Keepers of the Flamelink

1971 vs. San Jose State

The Band ends its show at the 1971 San Jose State game.

Traditions at Cal took a beating in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Band that a generation of Band members had known was changing. The tie to the ASUC, stressed for quite a while, finally was broken. The all-male bastion that the Band had been since its inception was about to be shattered. And the Band lost perhaps its greatest friend, its announcer, and its perennial freshman-Bill Ellsworth. And it changed its director for the first time in twenty years.

A Change in Directorslink

1972 Davis Picnic Day

Bob Briggs lends his 1940 Oldsmobile to the 1972 Davis Picnic Day skit.

During the trip to Japan, James Berdahl made many friends and contacts in the Japanese university system. After the 1970 fall season, Berdahl took a sabbatical to go back to Japan to teach. During the 1971 season, David Tucker, who had been the Cal Band’s arranger and Assistant Director at the time, assumed the role of Acting Director. At the end of the 1971 season, David Tucker left the Cal Band and accepted a position as the Director of the UC Jazz Ensembles.

Robert Briggs (’48) served as Acting Director for the 1972 season. When James Berdahl returned from Japan in 1973, he resumed his position of Director of Student Musical Activities. Robert Briggs became the Director of the Cal Band in 1973.

David Tucker, Acting Director 1971link

David Tucker

David W. Tucker (b. 1929) attended the University of Illinois where he received a B.S. in Music Education in 1950 and an M.S. in Music Education in 1951. In 1965, he began teaching music at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento. In the same year, he started work on a doctorate in Music Education at UC Berkeley. The Sacramento School District asked Tucker to take over the position of Director of Bands at Sacramento City College in 1966. He completed his Ed.D. at Berkeley in 1969.

Tucker joined the Cal Band as Music Arranger in the summer of 1968 and was appointed Assistant Director in 1969. His responsibilities included arranging, rehearsing, auditioning new members, and directing on the football field opposite James Berdahl.

Tucker became Acting Director of the Cal Band in 1971 when Berdahl left for Japan on sabbatical. In 1972, Tucker left the Cal Band to start the UC Jazz Ensembles. He directed the Jazz Ensembles until he left the University several years later.

Severing ASUC Tieslink

Campus political sensitivities of the era had led to financial problems for the Band. Organized as an activity under the ASUC a half century earlier, the Band had always had a reliable source of funding, though some years were more generous than others. Through the latter half of the 1960s, the ASUC began shifting its support away from traditional institutions and activities on campus toward more political interests off campus. As a result, traditional campus organizations were faced with diminishing financial support. In 1965, the Band received 18 percent of the total ASUC budget; by 1967 it was less than nine percent. The ASUC made it clear that the Band was low on its list of priorities. This lack of support fueled debates within the Band.

Kid with busby

Some feared that the ASUC was trying to force the Band to cease operation and dissolve its membership. At one point, the ASUC threatened to have one of its committees select or review the half-time music. This action could only be interpreted as harassment, as the ASUC tried to concoct other excuses for not funding the Band. While the ASUC may have had some legitimate concern regarding the Band (in particular the Band’s resistance to admitting women), many of the ASUC demands were perceived as provocative and inflammatory.

Others thought that ASUC leaders were trying to force the campus administration to provide funding to the Band, which would allow the ASUC to fund alternative activities. Indeed, during the final years of the Band’s association with the ASUC, the University did partially fund the difference between the ASUC’s allocations and the Band’s financial needs. Budget cuts from previous years had already forced the Band to neglect basic maintenance of equipment and facilities. The $22,000 that the band received from the ASUC during the last year of their working relationship did not allow for such capital improvements nor for the traditional travel to the UCLA and Stanford games.

Ultimately, in 1973, the Band and the University realized that the Band could no longer look to the ASUC for support. The University’s desire to have an organization that embodied and promoted college traditions conflicted with the ASUC’s unwillingness to support the Band adequately. Financial instability proved to be the main reason for the Band’s departure from the ASUC. Other musical groups, feeling the same frustrations under ASUC control, also moved under the wing of the University.

