It is clear that the foundations of the Cal Band’s unique tradition of student government, its fierce loyalty to the University, and its members’ strong pride were sown long before 1923. The University Band, as it was known before 1923, was truly an all-purpose unit, serving as the band for the University Cadets, as the band raising the California Spirit at athletic events and rallies, and as a concert band.
University Brass Band list
As a land grant college established by the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, the University of California has always been required to make military training available. To satisfy this requirement, the University Cadets were organized in the spring of 1871. The Cadets apparently marched without any accompaniment, but, as reported in the University Echo of April 1871, things would soon change: “Colonel Soule has purchased four drums for the battalion. Next term we can drill with music.”
These were exciting times for the University of California, which in July of 1871 adopted blue and gold as its official school colors. The University moved from downtown Oakland to the permanent campus at Berkeley in time for the fall term of 1873.
For some time there had been talk about establishing a University Brass Band; although drums could produce a cadence for marching, the University community clamored for something more musical. Many people admitted the potential benefits of such a band, but initially nothing was done. Eventually, a few students quietly set to work with a will to establish a band. They interviewed professors, regents, and University supporters and succeeded in obtaining-in donations of $25 from each contributor-the sum of $500. With these funds, they purchased eighteen instruments. Players were then selected, and by the middle of 1873 the University Brass Band had been founded, although its beginnings were shaky and its future uncertain. With some administrative support and considerable interest on the part of the students, the University Brass Band took up the task of making itself presentable to the public.
By the next year, the University Band was progressing rapidly. It practiced on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of each week from 3:30 to 4:30 pm. At first, the Band blew discordant notes, but it soon created good music. Its progress encouraged both its members and its instructors, and the Band furnished the music for the University for the first time on Commencement Day of 1874. Unfortunately, the University Brass Band never achieved the level of excellence necessary to ensure its continued existence. The 1876 Blue and Gold reported on its demise:
It is our sad duty to chronicle the decease of one of our chief musical societies. The University Brass Band is no more. Its name is now but a memory of the past. No more are heard its mellow notes upon the evening breeze. A strange peace and quiet pervades the College halls. The cattle in the neighboring hills now dwell in peace and clover.
The Berkeley Campus, 1874.
Soon after the sounds of the University Brass Band faded from the campus air, editorials again proclaimed the need for band music on campus, a need that seems to have been answered the following year. The 1878 Blue and Gold reported “a new Toot Horn Brigade, which periodically wakens the slumbers of the quiet people of Berkeley, and furnishes an escape for some of the spare wind of those who are naturally addicted to blowing.” This is believed to be the same band referred to in 1884 as the Berkeley Brass Band:
The Berkeleyan January, 1875.
The Berkeley Brass Band is quite enthusiastic in its work.
The members practice regularly every week, and, considering
the fact that some of them could not blow a note on their
instruments when the band was organized, they are doing
remarkably well. However, persons whose nerves are easily
unstrung are advised not to venture within a radius of two
hundred yards when the band is in full blast.
-The Berkeleyan, March 17, 1884
This group, however, disbanded that same year and a new cadet band was organized. Few accounts of this band appear over the next few years, and from 1887 through 1890 there is no record of a band on campus at all.
Cadet Band, 1891.
Despite these early bands, 1891 is widely considered to be the year that the Cal Band was founded because from that year to the present there has been a continuous musical presence on campus. The Cadet Band, which reappeared in 1891, listed E. M. Wolf as its Drum Major; this is the first year that this position is mentioned.
Over the next few years, the Band gained slowly in size and quality. Faculty and administration helped to organize the group and solicit financial support, but the actual functioning of the Band stayed in student hands. This student spirit brought the Band into a central position in campus life, a position that the Band has maintained ever since.
The Band flourished until the outbreak of World War I, when it came to serve in a purely military capacity in connection with the training camp established at the University. In 1917, the University Cadets reorganized as the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) in conformance with the National Defense Act of 1916. This reorganization caused a shake-up in the status of the Band, which ceased to be a student-run organization. Disillusioned with this turn of events, a few Cadet Band members attempted to form a new band as an activity of the ASUC. They dyed old blue-gray cadet uniforms a dark blue to reflect this band’s University affiliation and practiced music in the bleachers of the old football field.
