For Band members, the 1960s were essentially Dickensian-it was indeed the best of times and the worst of times. And in that order.
The Band plays “Fiddle Faddle” during pregame for the 1963 San Jose State game.
Attending the University of California in the early 1960s was a wonderful, positive experience. Students took enormous pride in Cal’s status as one of only a handful of the very best universities in the world; without question it was the preeminent public university.
The Band generated respect and goodwill on campus. It was a student activity sponsored and supported by the ASUC, and it was highly respected by key administration and faculty leadership who understood its institutional importance. These leaders exercised great influence on the Band’s behalf within the ASUC and throughout the University.
Band members moved the spirits of the Cal community in the early 1960s, and the members themselves were moved by the spirit of the University. Profound reverence for the University was instilled in every new Band member during the Silent Walk, particularly when Professor Garff Wilson gave his inspirational talk at Sather Gate. In addition, the Straw Hat Band spent many nights at Kip’s after basketball games, introducing fellow students to the fellowship and arcana of the Cal Spirit.
The beginning of the decade was prosperous for the Band. The ASUC had just come into a great deal of money. Unlike almost everywhere else, Cal’s athletics had been administered by the associated student body rather than of the University itself. This meant that the Rose Bowl money in 1959 had gone to the ASUC. Further, in order to align itself with the rest of the nation’s colleges-and finance the building of the Student Union and the new Eshleman Hall-the ASUC had transferred (perhaps more appropriately “sold”) its control of the athletic machinery on campus. In the deal that created the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, the ASUC received in exchange a windfall for its budget and some concessions, such as the Band’s right in perpetuity to rehearse in Edwards Stadium.
The ASUC was then able to show considerable generosity. It supplied the Band with an unusually large sum of money with which the Band purchased new uniforms with a dramatically improved design, one which remains in use to this day. In 1961, ASUC funds also paid for a full-Band trip to the University of Iowa, where the Band invaded the Big Ten territory for the first time. There was even enough so that the Straw Hat Band-fresh from two consecutive NCAA Championship appearances-was able to continue its fanatic support for the basketball team by flying to away games.
In 1960, the Band moved to new quarters in the basement of the ASUC’s new Dining Commons, now known as the Golden Bear Terrace. That year, it was new quarters all around, as Tellefsen Hall, a new residence hall for Band members, had been formed in 1960. The charter residents of the first Tellefsen Hall at 2421 Prospect Street had a warm camaraderie and shared a true fraternity. The residents, after all, had so much in common-where else on campus would the house members routinely burst into Cal Songs at dinner? Chris Tellefsen himself, Band booster and Honorary Life Member of the Band, visited frequently, retelling those same stories that had entertained generations of Band members.
In 1960, the Band moved from its long-time home in Room 5 to the more spacious basement of the new Student Center. The new Lounge became the magnetic social attraction that Room 5 previously had been. Adjacent to the Lounge were lockers and showers. These areas have since undergone several renovations: when women were admitted to the Band, an area was cordoned off as the Women’s Locker Room, and in the mid- ’80s, when the Band’s size increased significantly, the showers were converted to more locker space and the Women’s Locker Room was enlarged.
The student office was separate from the social area, and each officer had a desk and a phone. On one side was the Director’s office and on the other was the Library, which eventually became overcrowded and moved to the props room. A new props room was built in a corner of the ASUC garage. On the walls of the Band Rehearsal Hall hang full-band photos dating back to the early years of the Band: the University Cadets, the ROTC Band and the ASUC Band. They quietly impart a bit of history to the current Band.
Still unfamiliar with this new formation, one line-leader pivoted at the wrong yard line, resulting in the now-famous 1961 split wedge.
Drum Major Mike Flier, 1961.
Characteristic of things of the era, the finale of that show in Iowa, “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” brought down the house in Hawkeye Stadium. No one really remembers who won the football game because the real attraction that day was the battle of the bands-which was decisively won by Cal. Field performances and marching techniques were really maturing. The pregame Wedge, first used in 1960, was improved for the 1961 season; it has been performed virtually unchanged for more than thirty years. The Stunt Committee was created and soon became fundamental to producing the Band’s entertaining, well-executed performances.