The Band was fortunate to have James Berdahl as a key figure in the restructuring committee as the Band moved from the ASUC to the University administration. Through his influence, the University allocated $16,000 to the Band for remodeling facilities and for travel to Los Angeles and Palo Alto.

To the Band’s dismay, the question of long-term financial stability continued under University administration, although the higher level of commitment to the Band eliminated the kinds of tensions that had existed between the Band and the ASUC. The Band’s financial problems were not solved, but a stability was established that had not existed for almost a decade.

Robert O. Briggs, Director 1972 - 1995link

Bob Briggs

Robert Orlando Briggs (b. 1927), Director of the Cal Band, entered the University of California as a freshman in 1948 and received an A.B. in music in 1951. During his years at Cal, Briggs played the cornet and French horn in the Cal Band. As a student, he marched in the 1949, 1950, and 1951 Rose Bowls.

After graduation, he studied with the renowned Henry Mancini, attended the U.S. Army Music School, and played in various Army bands. Briggs held the position of Director of Bands at Armijo High School in Fairfield, California, from 1955 to 1967. He earned his M.A. from San Francisco State University in 1962.

Bob Briggs

As a Band alumnus, he participated in the Brussels Trip in 1958 and marched in the Rose Bowl in 1959, becoming the only Cal Band member ever to march in four Rose Bowls. He served as an advance man for the 1965 American Tour. In 1967, Briggs was appointed Assistant Director of the Band, and he participated in the 1968 California Tour and the 1970 Japan Tour. In 1972 he became Acting Director, and in 1973 he was named Director of the Cal Band.

As Director, he led the Band on its 1976 Bicentennial Tour and on its trips to the 1979 Garden State Bowl, 1987 Coca- Cola Bowl, 1990 Copper Bowl, and 1992 Florida Citrus Bowl. In addition to his responsibilities as Director of the Cal Band, Briggs serves in an advisory capacity for the other Cal Spirit groups such as the Pom Pon Girls, Oski Committee, and Rally Committee. Additionally, he serves on the Cal Band Alumni Association Council and on the Tellefsen Hall Board of Directors.

An avid car collector, Mr. Briggs can be seen tooling around Berkeley in his ’40 Oldsmobile (license “40OLDS8”), ’41 Oldsmobile convertible (“41OLDS8”), ’78 Porsche (“CALBAND”), ’90 Nissan (“BANDCAL”), or ’81 Dodge pickup (“UCBAND”).

The First Womenlink

“I think that the first women in Band were kind of the pioneers. They had to be a little tougher because they were coming into an environment in which they weren’t welcome initially.”
-Lindsay Hiratzka (SM ’74)

In 1973, as a result of Title IX (the Higher Education Act of 1972), the Cal Band membership voted to delete the words “all male” from its constitution. For the first time, women auditioned for the Cal Band in that fall season. Ironically, Cal and Ohio State were the last two schools whose marching bands admitted women.

The Band’s traditions through the early 1970s had been developed by an all-male organization. Fall Training Program essentially imitated military boot camp as did the marching rehearsals. Teaching Assistants acted as drill sergeants: the more macho the better. Verbal abuse commonly landed on Band members who slacked off. Social events were times to cut loose and “be with the guys.”

When women entered the Band, things were bound to change. Capital improvements had to be made to accommodate their needs. Financing the purchase of new uniforms and locker facilities in the face of a shrinking budget greatly concerned the Band’s leadership. There was some dissent at first to the admission of women, but as women assimilated into the Band’s structure and daily life, the Band gradually lost the memory of itself as an all-male institution.

Title IX, So Finelink

For the first 80 years of its history, the Band was an all- male organization. Several unsuccessful attempts were made to admit women to have female twirlers lead the band onto the field, especially in the late ’30s and early ’40s, when many other college bands started doing that. Women played in the Concert Band starting in 1951, but the field belonged to the men. In 1973, however, all of that changed.

