Making the Musiclink

“Berkeley’s songs seem to have been much more in the Yale tradition. The first professors at [Berkeley] were Yalies who hadn’t made tenure there. They came out here and they did awfully well. The Yale songs are terrific. But there is no question that the Berkeley songs are superb the way the Yale songs are and few other colleges are.”
-Jon Elkus
(SD ’52)

Few universities can claim Cal’s distinction of having one of the largest and most diverse collections of school songs. In fact, not many school songs are as long lived and well loved as the ones at Cal. The first songs played and sung by the university population were simply popular songs of the day such as “Vive L’amour” or “Auld Lang Syne.” The lyrics of these songs naturally were altered to better fit the spirit of the University; for example, “It’s a Way We Have At Old Berkeley” was adapted from “It’s A Way We Have At Old Harvard.”

Bear & uniform collage

Under the nurturing hands of enthusiastic faculty members, the student body began to develop its own unique traditions. Early on, it was common for every fraternity to have its own singing group, and sometimes even an orchestra; every house was well versed on the songs and yells of the day. Around the turn of the century, an annual contest was sponsored by the Daily Californian for an original school song. The contest lasted well into the late 1930s, producing such favorites as “Big C,” “Palms of Victory,” and “Stanford Jonah.” Sources of inspiration for the writing of songs, besides the Daily Californian contest, include school rivalries, formal commissions for new music (for example, “Cal Band March”), and oral traditions of passing songs down and letting them evolve from one generation to the next (e.g., “California Drinking Song”).

Brass instruments on grass

The Golden Bearlink

The oldest song currently in the Band’s repertoire is “The Golden Bear,” with lyrics written in 1895 by Charles Mills Gayley. In order to understand the origins of the song, it is important to consider Gayley’s background and association with the University. Gayley was born in Shanghai in 1858, educated in England, and received his A.B. in 1878 at the University of Michigan. He became an assistant professor of Latin, and later Professor of English, at Michigan. While at Michigan, he displayed his flair for school songs by editing the songbook, “Songs of the Yellow and Blue.” In 1889, Gayley moved to California, serving the University of California as a professor of English Language and Literature, research lecturer, and professor emeritus. Like many of his fellow professors at the new university, he encouraged the development of traditions that would foster school spirit and loyalty; his most lasting contributions to this development are his songs.

“The Golden Bear” itself has interesting, perhaps poetic origins. In 1895, Berkeley was still in its infancy. The University of California track team, underfunded and without a coach, decided to travel to the East in order to compete in the Eastern Track Meets, where they ran against Princeton, Yale, Pennsylvania, and Chicago. At each meet, the team displayed a blue banner with a golden bear upon it for good luck. The team won every meet; the local newspapers noticed the totem, claiming it was a jinx to the eastern schools. After the track meets, the team returned to Berkeley in the dead of night and was greeted by the faculty and students at the West Berkeley railroad station. As the team made their way off the train clutching their banner, the words to “The Golden Bear” came to Gayley in a sudden flash of inspiration. He soon set the words to a popular Air of the time, “The Pope.” Because he was known and loved by the student body for his sincere and genuine concern for their welfare, it is fitting that Gayley’s songs still remain a vital part of the California Spirit.

Sons of Californialink

“I thought it was a great honor, to be allowed to make a version of [a Cal Song]. I knew that that was an extraordinarily important thing for the band, and I put great care into making those arrangements. Much more so than I would just a normal arrangement. So if they are still played, I’m really pleased that they are.”
-Larry Austin, Arranger

No history of Cal Songs could be complete without mentioning Clinton R. “Brick” Morse. Morse was not only an outstanding athlete, earning a big “C” for every major sport, but also a talented singer. He organized a glee club in 1893 known as the “De Koven Club,” which became very popular, eventually rivaling the eastern Glee Clubs. Morse’s group made twelve trips under his guidance to such places as Europe, Alaska, Canada, and Asia. In order to keep up with the demands of their popularity, Morse encouraged Glee Club members to write original compositions; his own contributions include “The Sons of California” and “Hail to California.”