The outline formations that had been the trademark of college bands for over thirty years virtually vanished from the Band’s repertoire. In their place appeared theatrical presentations and 3-D formations, combining precision marching with a concept of unique and imaginative shows, giving a new dimension to half-time entertainment. Live performance on the football field was at times integrated with prerecorded vocal and instrumental music, all performed by Cal Band members, such as Camelot in 1961 and Porgy and Bess in 1963.
James Berdahl follows the pre-recorded singing as he directs the Band live. The Band (left) accompanies its own pre-recorded singing as it plays “There’s a Boat That’s Leavin’ Soon for New York.” Notice the loudspeakers in the foreground.
The Band paid tribute to the late John F. Kennedy at the 1963 Big Game. The game was delayed one week due to the assassination.
It was a heady time. The Band was there in Memorial Stadium on Charter Day 1962 to see and hear President John F. Kennedy challenge them intellectually and morally; a year later, on November 22, 1963, Band members sat in shock in the Band room, trying not to believe the news of his assassination. The Big Game was postponed one week until after Kennedy’s state funeral; the Band responded with a restyled performance, one of great dignity and patriotism honoring the slain president. The Cal Band’s class act that day was widely acclaimed.
To further its growing maturity on the field, the Band turned to Tony Martinez (DM ’51) in 1964 for professional field charting. Prior to this time, most charting was done by the Stunt Committee and other Band members. While Band members produced highly polished shows, the tedious effort involved in diagramming how each Band members got from Point A to Point B drained too much of their energy from studies and the more important creative tasks related to performances. Martinez’s tenure as charter was to last almost a quarter of a century.
There was optimism beyond Memorial Stadium performances. The 1958 Brussels World’s Fair Trip was fresh in the Band’s mind, and that meant, of course, that the Band should visit any future World’s Fair. (Traditions may die hard in the Cal Band, but they are born very easily.) The Straw Hat Band had traveled to Seattle to perform at the 1962 World’s Fair, but the impending World’s Fair extravaganza in New York posed a much bigger challenge for the Band. Heralded as the world’s biggest celebration since the 1939-40 World’s Fair, the 1964-65 fair was to resurrect the futuristic themes that had captured people’s imagination during the waning days of peace prior to World War II.
The 1964 Spring Sing at the Greek Theater.
Although the Band couldn’t manage to get to there in the summer of 1964, the Fair was an especially exciting prospect for the 1964-65 Band, which had a strong infusion of new, talented, and exceptionally creative members that fall. The half-time shows were razzle-dazzle with new arrangements by Larry Austin and charting by Drum Major Lloyd Amborn and Martinez. As a result, they were fun to perform. Inspired by Broadway musicals, the Band also began to enjoy a new dimension of creativity-singing, choreographed dancing, and colorful costumes-that wowed audiences at the Greek Theater at the 1962 and 1964 Spring Sings. The Band adopted a name for this variety show format: Total Band Entertainment (TBE). The Band had to show not only New York but the nation that there was something special in Berkeley besides the student demonstrations in Sproul Plaza that had made national headlines.
The Band marches at the 1965 New York World's Fair.
The prospect of a 1965 summer tour to New York was a frequent topic of discussion in the Band during fall activities, but planning did not begin in earnest until that winter. As the student leaders began to grasp the logistical nightmares and funding needs for seven weeks on the road with Greyhound, Amborn put together the first Cal Band Spring Show in Harmon Gym. This was the prototype for the Total Band Entertainment show that would go on the road. The Band pulled out all the stops: “West Side Story,” “Hello Dolly,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” Bartok, lots of Sousa, a Jazz Band, Dixieland, Russian dancers, and-of course-marching. The show was a great success, and Band members received the first of what would be a string of standing ovations for TBE.
The Band performed a concert on the steps of the U.S. Capitol during the American Tour.
The Cal Band left in four buses on a June afternoon with about one week’s worth of advance bookings. The generalized route included only two required destinations: Washington D.C. and the fair in New York.
The tour ended seven weeks and 14,000 miles later with perhaps its best and most inspired performance at the Masonic Auditorium on San Francisco’s Nob Hill. The tour had succeeded in showing a slice of (mostly small-town) America the special qualities of Total Band Entertainment and of the University of California Marching Band.
Ed Sullivan greeted the Band on national television in the Fall of 1965.