The Higher Education Act of 1972, known as Title IX, required all institutions receiving federal funds to provide equal opportunity for both sexes. Despite all-male bands’ claims of the innate frailty of females, logistical headaches, and budgetary impossibility, the law was the law. Director James Berdahl recalled: “You could see what was going on all over the country every area must be completely integrated that way, or the federal government would withhold any federal money. 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.” In May 1973 the Band complied and the words “all-male” were deleted from its constitution.

[Wo]men's Locker Room

Compliance did not mean unanimous acceptance. The band always had been all-male and simply did not know any other way. Members asserted openly that the band was an outlet, a place to sing dirty songs and let oneself go. They feared the end of that aspect of the Band. Some doubted the ability of women to handle the very physical style of the Band. The women of the FTP class of 1973 were hardly fragile. Lynn Obendorf played on the Cal Women’s basketball team, as did Debbie Lyle, who also threw the shot put on the track team. Masae Kubota had marched the show high step regularly in her high school band. None had problems with marching. After intense drills, the men realized that the women were serious about membership, and women comprised 21 of the 132 members on the roster that year. In uniform on the field, everyone was a musician who loved to perform.

DM Briana Connel

Briana Connell, the first woman Drum Major, leads the Band, 1984.

Women adapted to Band culture, to traditions both solemn and silly. Debbie Lyle remarked, “As far as the pantsing and dirty songs, I just considered it typical high jinx inherent in any college-type fraternal group. I was happy to be a part of the band-to continue with my music as well as be a part of a group that was committed to performance excellence.” During Big Game Week, Wendy Van Houten (’76) died her long, red hair blue.

Within four years, fully 25% of the Band’s membership was female. Andrea Nelson (’73), was the first woman to run for senior office (Public Relations Director); her unsuccessful candidacy underscored the fact that women had yet to achieve leadership.

The following spring women were appointed “ADM’s” (Assistant Drum Majors) to make all of the costumes for Spring Show, a notable first step within the “power structure.” The next step was being a Teaching Assistant. Juliette Bettencourt (’76), the first female TA, remarked, “A field coordinator warned me that I would have to be ‘really good’ to silence some disapproving Stunt Comm members. But most of the TA’s and Stunt Comm were really proud; we had broken a barrier together. I remember how loudly the women cheered that fall when I was introduced as a TA.” In 1980, the first women on Ex-Comm were Susie Mattson (Student Director) and Nancy Williams (Secretary); by 1984, four of the five positions were filled by women.

Women brought a different dynamic to the Band, but they also brought their love of performance and dedication to the organization. According to Mattson, “We knew we added a dimension to the Band that was positive, as marchers, as musicians, as women.”

The Spirit of Americalink

Bicentennial Tour

During the Bicentennial Tour, the Band performed at various venues, such as stadiums, auditoriums, fairgrounds, and race tracks.

Tour ticket template

To help the local tour sponsors, the Band developed templates for publicity posters and tickets.

In 1976, the Cal Band was selected as an official representative of the State of California for the national bicentennial celebration in Washington, D.C. The tour show, called Spirit of America, showcased the energy and enthusiasm of the Band members to create a show that made the audience proud to be American.

The commitment and energy of the Band members was immeasurable, as was the effort of the Alumni Tour Council. This Tour Council worked together with the Band to create the organization, plan the most innovative tour show in Cal Band history, and start a fund-raising campaign to make the tour possible. Dave Pearson (PRD ’72) was hired by the Band for 15 months as the full-time Tour Director.

Promo shot at Sather Gate

A publicity shot for the Bicentennial Tour.

At Mall in D.C.

While the Band was in Washington, D.C., it performed at several locations, such as the Mall.

Spirit of America cartoon

The Sprit of America cartoon was created for the Band by Jay Ward, creator of Rocky, Bullwinkle, and Dudley Do-Right.

The performances played to standing ovations at every stop. The peak of performance activity centered around the Fourth of July in and around the nation’s capital. The Band performed in the official Pennsylvania Avenue parade, at the Washington Monument, at the White House Ellipse, at a July 4th party for the Department of Defense, and for a parade the next day in Lancaster, Virginia.