Unlike the inspired origin of Gayley’s “The Golden Bear,” Morse’s “Sons of California” was “drummed out”- created-in 1905. Morse had the habit of improvising at the piano while making up words at the same time. He admitted that he “drummed out hundreds of [Cal Songs] and as promptly [forgot] them. It must have been an accident that [he] remembered ‘Hail to California’ and ‘Sons of California’ and wrote them out for the Glee Club to sing.” “Sons of California” was always performed slowly and solemnly by the Glee Club. As a result, it was not terribly popular with the student body. During the late 1930s, the Band played a much faster and livelier arrangement, which prompted an interest from the student body. As a result, “Sons of California” is now one of the most well known and often played Cal Songs. “Sons of California” is traditionally the second song of the Cal Band’s pregame show.

Fanfares of the Cal Bandlink

Several fanfares have been composed specifically for the Cal Band. The oldest is the “Hail to California Fanfare,” written by Charles Cushing in the late ’30s. It was written to replace the rather generic fanfares and bugle calls that the Band had been using at the beginning of its pregame show. It also solidified Cushing’s position as Director of the Band. His first years as Director were often difficult in that replacing Modeste Alloo meant dealing with people who had lingering memories of Alloo’s way of doing things. Cushing responded by composing the “Hail to California Fanfare” which was vigorously embraced by the Band and took its place as the opener of the pregame show. It begins with a dramatic three-part trumpet soli and follows with the low brass and woodwinds quoting the first phrase from “Hail to California.”

Golden Bear Fanfare

The “Golden Bear Fanfare” was composed by Jonathan Elkus (SD ’52) in September of 1954. He was approached by the Executive Committee that year and asked to write a new fanfare using the then-current strengths of the Band, primarily the reeds and saxophones. It was becoming apparent that the brass section was having problems performing the “Hail to California Fanfare” and Bill Colescott (SM, ’54) recalls that “ the trumpets could not cut that in performance, so it always sounded wrong.” The “Golden Bear Fanfare” also coincided with the introduction of the modern marching style and new uniforms, and was intentionally crafted to heighten the dramatic aspect of the Band’s entrance onto the field.

The fanfare begins with open parallel fifths in the low brass and saxes followed by trumpets, horns, and euphoniums playing the opening phrase of “The Golden Bear.” When used in pregame, Bill Ellsworth announced, during the drum roll at the end of the eighth measure, “And now, to lead the Band down the field, Drum Major so-and-so.” The Drum Major would have his moment in the spotlight as he strutted out from North Tunnel to his position in front of the Band. This would be followed by a maestoso section and then a roll-off into “Big C”. Concerning the roll-off, Elkus explained, “That idea, of course, was Charles Cushing’s from the end of his ‘Hail to California Fanfare’ where the roll-off is with the end of the last chord. The only thing is that I actually wrote it down in notation.”

Although not directly associated with the Cal Band, the “Alumni Band Fanfare” is an important part of the California repertoire. Also composed by Jon Elkus in 1954, this fanfare heralds the annual appearance of the Cal Alumni Band onto the turf of Memorial Stadium and combines three themes: “Happy Days are Here Again,” “Old Gray Mare,” and “Hail to California.” When asked about the unusual blending of these three melodies, Elkus replied, “the obvious always occurs to me first.”

“Big C”link

“There can be no chance for any healthy relations between our student bodies, and particularly our bands, if this blatant appropriation without permission of a more than fifty year old Berkeley song is allowed to go unchallenged.”
-Letter from James Berdahl to Kelley James,
February 20, 1969

Big C and Campanile

The “Big C” situated on the campus’ “rugged eastern foothills.”

“Big C” is traditionally the first song of the pregame to which the Band marches its signature Flying Wedge formation, and it is unquestionably the most famous and controversial Cal Song. “Big C” was written in 1913 by Harold P. Williams, with words by Norman Loyall McLaren. It was written to commemorate the large cement C built “on our rugged Eastern foothills” in 1905, and also as a result of the Daily Californian’s annual song competition. In the Fall of 1913, the competition was stiff; but the Rally Committee managed to narrow the field down to two songs, “Big C” and “Stanford Jonah.” “Big C” took the prize and “Jonah” won the next year.

Pat King Sokalski

Pat King Sokalski has been copying music for the Cal Band since 1968.

The controversy around the song has its roots in the “All University Weekend,” an annual event which began around 1948 and lasted into the 1960s. This event was a double header football game that pitted Cal against UCLA and UC Davis against UC Santa Barbara. The games were played alternately in Berkeley one year and in Los Angeles the next year. Bands from all four of the schools would perform together in one giant, combined halftime show. In one of the last “All U Weekends,” F. Kelley James, then Associate Director of the UCLA Band and alumnus of the Cal Band wrote an arrangement of “Big C” for the combined halftime show.

