it, or how it was to be done. I was rather mad about that, too. But fortunately, I was glad that we were being protected, but I think I could have got some provision in there that would have protected us a lot more from harassment that we got from reg.-fee committees and stuff. We though, now it was total, because now you don’t have to worry about budgets, because responsible, adult, university administrators are going to be fair with you. But they just turned and made us go through the fire with the reg.-fee student people, and it was the same thing all over again.
Marvin: A bureaucracy is a bureaucracy.
Berdahl: And a little bit more frustrating, except for certain individuals. Like, I must say, I learned to like Roland Maples very well. Perhaps we wasn’t a forceful and strong enough man, but I know where his heart was, and I couldn’t be against him in that office over there.
Michelle: He used to keep us informed about the changes going on over there before he left.
Berdahl: I’m sure he was hoping for the best for you, and would do whatever he could.
Michelle: Especially after he was passed over, he became rather anti-bureaucracy, himself.
Berdahl: I wouldn’t doubt it. So, I think it was when I came back from Japan at the end of ’72, that this negotiation process had been going on, either settled completely or about to be settled as an accomplished fact, and we were now going to come under the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, this Smith I was telling you about. He became the new top of the line, and we came through the office of student activities, there. I just was a thicker bureaucracy for us. The ASUC, it was as political as the devil, but it didn’t have all the thickness of levels of people. Now we had Arlie Williams, who was the Dean of Students, and he came under the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. So lots of times, things would be handled at his level. But final approval had to be up beyond him. And what’s frustrating to me, I know all these people, and I knew them when, except Smith was a new man at the university, didn’t have any university background. But at least people like Arlie Williams, who at one time had been an ASUC Executive Director, he was the star on the football team in 1935, and he still holds the best punt record, I think, and he was a little, 135 lb. guy, when he played. You know, he was a really old blue, and he understood a lot of things. And was a good administrator, wasn’t going to let you get away with murder, or anything like that, but he also, if you had a good case, he would listen. But I knew Arlie Williams, and I knew so many people from their backgrounds, that I would have liked to have gone directly to them with any problem. And personally I could have, I suppose, but I respect lines of authority. Students could do a lot of things that I couldn’t. They can’t dock you, they can’t fire you. You’re a student, and it’s just a question of your taste, whether you want to jump over things or not. But I think I was required to always go through lines of authority. First to this office, and if they’d bump me on up, I’d go. But there were some times I wanted right directly to go to Norvel Smith. Of course, I couldn’t do that.
Michelle: This finally happened in 1972 or ’73?
Berdahl: Well, it was the end of ’72 when I came home. I’d finished my last concert in Japan that December, and so I started in the new quarter in 1973, I started in teaching again. Of course, the winter quarter of ’73, and whether it was formally accomplished, the change-over, or it was all but done, not formally, I don’t remember the details. But I know it was within that year.
Michelle: We were talking a little bit last time about the band’s going coed in 1973. It was my understanding that that was pushed through by the ASUC Senate.
Berdahl: You told me that, and it could be true. There might have been some Senate resolution, or some pressure, no doubt. I wouldn’t question that as happening, but what I do remember is that isn’t what made the band cave in. No, it was Chancellor whoever, was it Bachwer? I think he was pretty new.
Jamie: Didn’t Bachwer come in during 1970?
Berdahl: I think so. Yes. He followed Heynes. And of course, we didn’t know too much about him yet. He was such a different personality. Roger Heynes, who was really the great, outgoing, warm, easy to know fellow, both with students and .....
You could see what was going on all over the country. One of them was Title IX, that every last organization, every department, every area must be completely integrated that way, or the federal government would withhold any federal money. You won’t get a dime of it. And that’s a pretty powerful threat. There was nothing else a guy in that position could do. Or he could just have stalled a little while longer, until the federal government came down and made a big case about it, but that was no way to do it. So, it is my understanding that we got the word from Chancellor Bachwer, (we’d better not get on the outs with him and fight this thing. if he says it’s important, we must listen to him) The band, as far as I know, much as we have been unhappy with certain chancellors’ decisions from time to time, I think, in general, we realized they’re our best friends, and people that we really need when there is a crunch.
Michelle: Or more important, they can be our worst enemies if they wanted to.