As always, everywhere that the Band played host families and audiences were treated to the enthusiasm and energy of the young individuals from the University of California. Letters of appreciation came to the University from people all over the country. America’s image of Berkeley students changed wherever the Cal Band performed.

The tour’s final performance was held in Zellerbach Hall, attended by the Tour Council, University officials, family, and friends. It was a spirited welcome home that featured Garff Wilson as Master of Ceremonies and Chancellor Albert Bowker, who was taught a soft shoe step on stage by the Band.

The decade ended with the Band’s first Bowl appearance in eleven years. Though it wasn’t the Rose Bowl, Band members were pleased to make a cross-country flight to New Jersey and the Garden State Bowl. The game ended in a tie, and the bowl itself died a few years later, but it provided the Band with national exposure and special memories.

Garden State Bowl, 1979

Garden State Bowl performance, 1979.

At the beginning of the ’80s, the Band developed a special relationship with the San Francisco Ballet. In January of 1981, after the opening night performance of George Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes, at the third curtain call the Band marched on stage of the Opera House playing Sousa’s version. The marching performance included a wedge and an “SFB” formation, and the Band was joined on stage by the corps de ballet.

Although perhaps not quite as elegant a performance, the one the Band gave that year in a Toyota commercial was seen across the country.

Alumni Involvementlink

Although student leaders within the Band have always made official and final decisions, during the ’60s and ’70s Band alumni actively trained and guided the student leaders. The alumni planned and conducted leadership workshops for Ex- Comm and Stunt Comm, helped plan fall seasons and Spring Shows, and were instrumental in organizing tours.

Through these activities alumni provided a sense of continuity for the Band, a steady presence behind an annually-changing student government. The alumni saw themselves as a service-oriented group interested in preserving and improving the organization that they had helped to shape. They also wanted to teach student officers those things that would facilitate productivity and reduce stress.

It was a fragile relationship, however, and conflicts sometimes arose between strong personalities in both groups. Students officers often expressed a wish for autonomy, stating that they should be allowed to make their own mistakes and learn from them. The relationship began to unravel in the late 1970s. Misunderstandings between Band members and alumni grew to the point where the delicate relationship crumbled. By the end of the decade, alumni involvement had virtually ceased.

This break, however, proved fortuitous as the alumni chose to examine their organization. In 1979, a group of alumni discussed ideas for a new organization, and out of these ideas came the California Band Alumni Association in 1980. It provided a social network for all Cal Band alumni. The CBAA continued to publish the North Tunnel Echo (its quarterly newsletter) and began sponsoring the biannual Big Game Band Alumni Reunion. The CBAA has continued to sponsor leadership workshops and has developed new ways to serve as a resource and support for the Band, particularly in fund raising.

The Cal Band Alumni Associationlink

Over the Band’s history, various groups of former Band members have formed alumni clubs in order to perpetuate the spirit of unity, comradeship, and good fellowship; to render assistance to the Band, its members, and its leaders; and to foster a closer bond of devotion to the University that the Band represents. These associations have evolved over the decades from informal groups of former bandsmen helping out the Band officers behind the scenes, to the structured organization, the California Band Alumni Association, that exists today.

The first Cal Band Alumni Association was born very soon after the first ASUC Band members graduated, in the late 1920s. Unfortunately, this association did not last very long. Another attempt to start an alumni association was made in 1941, but the war brought an end to this group as well. The first long-lasting association of former Band members, the Cal Alumni Band, was formed in October 1952 by Herb Towler, (DM ’43), Dave Wenrich, (SM ’48), and Dick Auslen, (SM ’46). Its main function was to organize Alumni Band Day, an annual event at Memorial Stadium since November 1952.

In the early 1960s, a new generation of Band alumni sought to be more directly involved in the Band’s activities and in the training and guidance of the Band’s student officers. Led by Bill Colescott (’54), Band alumni served on the Camera Crew, advised the student officers about various aspects of the Band’s operation, and published a newsletter, the North Tunnel Echo.