Nourished by campus support and tested through tour performances, the Band’s confidence in itself was considerable. There was almost nothing it didn’t think that it could accomplish. In 1965, it burst onto prime time television in a performance on the highly-rated Ed Sullivan Show. In 1966, the Band had a novel idea. It contracted with the ASUC to pre-sell a Spirit of Cal recording that was to be made that winter and used to provide the funds to fly to Seattle for the Washington game.
High School Band Day is always a colorful spectacle as it is here in 1964.
On the field it was almost a science; half-time shows virtually poured forth. There was even a formula for success: start with a “Green Grabber,” an end-zone entrance to an upbeat march or-even better-a show tune; add a middle stunt with featured performers or a massed dance step to show versatility; and finish with a regal spectacle using pyrotechnics or a banner. Leave the stadium fans breathless and on their feet.
The all-male 1967 Band had to borrow two women for the “Mame” show.
Doug Day performs the Russian Sailor’s Dance at half time in 1968.
The Band could have continued in that vein for years, but this was a decade of possibilities. Instead, Bob Satterford’s (DM ’67) Stunt Committee decided to explore the marching band “as an American art form.” In 1967, the Band put on a show composed entirely of classical music, including a suite from The Love of Three Oranges, excerpts from Swan Lake, and “Radetzky March”. It was intended to look like a cross between an orchestral performance (walking onto the field individually and randomly and then “tuning up”) and a ballet. It was indeed risky business-and it failed. But it broke the mold and set the stage for later performances that ran the gamut, from the poignancy of “Love Is Blue” (1968) through the amplified rock music of “Let the Sunshine In” (1969) to the staging of the musical Paint Your Wagon (1970).
But the Band was not the only group of students on campus that was busy. Student political activism, a campus hallmark since the 1930s, was exploding too. The energy awakened earlier in the decade by the Civil Rights and Free Speech Movements gave students the feeling that they could change other things. The campus became a center for student protest.
One cause followed another: Stop the Draft Week, Vietnam Moratorium, People’s Park, and the Third World Strike. In the winter of 1968, new cheerleaders won election on-of all things-an anti-war platform (they wore blue sweaters with a knit pattern of little peace symbols). The Band was viewed by the increasingly liberal student body as increasingly out of touch with the campus mood. As the uniform and marching style were considered by some as “fascist” and “paramilitary,” the Band itself was so characterized. Then, as now, the Band was not homogeneous in its membership (aside from being strictly male) and within the Band battles were fought for members’ hearts and minds.
In the 1960s the Band often marched a “military show” sometime around Veteran’s Day. By 1967, there was a small number who, deeming themselves “conscientious objectors,” refused to march the show. As a result, they were removed from the Band’s regular marching block and had to work their way back up through the ranks of alternates to regain the spots they had forfeited. During the 1968-69 year the Straw Hat Band struggled as some Band members wanted to scrap the traditional white shirt and dark pants for a blue chambray work shirt and blue jeans, in an attempt to bridge the perceived gap between the Band and the rest of the student body. At that year’s Spring Show, the attendees had to show their tickets to National Guardsmen posted at Bancroft Way in order to enter the blockaded campus and see the show in Harmon Gym. The next year, the Executive Committee had to respond to a vociferous group of Band members who wished to march in an anti-war protest as the Straw Hat Band. Throughout the period, the Band fought for its self-respect and that of its campus and community.
“I think they left a very good impression, and it was at a
time when the University was in need of some good
-Abe Hankin (SM ’39) advance man on the American Tour
The University includes a copy of the “Spirit of Cal” record in the 1968 time capsule.
In the middle of all this, in 1968, the University celebrated its centennial. As part of the celebration, the Berkeley campus sent the Cal Band on a tour of California in March, between the winter and spring quarters. In planning and design, this Centennial Tour built upon the successful 1965 American Tour. Staying in California kept the Band in familiar territory; local alumni groups helped support the shows and organize housing. Funding the tour as part of the centennial celebration, the University spared the Band and its leaders the drain and uncertainty of fund- raising. Scheduling within the school year caused no loss of summer income. Unique among Band tours, there was no cost to the participants.
Offsetting those advantages, the 1967-68 Cal Band faced severe time pressure. The time between the first rehearsal on January 4th and the first show on March 17th was only ten weeks. This created a premium on rehearsal planning and strained the Band’s structure to perform the myriad of tasks such as logistical planning, prop building, costuming, and publicity.