Berdahl: Right. Sure, if you make them an enemy. So I’m glad that the band followed. There were certain individuals, very strong in their opinions, that would have tried to continue fighting it. But it was reluctant, and I’m sorry to say it, Michelle, I’ve said it many times, that I was just as bad as anybody else. Wanting to preserve the all-male marching band tradition.
Immediately, almost, by the second year we had girls in there. I thought “Why in the world didn’t we do this years ago?” I was convinced right away. Number one, it was really wrong, it was really discriminatory, it was wrong. But I had that old feeling before that it wasn’t wrong because this is really a male thing, and in the interest of you girls (and I like you girls, including my daughter Nancy, who couldn’t play in the marching band; she was a clarinet player, too), but you don’t really understand how it is at the university. You’re really better off. If you knew what the band was like, you really wouldn’t want to be in it. In other words, we knew better, we were doing it for your own good. How ridiculous can you get? But that’s the way we were.
Jamie: It’s always easy to look back on things in hindsight and see how ridiculous they were. It’s amazing how easy it is to cling on to something just because that’s the way things are.
Berdahl: Well, it didn’t take me long to see number one, that it was wrong, and number two, that even for practical purposes, it was not good for the Cal Band. It was wrong to keep girls out; we needed you and we needed you badly.
Marvin: Realistically, we certainly couldn’t have expanded to that many people without girls. There’s no way we could have done that.
Berdahl: And I think we needed the additional talent, not only musically, but talent in every which way that the girls have brought to the band. The girls have brought a lot of important, maybe not new, but strengthening of structures and things that was there, but maybe the guys had gotten sloppy about from time to time. And I think the girls in general, if I may say so, tend to be better at details than boys. This is a very general statement, there are all kinds of individual exceptions to that rule, but I saw a lot of band officers over the years, and there could be some well- intentioned great leaders, and everything like that, but they didn’t do the details.
Maybe there are girls that way, too, but I thing, from what I’ve seen, and I’ve met them at close to that detail of the band’s management, but it seems to me that from what I’ve seen, the girls have done a very good job of details in their jobs.
Michelle: As far as officers go, we haven’t had enough women to have a good statistical sample, yet, and it’s hard to say.
Marvin: As far as your statement about the great minds but not so great detail, I’ve could give you some examples of that, so I can second that opinion.
Berdahl: We can all cite examples of fellows who were good front men, but who didn’t do a darned thing to keep the loose ends tied up. And the people who inherited the job after them had a whole nest to follow up on.
Marvin: As far as what I was saying about the Title IX, at our Ex-comm workshop, Lindsay was talking about that, and what he stated to me as being the reason they changed over was Title IX. He said quite specifically that the band simply was presented with a (he didn’t mention the chancellor) situation where, because of Title IX, we had to switch.
Berdahl: We would have been the reason for the University of California losing millions of dollars of federal grants. We could not be in that position. It was impossible. The coincidence about that is that we were the last of the two bands to go down at that final either/or decision from on high from their university. The other one was Ohio State. Wasn’t that kind of a fatal coincidence.
Jamie: We went down after Ohio State, then. That’s right, they were ’71. We were the last one, then.
Berdahl: Wasn’t it ’73?
Jamie: No, they went down in ’71. At least that’s what their literature says.
Berdahl: And when did we?
Berdahl: Well, perhaps. Well, we were the last two. I know that.
Jamie: We were that last band then.
Michelle: That’s rather embarrassing.
Berdahl: I don’t think we want to emphasize that in public, but, I think, in our historical annals I think we want to preserve it as the truth.
Now April Maynard, that name doesn’t ring any bells to me. Who was she?
Michelle: She was an ASUC Senator, who evidently proposed some kind of motion, I don’t know what it was.
Jamie: This is completely relying on oral tradition of the most unreliable nature, but April Maynard was allegedly a figurehead in the ASUC for whom the coed band issue was a real bugaboo. And evidently she raised a lot of Cain about this in order to make the band comply. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of this in print, I think it’s tradition handed down from ’Big C’ to ’Big C.’
Berdahl: I doesn’t ring any bells to me, as I say, but it probably did happen. There were all kinds of ASUC resolutions going on then, that we couldn’t care less about what they said on things. We were with the university, and they had nothing to do with us. She couldn’t force us into anything. The ASUC could have passed resolutions until kingdom come. And if it weren’t for Title IX and the university fears on account of it, why, we wouldn’t have paid any attention to it.