In 1965, some of the same Band alumni formed the Alumni Tour Council, which lasted through the 1970 Japan Expo Tour and the 1976 Bicentennial Tour. Because these tours required so much advance preparation, both the alumni and the student officers recognized the need for a formal body of Band alumni who could represent the Band’s interests to the University and use their business contacts to obtain funding and publicity for the tours.

1971 camera crew

The 1971 Camera Crew included (l to r) Eric Mart, Rich Riemke, Alden Spafford, and Jim French.

In 1975, Eric Mart, (DM ’69), and Jerry Taylor, (SM ’69), formed the Alumni Band Council to coordinate and enhance Alumni Band Day. For several years after the 1976 Tour, Alumni Band Day was the only formal Cal Band Alumni activity.

Beginning in the summer of 1980, a group of Cal Band alumni, including Mart and Taylor, decided to unite all the Band alumni into one association which would coordinate all alumni activities: Alumni Band Day, alumni reunions, and the North Tunnel Echo. The California Band Alumni Association (CBAA) was established in 1981 by an Alumni Band vote, and Eric Mart served as its first president. The CBAA has established a 24-member governing council, with members serving staggered three-year terms. To gain recognition within the campus community, and to obtain liability insurance for Alumni Band Day, the CBAA affiliated with the California Alumni Association in 1988.

Today, the CBAA continues to produce the North Tunnel Echo and organize Alumni Band Day and the Big Game reunion dinner and dance on years when the Big Game is in Berkeley. Furthermore, the CBAA maintains a friendly relationship with the Cal Band’s student officers, organizing officer training workshops and assisting the Band wherever and whenever needed. In addition, the CBAA takes on projects that seek to preserve the Band’s history, such as the effort that produced this book.

Supplementing the work of the CBAA is the Cal Band Backers, an organization composed of Cal Band alumni, Band parents, University officials, Cal alumni, and other friends of the Band who wish to help the Cal Band achieve financial independence. Formally established in 1987, the Band Backers assumed planning and management of the Cal Band Endowment Fund, which will provide interest income to supplement the annual budget of the Band. To this end, the Band Backers organizes the annual Northern California Fundraising Party for the Band.

In 1993, the Cal Band Backers concluded a successful campaign to purchase a new set of uniforms for the Cal Band. This effort was generously aided by a major gift from Professor Emeritus Garff Wilson.

Budget Cutbackslink

trumpet player

The financial woes of the state and University in the late ’70s and early ’80s inevitably affected the Band. Due to cutbacks in 1982, funding for Fall Training Program (FTP) and the annual trip to the L.A. game was eliminated from the Band’s budget. The Band managed to reallocate monies to fund FTP, but the L.A. trip was in still in peril.

Craig Settles, Public Relations Director that year, convinced a group of Southern California alumni to use their annual party at George Link’s house the night before the game in L.A. as a fund-raiser for the Band. The proceeds from that event, combined with $3,000 raised at a “Save the Cable Cars” parade in San Francisco and $6,000 from the chancellor’s discretionary fund, was enough to save the L.A. trip that year. The party has since become a continuing fund raiser which allows the Band to make the trip every year. Although FTP was saved from the budget axe, it could still be a challenge logistically. The following year, because of the campus’ change from quarters to semesters, the dorms were not available for the Band to use, and FTP was held off campus for the first time. The Band traveled to UC Davis on the Saturday morning of FTP and returned to Berkeley the following Monday afternoon. As it turned out, the Davis facilities have continued to provide an atmosphere suitable for building the unity and camaraderie that is a necessary part of FTP.

Marching Through it Alllink

“My freshman year during the night of the game at UCLA, John Silper’s pants fell to his ankles in the middle of half time. The zippers were going all the time because the pants were so old. He picked them up, played with one hand, held the pants up with the other. It rattled him and he marched five yards the wrong direction. The entire Band went one way, he went the other.”
-Monica Johnstone (’77)


The Beatles make an appearance with the Cal Band in 1985.