Afterwards, UCLA kept using his arrangement of “Big C,” adding its own lyrics and renaming it “Sons of Westwood.” The UCLA Band began playing it regularly as the new fight song. James Berdahl, then director of the Cal Band, was incensed over what he felt was a violation of the sanctity of Cal Songs. A bitter exchange ensued between Berdahl and James for the next several years concerning the legal and ethical grounds under which “Big C” was appropriated. The matter came to a head in February 18, 1969, when Irwin Coster, working on behalf of the UCLA cause, received official word from the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress that “Big C” had never been copyrighted, and thus it was in the Public Domain. Public Domain status meant that only adaptations and arrangements of the song could be copyrighted, so UCLA had every legal right to “steal” the song. Some regents and UCLA administrators thought it quite reasonable that this “little sister” of Cal maintain “Sons of Westwood” as an affirmation of the University of California’s solidarity. However, ardent students and alumni at Cal were never happy with the situation, especially Berdahl, who continued to fight for the abolition of “Sons of Westwood” through the remainder of his tenure as director. Ironically, uninformed people recognize “Sons of Westwood” as UCLA’s song due to their successful football program and exposure on televised games and wonder why Cal plays UCLA’s fight song so much.

California Drinking Songlink

The “California Drinking Song” is one of Cal’s most changing songs, surviving various additions and subtractions. Over the years, no less than five separate elements have been included in this song.


The core element of “California Drinking Song” is “Rambled,” otherwise known as “California.” The tune is based on the song “Oh, Didn’t He Ramble,” by Cole and Johnson (copyright 1906). The words were changed to what we know as “For California, for California, The hills send back the cry, We’re out to do or die...,” and first appeared in printed form in 1906; the author of the text is unknown. For a long time, the Band often played “Rambled” at football games, playing the chorus twice. This version was known as “Rambled Into.”

In Rochelle Paul’s thesis, “Song Traditions of the University of California at Berkeley,” she mentions that “in 1939, the University Band and the Glee Club went down to Los Angeles for the UCLA vs. California football game. When they returned, both groups had joined additional verses of a whole new song to the old ‘California’ song. [Since then] even more verses have accumulated.” The verses she refers to follow the “Rambled” part of “California Drinking Song.” Titled “One More Drink for the Four of Us,” this part of “California Drinking Song” is a traditional song of conviviality, sung throughout the United States (for example, Ohio State University has its own version of this song). The origins of other elements of “California Drinking Song” are more difficult to pinpoint. It is believed that the “Speaking Start” (The steward went below...,) is from a traditional Navy drinking song; the origins of the “Singing Start” (Oh, they had a little party down in Newport...,) are unclear.

The Stanford Jonahlink

“The Stanford Jonah” was written in 1913 by Ted E. Haley for the annual song contest, but the song unfortunately lost to Williams’ and McLaren’s “Big C.” “The Stanford Jonah” got its break in 1914, however, when the Glee Club traveled to Europe. The Glee Club learned the song en route, and performed it during their tour. As a result, “The Stanford Jonah” became popular and won the annual song competition that year. It has since become one of the more popular Cal Songs, and it is particularly popular during Big Game week. [Georgia Tech has a fight song very similar to “The Stanford Jonah.” It is unclear how Georgia Tech may have acquired it, since Cal and Georgia Tech have had very few interactions. One possible explanation may lie in the 1929 Rose Bowl in which Cal played Georgia Tech.]

Cal Band Instrumentation
by Bob Briggslink

I’ve been involved with the Cal Band in one way or another since 1948, when I transferred to Cal from Modesto Junior College. Like most university marching bands, we have always used woodwinds, brass, and percussion in varying combinations (the Ohio State Band is a notable exception, being brass and percussion only).

When I joined the Band in 1948, the woodwinds consisted of piccolo, E-flat and B-flat soprano clarinets, and a complete family of saxophones including the baritone sax and two bass saxes. The brass included trumpets (a few cornets, like yours truly), E-flat alto horns-nicknamed peck horns- trombones, baritones, and sousaphones. Percussion included the standard snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, and glockenspiel.

By the ’60s, the woodwind section no longer included the baritone and bass saxes and by the late ’70s or early ’80s we no longer used the E-flat soprano clarinet. Our piccolo section had gotten large and E-flat clarinets were deemed unnecessary for a marching band.