Jamie: Dollars were a strong incentive.
Michelle: How did the band at large react to that?
Berdahl: To having women in the band, coming in the next year? I think they reacted quite well. I think (obviously there were some exceptions) there never was any rudeness or anything. I hope not. But I think most of the fellows, as far as I could see, were “the decision was made, so let’s go get the girls in and be as welcoming and as kind as we can be. But don’t give them no quarter as to standards of marching and playing, and they’ve got to do just as good.” And that might have been a little tough, because we might have tried to make it tougher than we had to.
I suspect this, but I’m not sure. Because Bob was running the band then, see. I’m not sure whether he’d been officially made the director of the marching band, or was just doing it as an assistant, but for all intents and purposes he was doing it. And so I don’t think I saw those first rehearsals. I remember some of them. One of them was Ron Copal’s wife, she was a good tenor sax player, she was one of the first. But she was very well exposed to the band, had played in the concert band, and knew a lot of the marching band guys, and the guy she was going with and married, Ron Copal, was a drum major, and so on. So she stuck her neck out, knew what she was getting into, let’s say. There couldn’t have been more than two or three at first, were there? We’ll have to look up the rosters to find out.
Jamie: I know there weren’t very many in the fall of ’73, from stories I’ve heard, and from talking to people who were in the band then, that there were actually very few the first year.
Berdahl: But it grew by considerable amounts over the next few years. Still, it wasn’t a majority for a very long time, and I don’t suppose it is yet.
Michelle: It’s two to one.
Berdahl: Oh, the population of the university is still two to one, male to female, isn’t it?
Michelle: No, it’s sixty/forty.
Berdahl: Is it? Well, it’s always been a strong male majority, as far as the undergraduate student body is concerned.
Michelle: It’s getting to be less so, but it’s still true. But the band has held steady at two to one.
Berdahl: But your two to one, even the one part, the half part, is enough people that you don’t feel a bit uncomfortable about it, do you?
Jamie: Now it is no longer an issue of political importance. When I was a freshman, in the elections of January, 1978, there was only one female candidate, but it was a foregone conclusion that she wasn’t going to win, even though she was fully qualified. Whereas by 1980, when the first female officers were elected, that was much less of an issue. Was it just two Ex-comms ago that it was a four female, one male Ex-comm?
Marvin: Nowadays, the director is the only spot that hasn’t been filled by a female.
Berdahl: The only way that could happen, of course, is that all the fellows in the band voted for whom they thought was the best candidate, and if it was a female, fine.
Jamie: It may not be absolutely no issue, but it is not a decisive issue, what gender the candidate is.
Michelle: Not only that, but the year I was on Ex-comm, with the exception of Karen Frisa, the secretary, all the other women were running against men.
Marvin: I think the only office where gender is still an issue is the drum major. But outside, the other officers I don’t think it is.
Berdahl: You had one female drum major. So the ice has been broken, and I think if there’s another real strong candidate who fits the image of the Cal Band drum major, they’ll do it again.
Marvin: I’m not saying it would be impossible, but I’m saying it could be an issue in that case.
Berdahl: Sometimes, over the years, people have gotten elected that I would have voted differently, but perhaps I didn’t know them all as well as the students did in their conversations, and in the long run, the vote of the students turns out to be pretty good.
Michelle: When you said that you didn’t vote, you didn’t vote in general elections, did you?
Berdahl: I don’t believe that I did. And whether I was eligible for that, I don’t remember. But no, I did not ever vote. But the manager appointments, it was an appointed job, and I had something to say about that. But we generally hashed those things out by consensus rather than by any hard fought battles in the Executive Committee. I suppose once in a while there were some that were closer, but it wasn’t very hard to resolve. How has it gone nowadays, in the manager appointments? Do you get an easy consensus, in Ex-comm, to get that done?
Michelle: The last time I can remember there being a real problem was ’81, which of course I wasn’t involved with personally, but I heard a lot about. Again, that was very divisive. Since then, there have been some hot debates, but it has been done more or less by consensus.
Berdahl: But I think, in general, you take it over the average of many years, the Ex-comm takes its appointment power seriously, and expresses it seriously, the students vote for who they think, in their minds, is the best qualified person, not just their best friend. Personality is bound to have some influence on votes.