Despite the financial and logistical woes, the 1982-83 year held a special moment for the Band-the thrilling last- second, five-lateral ending of the Big Game, a moment of exultation heightened by the indispensable part played by some over-eager spectators in the end zone. The 1983 Big Game at Stanford held a logistical nightmare. The Cal Band rehearsed in Berkeley the morning of the game, but when it was time to leave for the Farm, there were no buses. Legend says that a member of Stanford’s band canceled the bus reservations. The Band called the bus company to reorder transportation, but it had to suffer hearing the kick-off on the bus’ radio while sitting in rainy-day traffic on the Bay Bridge. The Band finally arrived during the first-quarter break. Senior Manager John “Vito” Gibson recalls that as the Band marched in they received a standing ovation from the Cal side. Even mother nature approved: the sun broke through the clouds and shone on the Cal Band.

In 1984, the Band boasted 185 members, a record high. Unfortunately, that year severely tested the morale of the Band when the Pac Ten Conference ruled that the Band could no longer use the Bomb in Memorial Stadium. After a lot of lobbying and explaining, Band members successfully convinced the Pac Ten to make an exception to the rule for the Band. Also that year, the track in Edwards Stadium was replaced during the fall, so rehearsals were held in Memorial Stadium-after the football practices-from 6:00 to 8:00 pm (in the dark).

The Bomb Controversylink

After permanently adding the Bomb to the pregame performance, the Band contracted for the services of a licensed pyrotechnician at each show and took safety precautions. Despite this special care and despite a completely clean safety record, the Band was eventually challenged on the use of the Bomb.

After a pyrotechnics accident during the 1970 Stanford- Washington game in Palo Alto, the Pac Eight passed a rule against pyrotechnics at any conference game. Because the Bomb was used before and not during the game, the Cal Band assumed that the rule did not apply to pregame and continued to use its own pyrotechnical device.

The conference expansion in 1980 brought the issue once again to the attention of conference officials. Arizona State used a lot of pyrotechnics during its games, lighting fireworks over the desert for each team score. The Pac Ten Conference decided to enforce the 1971 rule. Although the Pac Ten notified the Cal Athletic Department of the rule, in 1983 the Cal Band continued to assume that the Bomb was exempt. In the spring of 1984, after pressure from the USC representative, the Pac Ten specifically prohibited all pyrotechnics at conference football games, including the Cal Band’s Bomb.

Balloons, not bomb.

In 1984, without a bomb, the Band used white balloons as a proxy at the Big Game.

The Band was shocked when informed that this ruling specifically applied to their Bomb. It tried to get an exemption for the 1984 season with the support and assistance of the Athletic Department and Cal’s faculty representative to the Pac Ten, Professor Robert Steidel. The Band even went to the extent of changing all references to “the Bomb” to the more soothing “Flash Device.”

Despite their efforts, the device was prohibited for the 1984 football season. It was a difficult year for the Band and for fans who had become accustomed to the thrilling sensation of the Band’s flashy entrance and the crowd’s roaring response to the Bomb. The Band marked the end of the “Bomb-less” season by releasing white balloons in lieu of the Bomb at the Big Game.

Band members, alumni, faculty, parents, and fans banded together in the fall of 1984 and spring of 1985 to work for the return of the Bomb. A committee, led by sophomore Band member Nathan Stelman, organized to lobby the Pac Ten for its return. Known among band members as Bomb Comm, the group developed a presentation to be given to the Pac Ten committee that spring.

Professor Steidel and Athletic Director Dave Maggard, with the support of the Bomb Comm, extensively lobbied the Pac Ten athletic directors and faculty representatives, and in the spring of 1985 the Band was granted a one-year exemption from the rule. The decision allowed the Bomb at home games and any post-season games in 1985. The exemption, granted on a 9-to-1 vote (only USC voted against it), specified certain safety criteria, all of which the Band had already implemented when it introduced of the Bomb in 1961.

In the fall of 1985, the stadium once again erupted in a roaring cheer as the flash detonated, welcoming the Cal Band to the field for the 1985 home opener against San Jose State. By demonstrating safe operation of the Flash Device during the 1985 season, the Band earned an indefinite waiver from the Pac Ten in the spring of 1986. The Bomb was back.