Cadet Band, 1911. DM Robert Gordon Sproul is in the front row, second from the left.
The change in status caused problems in recruiting members for the Band. In the fall of 1918, the newly organized Naval ROTC Band served as the University Band. The twenty-five-man band used instruments from the old University Cadet Band until it received new instruments from the Mare Island Naval Base. In 1920, the Rally Committee asked all men with old University Cadet uniforms to donate them so that they could outfit a band for the Big Game. From the few accounts available it appears that the University Band from 1919 through 1923 operated in limbo, not completely removed from the University military apparatus and not a full-fledged ASUC organization with firm financial support. Nonetheless, its tradition as a student activity was jealously guarded.
Marching up to a rally, 1921.
Part of the Band went to the 1921 Rose Bowl to watch California crush Ohio State 28-0. The Band did not attend the 1922 Rose Bowl, which pitted California against Washington & Jefferson; according to contemporary accounts there was no enthusiasm for the game at the University. This may have been because Washington & Jefferson accepted the invitation from the Tournament of Roses only after Yale, Iowa, Centre College, and Penn State had declined and Notre Dame had been rejected by California.
During the years after the ROTC absorbed the Cadet Band, dedicated students longed to preserve the tradition of a student-run marching band on campus but could not find a sponsor. In 1922, they persuaded the ASUC to be the sponsor. Chris Tellefsen, an employee of the ASUC, arranged to purchase uniforms for $28.50 apiece, and the new Band played on instruments loaned from the ROTC. When California played Stanford on November 25, 1922, an ASUC Band marched onto the field for the first time in the history of the University.
ASUC Band, 1923.
At last, the students of the University of California had a Band of their own, like their rivals Stanford and USC. In the fall of 1923, tryouts for the new Band were held by Professor and ROTC Band instructor LeRoy W. Allen, who became the ASUC Band’s faculty advisor. In the tradition of a military band, the Cal Band remained open to men only. The future of the fledgling Band seemed uncertain, as the ASUC debated the cost of funding such an activity. The Band had to raise money to travel to Los Angeles for the USC game, and individual Band members paid some of their own expenses.
Earle Rogers plays piccolo at the Pajamarino Rally, 1924.
These efforts did not go unnoticed by the student body, which was proud of its small but dedicated Band. The Band of 1924 had no more than thirty-six members, a meager library consisting of donated scores, a few dented horns owned by the ASUC, uniforms referred to as “fire sale” uniforms by the student body, and a University- donated practice room in Stiles Hall. The Band’s captain (something of a student director and senior student officer) that year, Millard Totman (Class of 1925), paid for the honor of his position by purchasing music for the Band out of his own pocket, because the ASUC did not provide even that minimal support.
The Band held rehearsals during the fall semester of 1924 on Tuesday evenings at Stiles Hall, with attendance averaging about twenty. The Band played at rallies and football games but did no special drilling at the games. Instead, the customary drill entailed the Band entering the stadium playing a medley of “One More River,” “The Jolly Sophomore,” “Rambled,” and “Fight for California”-all very familiar to students during coach Andy Smith’s “Wonder Team” era. From the North Tunnel down the field to the south goalposts, the Band marched playing this medley; a counter-march at the end of the field, a turn toward the visitors’ bleachers, and another counter-march brought the Band to the front of the California bleachers. After finishing the music on the field, the Band was dismissed and each man scrambled to grab the best available seat.
There were no away games that year, so the Band made no trips. In fact, the Big Game was the only game before which the Band performed drills on the field. Because of its small numbers, the Band recruited musicians from all over the Bay Area, so that it would have the largest number of men possible to compete with Stanford’s band. Uniforms were filled by alumni and by men from hotel orchestras who had friends in the Band. Even with these additional ringers, the California Band was dwarfed when the two bands combined to play the “Star Spangled Banner.”