I know I never would have gotten elected student director, I didn’t have a chance to know people long enough, except that I had a lot of good friends that were out working for me. I came in as a junior, and had to run that spring, my first year in the band, because I was an up- coming senior. I broke all the rules and regulations and traditions that you had to be in the band as librarian, and blah blah blah. And you get up there and you finally run for student director your junior year. But Burt Hand, who followed me as student director the year after that, and Ray Additon, and (who else can I think of?) a doctor who is now at U.C. Med. School. Believe it or not, he played the bass sax in the marching band. He marched like this.... That thing was heavy. I had a few guys like that, who were out actively (knowing that I didn’t know all the players too well, and I guess had some prejudice against somebody so new and brash enough to run) and then they saw me conduct at a concert band rehearsal once. There were five candidates, and I guess the other four divided up the vote enough so that I came out. I didn’t expect it at all, but I was elated because that was what I really wanted to do.
It made me look a the band differently than I ever had before. I just thought the band was a fun group to get out and march and toot around, and have a good time, but serious music, that was for violins back at the music department. But I found out a lot different, that I told you and I repeat it again, that Charles Cushing, my director and my mentor in this regard, showed me the openings to fine music that the orchestra can’t do and that the band is a wonderful group for all kinds of things. In particular, to show young, new composers this wonderful instrumentation that hasn’t been tapped yet. And here is an opportunity for you to write music and get it played right away and go out and get it published. I’ve done all kinds of recruiting of young composers to write important band music. Roger Nixon is one, who teaches at San Francisco State and has all sorts of publications going on, his real break through with a publication was with a piece called “Halsey Fanfare and March,” and got picked up by Bousie-Hawkes, and he wrote it for our band first. And since then, he’s been writing all kinds of band pieces. That’s been a sort of a mission, I feel missionary about doing this with band music. That’s not to be tossed off as some kid thing that you don’t do anymore when you go to college, it isn’t something to be tossed off as a Fourth of July parade deal, or a military group.
I take it seriously, and I think there’s been a whole new feel here that’s going on and on. And I think some of the younger college band directors are going too far. They’re getting so serious about it that they’re playing nothing but avent garde things that I couldn’t sit still ten minutes if I wanted to. But they’re taking it very seriously. O.K., I’ve calmed down a little bit, too. I was a little bit that way when I was younger. I wouldn’t play anything in Hertz Hall unless it was brand new. You know, never been heard before. Original, for winds. That’s a very nice thing, but there’s a lot of good music that’s been transcribed for them, that fits band instrumentation very well. And so I’m not a purist about transcriptions anymore. I’m very selective about what does go well in transcription, and where and when you play it.
Most band musicians don’t get a chance to play in an orchestra, to play these classics, landmarks, overtures and opera preludes, and things like that, you know, but it’s fun to do that. And you should have the opportunity to do it. So where I played that music was in the lower plaza, informal outdoor concerts. Whoever comes listens, kind of like a park concert, and yet you had the chance to play that music, and we played more concerts that way. But the Hertz Hall concerts, I figured that’s sacred, number one music territory, and nothing but the highest level of transcription that fits the band so it doesn’t come off, people who know the piece in its original form wouldn’t say that it is a transgression. That it would be just as good. A I believe there are some pieces that sound better in the band than in an orchestra. So that’s where you have to be particular. I love to play Rossini overtures. You can’t beat Rossini’s overtures, they’ve got that accelerando at the end and they get more exciting, but sometimes their fiercely difficult for the clarinetists to do what the violins are supposed to do. And so we do it outside, at an informal concert, and I think it sounds pretty good. We tried to get it as good as we possibly can, but we didn’t have all that much rehearsal time, to get those extra concerts in.
Jamie: It is fun to play transcriptions, though, because it’s exactly like you say, you get to play things like Rossini, who never wrote for band. Or at least his overtures were not written for band.
Berdahl: He wrote a couple of interesting marches that I dug up. One of the jobs that a band director who takes his job seriously has to do, he has to spend a lot of research hours digging out music that’s not generally known. And particularly, if you can find something by Rossini, for instance, that he wrote originally for an Italian Band, that’s worth looking into. Finally, after you’ve done all the research and you finally get the music, it turns out not to be worth a damn! But it’s fun to try.