In 1985, Public Relations Director Christian Lenci organized the first (now annual) Northern California Band Fund-Raising Party. Modeled after the successful Southern California party, the event was held at the Lafayette home of Rick Cronk, a longtime Band supporter and president of Dreyer’s Ice Cream. This event has provided an essential part of the Band’s operating budget.

The middle ’80s proved to be fruitful years for membership: the Band marched a flying wedge of 169, the largest ever. Band members in the 1985-86 year saw some particularly sweet athletic victories, over USC and Stanford in football and UCLA in basketball, breaking “The Streak” that had lasted 25 years. The Straw Hat Band got the chance to root for the basketball team in the first round of the NIT playoffs at Harmon Gym.

Marching block

The 1987 season was notable for a couple of setbacks and a great trip. The first setback occurred at the UCLA game in Pasadena. Inclement weather preceding the game prompted the Rose Bowl Committee to forbid both bands to perform on the field. There was a fear that the bands would damage the field-although the football players turned the field into a swamp by half-time. The Arizona game brought the second setback. The Band planned and rehearsed a show with a Civil War finale that included “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Dixie”. Due to a complaint from a passer-by, the Chancellor’s office notified the Band on Saturday morning that it could not use the Confederate flag or “Dixie” as part of the show. Because of the last-minute censorship, the Band amended the show and performed it successfully, but Memorial Stadium spectators must have been puzzled watching the two block bands playing “Battle Hymn” as they marched at each other.

The season did have a memorable conclusion as the Band flew to Tokyo after Big Game for the Coca-Cola Bowl against Washington State, and 81 Band members brought the California Spirit to Japanese fans over the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Coca-Cola Bowllink

Coca-Cola Bowl

Drum head

The Band finished its 1987 season by following the Cal football team to Tokyo, Japan for the final regular season game against Washington State. Dubbed the Coca-Cola Bowl, the match-up was part of Coca-Cola’s efforts to popularize American football in Japan. At the outset the Japanese sponsors told the Band that it could bring only 100 members. Eliminating Band members from an “all expenses paid” trip to Japan was difficult, but the Ex-Comm managed. However, things became even more difficult when the sponsors later reduced the number to 83. Seventeen unlucky Band members had to be told that they could not go after all.

Script Cal

Crowd sign

The Coca-Cola Bowl was a triumph of teamwork between the Cal Band and the Washington State Band. The Bowl Committee dictated that part of the half-time be a joint performance, but in most ways the two bands could not have been more opposite. The Cougar Band marched a drum and bugle corps style and were run by a professional staff. It made for a strong “culture clash” between the two organizations, but the bands had to put their differences aside and concentrate on learning a show which changed daily.

After short individual performances by the Washington State and Cal Bands, a joint show took place complete with balloons, white doves, and the Miami Dolphin cheerleaders. The joint show, as initially charted, had the two bands spelling out the names of the various corporate sponsors (in English). Due to differences of opinion between the chairman of the Coca-Cola Bowl and the various corporate sponsors, the Bands were directed to change the formations to eliminate the names of companies that were out of favor and add the names of those that were in favor. Unfortunately, these changes were made daily. The Band was even directed to make another change on the morning of the game; both band directors flatly refused.

Any difficulties experienced before the game were quickly forgotten once the game began. The Olympic stadium overflowed with Japanese football fans, who cheered and waved their pompons in unison for scores, penalties, and time-outs. The half-time show was well received, although band members could not understand why the crowd did not seem to care for “Twist and Shout” nearly as much as “You Are My Sunshine.”

The game ended in a tie, which was just fine for the Japanese fans. They seemed to reserve their greatest passion for after the game, when Japanese fans mobbed the buses for a glimpse of a Band member, the touch of a horn, a piece of sheet music, or, for the very lucky, a glove or an epaulet.