Band members learned their music from handwritten books containing unpublished arrangements of California songs. No master scores existed to use in transcribing replacement parts, so when a book for a particular instrument vanished, the players were forced to “fake it.” By 1925, so many books had been lost that the music sounded like everyone was faking it. Professor Allen’s highest priority that year was to make new arrangements in a score form that could be kept in the Band library for reference. As he arranged the scores, the parts were carefully copied by Band members who hoped to see the Cal Band take its rightful place as a worthwhile student activity.
LeRoy Walton Allen (1885-1956) attended the University of California and served as the student Chief Musician of the University Cadet Band in 1911 and 1912. He graduated in 1913 with an A.B. in Music and became an Assistant Professor of Music at Cal. He was promoted to Associate Professor of Music in 1921 and taught until 1925.
Allen, known as Al to Band members, was the instructor of the ROTC Band in 1920. When the ASUC Band was formed in 1923, he also served as its faculty advisor and worked hard to keep the new student band together. Allen’s association with the Cal Band ended after 1925, when he left for Columbia University to pursue graduate studies in music.
“The Cal Band was really autonomous. The
Music Department was merely there in an advisory capacity.
But Glen and Modeste were both very welcome, very interested,
and helped all they could. But their help was as advisors. They
did not direct or say that it shall be this or that. We ran it,
especially when it came to the football games.”
-Madison Devlin (’25)
When school began in 1925, sixty men signed up for the Band. Instead of the Tuesday evening rehearsals at Stiles Hall, they held music rehearsals on Saturdays before the games. Even untrained ears noticed the musical improvement. The ASUC assigned the Band a room about seven feet square in Stephens Student Union for storage of music, uniforms, and instruments. In spite of its cramped conditions, the Band considered itself truly a part of the campus.
The 1925-26 year brought with it important changes. Professor Allen left the Band that fall to pursue studies at Columbia University, and Professors Glen Haydon and Modeste Alloo of the Music Department became the Band’s new faculty advisors.
ASUC Band Bass Drummer, 1926.
With the football season came the first new uniforms, and the members of the Band finally felt that they were receiving proper recognition. Their marching and playing improved because of this student body support. Still, the drills in 1925 were much the same as in the previous year with no special drills except for the Big Game. During that 1925 season, the Band wrote and adopted its first constitution, formalizing its traditional system of student leadership. The ASUC provided more support, including the promise to fund one trip each year in addition to the trip to Stanford in alternate years.
In January, coach Andy Smith died. The Band played at the memorial service held at the entrance to the stadium and an airplane flew over, sprinkling the ashes of the beloved coach over the football field.
The first concert band in the Greek Theater, 1926.
Previously, there were no Band activities following the football season except occasionally playing for rallies and track meets. The Band did not play at basketball games and never seriously considered a concert. Under the leadership of Captain Maurel Hunkins and Dr. Modeste Alloo, the Band gave its First Annual Spring Concert in the Greek Theater in 1926. This provided an opportunity for the Band to try music different from the usual military marches.
Because of the concert, the Band held together throughout that school year, and more men returned the following fall. The membership increased to ninety-six. The Band purchased extra uniforms and added music to the marches already in use. It adopted the march “Lights Out” to play on the field in place of the old medley because it had better harmony and more melody from the brass section at the entry from the tunnel. Furthermore, the march was already known as a theme song and trademark of the University of California.
Glen Haydon (1896-1966) played the clarinet in the University of California ROTC Band, served as Drum Major in 1916, and became Assistant Director in 1917. Upon graduation in 1918, Haydon entered the U.S. Army American Expeditionary Forces. He later served with General Pershing’s General Headquarters Band. After leaving the Army in 1920, Haydon became a professional clarinetist in San Francisco. He was also a music instructor at Berkeley High School from 1920 to 1925.
Haydon completed his M.A. in Music at Berkeley in 1921 and became an instructor at Cal in 1923. That same year, Haydon became the assistant faculty advisor for the new ASUC Band. He was a strong, silent presence in the Band who willingly delegated authority to students. He gave great encouragment to the students, who respected his opinions and ideas. He finished his career at Berkeley as the Chairman of the Music Department from 1929 through 1931.
In 1932, Haydon earned his Ph.D. in Music at the University of Vienna and went on to a distinguished career in musicology. He later became a Kenan Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and wrote several texts on music theory.