In the brass family, the bell-front mellophonium replaced the E-flat alto horn in the late ’70s, and then in the late ’80s the bell-front (or marching) baritone horn replaced the upright baritone.

In the percussion section, the main addition has been the “quads”-four pitched drums that add rhythm and style to popular music.

Prior to the ’50s, the Band’s repertoire consisted primarily of marches and Cal songs. Since then, the Cal Band has continued this tradition but has added popular music as well as classical music to its outdoor repertoire. Our creative arrangers have been able to capture the original style and sound of a piece -whether it be the 1812 Overture, Broadway show music, a ’40s swing tune, a Beatles song, the music of Queen, or other contemporary rock music.

Many current university marching bands have adopted the style and sound of drum-and-bugle corps with their emphasis on brass and percussion. The Cal Band, however, has not followed this trend. I personally like the variety of blends that can be achieved with various combinations of brass and woodwind. When we play a ’40s piece, our arrangers can capture that sound with the correct combination of woodwinds (especially saxes) and brass. The same can be said for classical music and rock music-and how could you possibly capture the sound of a Sousa march without clarinets and piccolos?

Palms of Victorylink

“Palms of Victory,” lyrics written in 1896 by Stuart L. Rawlings, has a very colorful history. “Palms” used to be called the “Football Song,” and its melody was taken from “Springtime in Dixieland” (or “Happy Days in Dixieland”), a popular tune of the time. The story of its creation is best told by Brick Morse:

Bob Calonico

Bob Calonico (SD ’75) conducts the Band at a football game.

“Rawlings, an extremely tall, lanky, mining engineer, certainly did not look like a poet. He was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, and as was the custom, the boys would gather around a keg of beer at night and sing. Rawlings and the boys would hum a song and improvise some words. One night, one of the boys said to him, ‘I see where The Daily Cal is offering $5.00 for a Cal song - Why don’t you submit it?’ He did and won the $5.00, which he took and quickly converted into another keg of beer. Each night they sat around singing, but no new song ever came to him.” At first, “Palms of Victory” did not inspire much victory. Cal suffered crushing defeats at the hands of Stanford at the first two outings in which the song was played. However, the song survived and eventually became popular. But then, superstition began to follow the song wherever it went. In the 1930s, when the Band played the song during a game, Cal lost. As a result, the Band became superstitious and refused to play it for almost two years. Tradition eventually came to dictate that the song be played only after a Cal victory.

Superstition continues to surround “Palms of Victory.” For example, the night before the 1992 Big Game, the Band played at several Alumni functions and was coaxed into playing “Palms of Victory.” Many claim that as a result, Cal was overwhelmingly defeated in the Big Game. Just as band members in the 1930s blamed the playing of “Palms of Victory” for their loss, so did some members of the Band in 1992.

The Cal Band Drum Beatlink

“It has always inspired me inside, making chills go up and down my back. I have never, ever heard a drum cadence like we played in the forties and fifties. It’s just so thrilling, better than anybody else’s, and I just love it. I could listen to it all day long.”
- Bud Barlow (DM ’49)

“I think we always prided ourselves as being the quickest band in terms of steps per minute. The military rate of 120 looked to us like it was absolutely crawling. And, I would think in a parade it would be 155, 165, somewhere in there, probably about 160. When we were on the field, we tried to go at about 180, but if the other band tried to match us, then we would move it up.”
- Neil Lucas (’40)

“I could sing or hum or tap the cadence, it’s so ingrained in my soul.”
- Cy Silver (DM ’53)

Cal Band Drum Beat

The Cal Band drum beat was composed in the late ’20s or early ’30s by Charles Cushing. Although an exact date cannot be determined, there is reason to believe that Cushing composed it while he was a student. In any case, it was truly special for generations of Band members. “That drum section was really the foundation of the marching band. The Band always marched at a rate that was substantially faster than any band in northern California that I ever heard of- whether it was l40 or l60. I wouldn’t like to try to analyze, but it was enough so that it was all you could do to play and move your feet and keep in time. Rapid beat was really a trademark of the Cal Band and everybody in it was proud to be doing it,” according to Tom Simonson (DM ’39). Bob Desky (’45) realized it, too. “The Cal Band drum beat was a very definite drum beat. It was ritualistic. All new drummers were taught the drum beat as it had been originated by Charles Cushing. It was the only drum beat that was allowed. No variances were tolerated.”