An overriding memory that most Band members retain from tours is the blur of perpetual motion compounded by physical exhaustion. The California Tour set its tone early with a 3:00 am completion of the final Berkeley rehearsal and a 6:00 am departure for Gilroy and the first show. Band activities filled every moment of every day. The whirlwind pace of the tour was exhausting but exhilarating. Later that May, the Band participated in the opening ceremonies of Zellerbach Auditorium with the inaugural performance of the Spring Musical Review. They adapted the California Tour show from an arena format to a stage show and created new material. Of particular note was the Band’s spoof of the proposal by then-Governor Ronald Reagan to impose a fee upon students, something never before done at the University. Set to the song “Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof, this version, “Tuition,” brought howls of laughter from an audience of students, parents, and even University officials.
Ever since it was first sponsored as an ASUC activity in 1923, the Band had received reliable, although not necessarily adequate, funding. During the late 1960s, however, priorities within the ASUC had changed from an emphasis on the traditional institutions on campus to an emphasis on political interests off campus. This ideological shift meant that the ASUC allocated less money to traditional campus organizations like the Cal Band and the other campus spirit groups.
It began in earnest in 1967, when the ASUC tried to dramatically reduce the Band’s operating budget. Despite the fierce politicking of outgoing senior manager Dick George and others, the 1967-68 Band received approximately 50 percent of the funding it had received in 1966. This lack of support fueled debates within the Band about the ASUC’s motives. Some thought that ASUC leaders were trying to force the campus administration to provide funds, while others thought that the ASUC was trying to force the Band to cease operation and dissolve its membership. At one point, the ASUC even suggested that one of its committees select the Band’s half-time music.
The California Tour, then, occurred at a time when the Band’s historic funding source was beginning to place its emphasis elsewhere. The funding of the tour by the campus administration explicitly acknowledged the Cal Band as an instrument of goodwill for the University. This recognition coupled with the heightened animosity of an increasingly politicized ASUC set a course which led to the Band’s complete fiscal separation from the ASUC in the ensuing years.
Band members build uniform boxes for the Expo ’70 tour. These uniform boxes are still used today.
In 1969, the Cal Band received an official invitation from the Japanese government to visit and perform at EXPO 70 in Osaka, Japan, during the summer of 1970. It was an opportunity to keep the World’s Fair tradition alive. Oddly enough, the student unrest of the time added some interesting wrinkles to the Band’s preparation. The Third World Strike effectively halted on-campus teaching and gave the Band a great amount of extra time for rehearsal. On the other hand, those rehearsals were held in Pauley Ballroom overlooking the politically charged Sproul Plaza; Band members pulled the curtains and sang, rather than played, their parts.
“[Fukuoka, Japan] is one of the more memorable performances
in Cal Band history. We had 40,000 people just to see the
Cal Band at a baseball field. That’s probably the largest
audience that’s been to anything just to see the Band.”
-Robert O. Briggs
In any case, as with previous tours the Spring Show served as the dry run for the tour show. It was a smashing success, and the Band prepared for a month of performances in Japan. The Band hurtled full speed into the tour: the first twenty- four hours included an intense rehearsal, a farewell banquet at the Claremont Hotel, the flight to Tokyo (via Anchorage), another rehearsal, and finally meeting the Japanese hosts and being whisked away in all directions into a strange culture.
Changing costumes at a performance in Fukuoka, 1970.
The tour included many parades through various downtown malls, or Ginzas. Band alumni recall that it was quite an experience marching down the famed Tokyo Ginza with literally thousands of people watching. The Band toured the entire island and performed on the average of once every other day.
James Berdahl receives flowers and a warm welcome on the 1970 Japan Tour.
Finally, in late July, the Band arrived at EXPO 70. The Band rehearsed early in the morning to polish morning and afternoon performances. It was exhausting work for a Cal Band already weary with culture shock, but they had some time to dine in the New Zealand Restaurant, visit the American and Russian pavilions, and lift a Guinness at the Irish pavilion. With top billing at the central performance plaza, the Band received rewarding and memorable gestures of appreciation from the crowds. Upon returning to Cal, a gala evening at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House celebrated the Band’s triumphant return.
In ten short but very eventful years, the Band had gone from a supremely confident organization to one trying to reconcile an undying love of Cal and its traditions and aspirations with a concern for the perceptions of others that the Band was somehow out of touch. Uncertain of the future, financially and otherwise, the Band realized that the only destiny it could embrace was one that maintained its most cherished traditions.