“I believe it was George Melvin playing the euphonium, and
he got the part wrong. Alloo stopped the playing and grabbed
the horn from George. When Modeste played the part with the
group, he made a beautiful clinker on the horn. He put it
down, grinned, and said, ‘By golly, that was a good one.’
That was typical of Modeste Alloo.”
Out of the north tunnel, 1927.
1926 also saw the birth of a new drilling strategy for the Band. Some members proposed that a new drill be performed each week before the game or during half-time rather than using the same drill all year. They had no sooner worked out a drill for the Santa Clara game than some of the older members said, “Now we have a drill; let’s save it for the Big Game.” The more progressive men persevered and the drill took place as originally planned. After the reactionaries heard spectators’ favorable comments, they said no more. Instead, pencils scribbled, imaginations stirred, and a new drill appeared each game week after that.
The big thrill of 1926 came at the Big Game, when two years’ hard work finally paid off. The Band marched in a single- file formation, extending the full length of the field, ninety-six strong. For the first time, the California Band compared favorably with its arch-rivals in the red coats and white Sam Browne belts. From then on the California Band met the Stanford’s band on equal terms.
Cal Band, 1927.
The Cal Band was ahead of all other Pacific Coast bands musically, a fact that the Band viewed with pride. The Band grew from ninety-six members in the spring of 1927 to over 120 that fall. The Band selected Charles Cushing as Captain and Earle Rogers as Drum Major. Although the drills resembled those of the previous year, something new was attempted each week. The Band spent between twenty and forty-five minutes rehearsing each drill and the results were excellent considering the time available.
Under the leadership of Captain Cushing, Glen Haydon, and Dr. Alloo, the music of the Band continued to improve. That fall, the Band introduced the “California Marching Song” and played it thereafter at most football games. Although the words were almost unknown, the tune soon became familiar to the University.
The Band went to the USC game that fall and showed the highly-touted USC Band a new kind of excellence. Upon entering the stadium, the California Drum Major tossed his baton over the goalposts and, wonder of wonders, caught it on the beat. In another stunt, the Band marched down the field to waltz music, which suddenly changed to the quick tempo of “Fight for California.” An English journalist who viewed the game wrote about the bands. He compared the USC Band to a vaudeville show, with balloons, confetti, pistols, and stunts which had no relation to the spirit of the football game that it was supposed to supplement; in contrast, he said the California Band was like a chorus from a grand opera for its musical excellence, drilling, and coordination.
At the Big Game, the Band reworked the best of its previous drills, added some new ones, and presented a fast, snappy, well-executed, and well-received drill.
Playing at the campus labor day, February 29, 1928.
In the fall of 1928, Earle Rogers was permitted to continue as drum major of the Cal Band, which by then had almost 130 members. Rehearsals continued to take place in Stephens Union before the game, as it was not practical to give the Band additional space of its own.
That year both the USC and Stanford games were played in Memorial Stadium. The night before the Big Game, the Band played at the alumni banquet and was broadcast live over radio station KPO. The next day, the California Band outnumbered the Stanford’s band by at least a dozen members. For one of the stunts, the Band finally dared to carry out a suggestion proposed four years earlier: a “Stanford Indian” initially hidden from view was ejected from the Band onto the field. It was a surprise, a bit of the showmanship that added spice to the show.
California was chosen to play Georgia Tech at the Rose Bowl game in Pasadena. The Band went to this game and, although it was during the Christmas Holidays, over a hundred men appeared on the field.
Modeste Eugene Alloo (1884-19??) graduated from the Verviers Conservatory of Music in Belgium in 1902 and earned a doctorate in Pedagogy (educational instruction) at the University of Cincinnati in 1923. Before he came to Cal, Alloo played the trombone with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He became an associate professor of music at U.C. Berkeley in 1923 and a full professor in 1925.
Alloo became the faculty advisor for the Cal Band in 1926 after LeRoy Allen left for Columbia University. Alloo was an excellent musician and insisted on a strictly classical interpretation of music. Nonetheless, when he was not discussing music or directing, he was a very relaxed, friendly figure to Band members. Alloo did not have strong opinions on the Marching Band, whose direction he left mostly to Glen Haydon and the student Drum Major.