Marvin: Turning back to the band for a couple of seconds, I was talking to Dan Cheatham, and he was describing what he termed as a special relationship that band had with Pappy Waldorf when he was the coach of the football team. And I was wondering if you could describe that to some extent.
Berdahl: I think we’ve always had good relationships with coaches. I’m just going to preface that a little bit with my first relationship with band to coach was the so-called “Thunder Team,” the Rose Bowl team that played Alabama, in New Years of ’38, the fall of ’37. And they had all those All-Americans, and their coach was called Stub Allison, and they played hard-nosed football. But he was very good. And Stub would always acknowledge the band at the Greek Theater rallies, and there was a good relationship started, as far as I was concerned then. And I had this longer interim back east. They didn’t even play football during the war years. They gave up football some of the years during the war, didn’t they? But anyway, then after the war, there was a coach, they won one and lost nine. That coach got fired, and that’s when Brutus Hamilton, who was the athletic director, long time track coach from Northwestern University [and Cal]. [Hamilton then hired coach Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf.] And Brutus Hamilton [and Waldorf] brought in all this material, and he changed it all around. It didn’t take him two years, he did it right away. Went to the Rose Bowl the very next year. Nine and one, or ten and zero, I forget. And then did it for three years in a row. But he was a good organizer, and he had assistant coaches who knew how to coach. And he was the master psychologist. Whether he was the strategist, too, I don’t know. He had a team that really got the job done, that was very good. But part of his success at Cal was not just that he could get those football players, but he had the ramblers. You ever hear about the ramblers? That was the second squad that played junior colleges and played small colleges around. And they had a schedule of their own, and sometimes guys would come up to the main squad from the ramblers and get on the varsity, and back and forth. So everybody at Cal, even if you were a walk-on, if you wanted to play football, you had a place to go. And you played under coach Waldorf and his staff.
I think college football has gotten too darned professional. If you’re not on a scholarship, you don’t play football. Some kid who comes out of some small high school here, that wasn’t recruited, if he comes to Cal, he probably doesn’t dare come out for football. That’s the way it looks like to me. But in that era, everybody who wanted to play could play, and Waldorf believed in participation, and then he fit into the whole Cal/student initiative idea. And he saw the value of the band to his position, and to the football team, and cultivated it. You know how tired a man must be, particularly of his size and his girth, he was a big, big heavy man, and very active at practices. I’ve seen him out there running around, and they’d get through after dark. By the time he’d get dressed, don’t you think he’d go home, just relax and have a martini or something, and eat dinner quietly with his family, rather than go to some band meeting? But if the band ever asked him, he was always there if. He’d come and they’d have a question and answer period. Some new, hot star on the horizon, and I’ll never will forget this guy. This was the guy that the Rams got a whole football team for him when they traded him. He cost them eleven players. Anyway, Les Richter was his name, one of the most famous football players we’ve ever had.
Jamie: Ann Richter, his daughter, was in the band when I was a freshman.
Berdahl: That’s right, she played in the marching band too? I guess she did, but when she first came here, I think she was only in the concert band, and then got in the marching band. Anyway, questions at these band, what we called smoker rallies, and we’d invite Waldorf to come, and they’d say “Well, what about this new guy, Les Richter?” And he’d smile, with those big round eyes, and that fat, round face, and “Ain’t he a dainty little thing, though?” He just drooled when he just thought about this fellow, and what a powerful lineman he was going to be. He was also the point after kicker. A lineman, he did all the point after.
And various things; we’d ask questions. The “Tee” formation was still a little bit strange. I said “I understand that in the Tee formation you just rush block, and it’s the speed, you just brush by, and then by that time your back is supposed to be through the line and you don’t worry about this fellow anymore.” And I said “How do you feel about this brush block?” That was the one question I asked once. And Waldorf smiled at me and said “Well, we believe in brush blocking, but we just got to brush them straight on down to the ground.” They were very entertaining sessions, and he was very personable. Would make himself available whenever he was asked. I remember on one of our campaign, either it was the ’65 tour or Osaka Tour, and I’m sure he was retired by then, but his name was always with the list of donations to the Cal Band. Not big ones, but support. After him, we had a short reign of a fellow by the name of Pete Elliot. But his first year was one and nine, and the second year is when we went nine and one and went to the Rose Bowl with Iowa.
Interview with James Berdahl