For over thirty years, the Cal Band drum beat was the only cadence the Band used while parade and street marching. It was usually played considerably faster than the tempo used by many other bands. “Using the fast drum beat kind of gave us a special esprit de corps, and we were proud of our drum beat,” recalled Bill Fay (SM ’47). “If we were in a parade with other bands that used 120 cadence, we were glad to show them up, that we could go faster than they did and we played better than they did. There was a real feeling that the Cal Band was the best. We would go 160 or 180, and we were proud of this. If it confused the other bands, too bad for them.” The Band took great delight in playing its cadence faster and better than the other marching units around them. “We’d go into the march rallying to our great Cal Band drum cadence,” said Larry Anderson (SD ’58), “which, being in the business all these years, [I feel] is still one of the best drum beats I’ve ever heard.”

The drum beat became a central rallying point for the Band and the drummers played it with enthusiasm. Dan Cheatham, a drummer and later one of the Drum Majors during the Brussels Trip, recalls its effect on the Band while it was in Europe. “There were times when tempers got short or fatigue would set in with the very busy schedule that we were keeping. And whenever we lined up as a block band and those drums started playing that Cal Band drum cadence, all differences of opinion were forgotten and the chests would puff out and the body would stand erect and the feet would start moving and suddenly, we were The Cal Band. And I attribute that to the effect that this drum beat had on the members of the Band at the time.”

In the mid-1960s, the percussion section expanded its repertoire to include other street-marching cadences besides the drum beat. Its name was changed to the high step cadence to distinguish it from the other, slower military-step cadences that were being introduced. Although the Cal Band drum beat is no longer the exclusive cadence, it is still a distinctive trademark of the Cal Band.

“I think the high step cadence has been treated with great respect over the years, and of course the tradition of high sticking and keeping it crisp is not changed. That has not changed one iota from when I was in the Band up to now,” said drummer Bob Doud (’63).

Lights Out / Fight for Californialink

“I had a lot of fun writing percussion parts, and I think I did a pretty good job with them. They’re extraordinarily important for a marching band to bring that brilliance of sound, to make it a thrilling experience. Cymbals crashing, bass drums resounding. Extraordinarily important.”
-Larry Austin

standing in mud

“It’s hard to do a show when you’re up to your knees in slimy green mud.” A common sentiment during the Bicentennial Tour.

The march “Lights Out” was written in 1906 by Earl Elleson McCoy, a student at the University of Illinois. “Fight for California” is simply the trio and break strain of “Lights Out,” with an added introduction written by Charles Cushing. Cal’s most important school song is “Fight for California.” In the grand tradition of Cal Songs, “Fight for California” was written by accident. Brick Morse tells the story of how “Fight for California” came to be written by Robert Fitch: “One day the Glee Club was fooling around with a tune called ‘Lights Out.’ ‘Fine for a college song,’ said Bob Fitch, ‘believe I’ll write some words to fit the music.’”

“Fight for California” is played whenever a Cal athletic team enters the field of play, after every Cal scoring play in football, and whenever the Straw Hat Band marches into a performance. “Fight for California” traditionally is the fourth song of the Cal Band’s pregame, to which the Band marches from a block formation into the Script Cal. “Lights Out” is traditionally the last song of every Cal Band event. Performing “Lights Out,” the Band sings the first verse of “Fight for California” (accompanied by a solo drummer and bass player) during the first time through the trio and then resumes playing. Words were written to the first two strains of “Lights Out” to commemorate the 1976 Bicentennial Tour and its various occurrences and pitfalls.

The Buddhas of Sound
by Dale McGowan (SD ’84, Arranger)link

An ancient bamboo ceiling fan, powered by an unseen spider monkey, revolves slowly in the dense tropical heat. Futile thing, thinks the man as he watches it turn. He imagines it watching him as well, thinking the same. Sweat streams down his temples as his fingers sift the limp remnants of his hair: “What would Ludwig do? What would Elvis do? What would-” A pause. “What would John Philip do?” A flash of insight streaks through the door, banks left, ricochets off the wall, startling the monkey off his treadmill, and enters The Arranger’s head. His eyes move heavenward: F sharp. Of course. And in the mellophonium.

“Grazie, signore.”

That is how Cal Band arrangers create. They are, quite simply, the heirs apparent to the crown of Beethoven, geniuses to be nurtured and revered-the very Buddhas of Sound. Those who accept this are asked to read no further- you have divined the Truth.