“One time the junior officers were allowed to run a
performance on the field. It was theoretically demonstrating
the inability of the junior officers to run the show. The
Band appeared on the field and spelled out OHELL, at which
time a panicked official rushed to the Drum Major and
pointed out this terrible error. They all moved around to
the other side, spelling out HELLO.”
-Abe Hankin (’36)
Daily Californian, September, 1931.
A friend and a mentor to the Band members of several decades, Chris Tellefsen helped the Band acquire its first non-cadet uniforms. Chris became the Band’s first Honorary Life Member in 1931.
By 1931, the Cal Band had 150 members. The ASUC finally provided the Band with a permanent home in Room 5 Eshleman Hall (now Moses Hall), just across from Stephens Union. The Band also received funds for new uniforms. The week before the Santa Clara game, football coach Bill Ingram gave a pep talk to the Band, saying, “A good band is most essential to stimulate spirited rooting and playing.” He asked the Band to usher the team onto the field and perform its drills while the team warmed up before the game. That Saturday morning, Executive Secretary of the California Alumni Association Robert Sibley spoke to the Band and presented the Bell Award to be awarded annually to the best all-around Band member. Before the game, twenty Band members came out of the tunnel in the old uniforms. They then ran back into the tunnel and the entire Band marched out in its new outfits. An editorial in the Daily Californian exclaimed that “The California Band has grown up.”
The Cal Band in the stands of Memorial Stadium, 1932.
1933 officers: Stathem (SM), Salsbury (DM), McReynolds (SD), and Fairchild (Asst. Manager).
Because of the new uniform purchase, the ASUC announced that it had no money to send the Band north to Portland, Oregon for the Washington State game. A wave of editorials sprang from the Daily Californian raising the cry to “Send the Band North!” A fund-raising campaign began to raise the $2300 required for the trip, which was little more than one week away. Fraternities and sororities were asked to pledge donations, and the Daily Californian published a barometer each day showing the level of donations to the Band. Helmets of former football heroes were passed around to collect funds as the campus became “Band Conscious.” A dance was held in Harmon Gym the night before the trip. The efforts raised enough money to send all 150 men to the game.
In 1932, the Band played for the ground-breaking for the Golden Gate Bridge. The ceremony capped a parade that went from the Ferry Building, out Market Street to Van Ness Avenue, and up Van Ness all the way to the Presidio and the site of the future bridge. That same year, the familiar eight-bar roll-off was introduced, and the sixteen-man drum unit performed novel stunts as part of the Band’s field shows. The Cal Band’s chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi, the national band fraternity, presented the Band with a scrapbook, starting the tradition of preserving the Band’s history that continues to this day. When the Bears played Georgia Tech in December, the Cal Band performed a drill called “Marching Through Georgia,” which drew comments from papers questioning its sportsmanship.
In 1933, the Cal Band was invited to perform at the California State Fair in Sacramento. While the rest of the Band played songs at the races, Professor Alloo and Senior Manager Paul Stathem collected on the horses. After exploring the State Capitol all night, the Band caught the 3:30 am milk train back to Berkeley.
Finances again were tight in the ASUC, and its executive committee announced that it would not pay for the Band’s trip to the first game against UCLA. After some Band members threatened to strike, a compromise was reached where the Band returned to Berkeley immediately after the game Saturday night and each Band member paid $1.25 to cover the cost of meals on the trip.
The Band gained a reputation for excessively effusive displays of spirit. The day before the Big Game of 1933, the Band took the ferry over to San Francisco and played at the major hotels and radio stations. It was quite an endurance test, and the ferry’s deck hands spoiled the fun for the trip home by hiding all the fire axes, buckets, and life preservers so that the Band could not take any souvenirs. They would have hidden the anchor, too, but none were strong enough to lift it.
UCLA game, 1935.
parading near the Biltmore Hotel
boarding buses at the Glendale train station
forming a block “C” in the Coliseum
Charles Cook Cushing (1905-1982) attended the University of California, played the clarinet in the Cal Band, and served as Captain of the Band in 1927. Cushing became an instructor of music at Cal in 1931.