Financing, Recruiting Woeslink

Throughout the ’80s, factors beyond the Band’s control affected its funding and recruiting, two elements crucial to the Band’s existence. During the decade, the University suffered from the state’s economic morass, and consequently various University groups found themselves once again competing for a share of greatly diminishing resources. To compensate for this shrinking resource, the Band looked more and more to Straw Hat Band performances as a way to earn extra money. The Band of the ’80s and ’90s has had to “play for pay” to a degree that its predecessors did not, and it has necessarily added to the time commitment of Band members.

Poker game

A group of Band members relax with a game of Cal Band poker.

In an effort to alleviate-and eventually eliminate-this situation, the Cal Band Backers was established in 1987. This group of Band officers, alumni, friends, and University officials has concerned itself with matters of fund-raising for the Band. In addition to planning the Northern California Fund-raising Party, it also created the Cal Band Endowment Fund. The fund’s goal is $2 million with the intent that the Band can use the annual interest generated by the endowment to supplement the allocation it receives from the University.

California’s shrinking budget has also affected high school music programs. As a result of reduced or eliminated programs, the pool from which the Band recruits members has greatly diminished.

Rising fees, too, have had an adverse impact on membership. In 1988, student fees amounted to approximately $700 per semester; over the next five years they more than tripled. The increase has forced more students to work or to work more hours; this has left little time for membership in the Band, much less the responsibility inherent in the Band’s student-led operation.

A new tradition was created when the 1988 Executive Committee looked for a way to promote camaraderie and traditions. They hoped to replace the Big “C” tradition, which had become less enjoyable and too boisterous and had even turned some new members away. Student Director Todd Wysuph came up with the idea of a campfire. Held after sunset in the Greek Theater around a bonfire, instrument sections and committees performed skits, sang Cal songs, and heard stories and Cal Band lore from older Band members. The event set a positive tone for the rest of the season.

Tony Martinez charted his last show in 1988. He designed the Irving Berlin Show, an October performance that opened with “White Christmas” with the Band in the formation of a Christmas tree. It ended his 40-year association with the Band, the last 24 as a charter.

stick dance

A stick dance is one of many popular features of the Cal Band half time shows.

In 1989, the Band faced its most rigorous season yet-nine consecutive one-week shows. However, as the Band neared its centennial year, things felt lighter as it enjoyed the benefits of a successful athletic program. In 1990 the Straw Hat Band traveled to Hartford, Connecticut for the NCAA playoffs. While many of the other bands there played the same songs over and over and wore similar rugby shirts, the Straw Hat Band garnered numerous compliments for its diverse repertoire of Cal and other songs, the distinctive hats and vests laden with memorabilia, and its unrelenting cheers for supporting the team and distracting its opponents. At the end of the following football season, the Band turned heads at the Copper Bowl, performing its traditional pregame performance-bomb and all-and a stick dance at half-time. The good fortune continued as the Band performed at the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day of 1992 in Orlando, Florida. The Band also paraded at Sea World and performed at MGM studios.

A Cal Band Centenniallink

100th Cal Band

For its first pregame show in 1991, the Band speled out “Cal Band 100.”

Upon the arrival of the Band’s centennial year, the University formally recognized the contribution of the University of California Marching Band. It presented the Band with the Berkeley Citation, its highest honor and one rarely bestowed on a group. It occurred in front of a football crowd in Memorial Stadium on Alumni Band Day; Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien presented the award to Director Bob Briggs, a fitting recognition for 100 years of service and dedication to the University of California.

Presentation of the Berkeley Citation
Saturday, September 14, 1991link

“I am happy to join both the student and alumni members of the University of California Marching Band here on the field today. Since 1891, the Cal Band has been a source of pride and musical entertainment for fans around the world. The Band continues today as ambassadors of good will and as loyal partners with the University, and I am privileged to be Chancellor of the Berkeley campus during their centennial anniversary year. The Cal Band has been one of the University’s priceless treasures for 100 years. And, in tribute to their 100-year tradition of providing service and spirit to the University of California, I am proud to present to the Band one of Cal’s highest honors - the Berkeley Citation.”
-Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien

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