Cushing became the Director of the Cal Band in 1934. His interest, however, was primarily in the musical aspects of the Band, and Cushing left the marching performances and logistics to the student leaders.
His musical talent showed in his many compositions and arrangements of Cal songs for the Marching Band and classical pieces for the Concert Band. Cushing composed the Cal Band drum cadence, which is used to this day as the high step cadence, and the “Hail to California Fanfare.” He also arranged “Hail to California.”
Some of the Band members knew Cushing as “Cush the Bush” because of his goatee. He also was known for his friendship with composer Igor Stravinsky, who, to the amazement of Band members, once came down to the Los Angeles train station to see Cushing off after a UCLA football game.
Cushing became an associate professor in 1938, and full professor in 1948. Cushing resigned as Director of the Cal Band in 1950, but he remained at Berkeley as a Professor of Music. He continued to conduct the Concert Band until 1952. Charles Cushing retired from Cal in 1968.
In 1934, Professor Charles Cushing became the Director of the Cal Band. The Band also formed its own honor society that year, the Baton Society, and ended its affiliation with Kappa Kappa Psi. Band officers believed that the Baton Society, which was student-run like the Band, would be of greater service to the members of the Cal Band than would a national fraternity.
By 1936, 156 men were signed up for the Cal Band, and they seemed to be performing everywhere. The trip to the State Fair in Sacramento had become an annual event; that year, the Band stayed over an extra day. The Band performed in the California Admission Day parade in Oakland and for the openings of the Bay Bridge and Tilden Regional Park. It held a joint concert with the UCLA Band in the Greek Theater after the UCLA game, which was in Berkeley that year. At the USC game down south, the Cal Band performed first, and its show took twelve minutes, causing havoc for the USC Band. After the game, the Band went over to UCLA and played a concert.
The Band and the Glee Club held a spirit contest at the Big Game Rally. The Band won the prize-two pounds of premium tobacco-which it used for the Cal Band banquet known as a “smoker” hosted by the Baton Society. While playing at hotels in San Francisco the night before the Big Game, an ash stand was appropriated for use in the Band room. After the Big Game victory, the Cal Band played “Come Join the Band,” Stanford’s fight song, in waltz-time in front of the Stanford stands. Afterwards, the Glee Club got its revenge by winning a touch football game with the Band.
The Cal Band at the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island.
In 1937 the student body saw one of the most innovative performances the Cal Band had put on to that day: an original musical comedy called Take It Away. Student Director Dick Lowe and Band member Don Johnson wrote the play and the score, which followed the story of a dance orchestra. Using a chorus and two bands (one on stage and one in the pit), this stage play included ten original songs and was performed for two nights during the fall season to raise money to send the Band to Portland. Although the Band made a tremendous effort to promote the performances, only half the required money was raised, and the Band purchased a glockenspiel instead. (That very glockenspiel is still in use to this day).
In February of 1939 the Band appeared at the opening day of the Golden Gate International Exposition at Treasure Island, playing a concert, and marching up and down the fairgrounds. After the performance, the Band members enjoyed the exhibits from Japan, China, the Philippines, and other Pacific nations. In addition, some Band members came up with creative schemes to sneak into the Sally Rand Nude Ranch, where scantily-clad women played volleyball.
Student Director Burton Hammond conducts the Band before the 1939 Big Game at Stanford.
Big Game week parade, 1936.
In the fall of 1939, the Band held a contest asking students to submit ideas for a half-time skit. The winner received two tickets to the Cal-Saint Mary’s football game and an engraved baton. Infamous publicity came that same fall when two women petitioned the Band for admission as majorettes. Despite the backing of Mask and Dagger (the student theatrical society) and the Daily Californian’s making much ado about the controversy, the Band voted unanimously not to admit the coeds.
Band members at the time may not have known it, but the close of the ’30s also signaled the close of an era of Band history. Its membership was at a peak, it was well regarded in the Bay Area, and it had played well at the recent Rose Bowl game. The next two decades would bring setbacks, great turmoil, and a visual and spiritual rebirth of the Cal Band.