As for the rest of you, please don’t tell the others, but a Cal Band arranger is very much like an interpreter at the United Nations-he translates. He doesn’t create the original information; he simply puts it into another language and spews it forth. The original is never improved upon; the best the translator can hope for is to get it right. Excessive embellishment is rarely appropriate, but at least a creative UN translator can start a little boundary war or mess with world herring prices or something. The arranger can only create something that doesn’t work as well as the original. In short, the procedure is this: Stunt Committee says, “Mick Jagger would like to speak to the crowd at Memorial Stadium, but they only speak ‘Calband’.” They give the arranger a tape, on which Mick says “I can’t GET no!” The arranger has the trumpets say, “Doo dat DAT dahhh!” and the Memorialites comprende.

Well, it’s a bit more than that, I suppose. Some pieces translate well for Band, others don’t. It is the arranger’s job to take a language usually spoken by three guitars and a voice and rewrite for woodwinds, brass, and percussion- played outdoors while moving. There is also the problem of the changing Band. The field charter can at least assume that every Band member every year will have two feet, but the arranger deals with a shifting landscape: one year the trombones are hot but saxes and mellos are a footnote at best; the next year, mellos are sixteen strong and a force to be reckoned with-and the trombones have all graduated.

This is vital information as the arranger decides, chord by chord, who is able to carry the melody, and, equally important, who can take the accompaniment without overwhelming. A knowledge of music theory is crucial so that the arranger can think vertically and horizontally in the sound. Understanding the capabilities and limitations of each instrument is essential-and not just the safe limits; playing it safe makes Muzak. Knowing what is barely possible-but possible nonetheless-makes excitement possible. And an understanding of how the Band likes to play (best earned through membership) makes the players happy, and that is kerosene on the fire.

Then there’s the Cal Band Sound, which changes every year but keeps a certain “something.” We could mystically leave it at that, but that something is actually quite easily identified: it is variety of programming, variety of instrumentation, range, and spirit. The Band plays everything from Aerosmith to “El Capitan” to “The Great Gate of Kiev,” while a typical military band tends to overlook, for example, Aerosmith.

And the Cal Band uses not just brass and percussion (like a drum corps) but includes saxes, clarinets, and piccolos. Yes, I’m sorry, all you lip-puckering, valve-punching studmuffins: the woodwinds are basic to the Cal Band Sound. They give it variety, they give it brilliance, and they give it range. From the lowest tuba pitch to the highest piccolo, the Cal Band musters six and one-half octaves of range, just a few steps short of the full piano keyboard. A drum and bugle corps has to settle for less than five. The difference is one of sheer musical space, and the Cal Band has it in spades.

But more important than any of these is the spirit: the Cal Band sounds like the Cal Band because every blast of breath is jammed with pride of ownership. Like no other Band, this one belongs to the members, and that comes through like nobody’s business.

All Hail Blue and Goldlink


The Straw Hat Band performs “Toast to California” in a traditional manner.

The University of California had no Alma Mater until “All Hail Blue and Gold” was written by Harold W. Bingham in 1905. Bingham is one of the most prolific composers of Cal Songs, also penning “The Blue and Gold,” “California March,” “A Toast to California,” “Hurrah for California,” and “California Indian Song.” “All Hail Blue and Gold” was popularized by the Budweiser Quartet and the California Glee Club (both of which Bingham was a member), achieving the status of unofficial California Hymn. “All Hail Blue and Gold” is played at the end of all University events and athletic contests.

Hand Signalslink

Cal’s large collection of school songs is a source of great pride and inspiration for every Band member. However, this repertoire forces the Band to keep on its toes during the course of an athletic event. The Band must be ready to play any one of a number of songs during a time out or after a successful play.

In order to facilitate communication, a collection of hand signals has been developed so that the conductor can quickly let the Band know what song is “up.” These signals are taught and quickly memorized by the Band at FTP. The explanations behind some of these signals are often as interesting as the history of the songs themselves.

Following is a list of some of these hand signals.

Big C“Big C”-The conductor raises his right arm and makes a big “C” with his hand.
Fight“Fight for California”-The conductor raises his right arm with the hand in a clenched fist, a fighting symbol.
Jonah“The Stanford Jonah”-Once intended as a lewd gesture, the thumb and index finger now represent the eye of the whale that swallowed the Biblical Jonah. The three extended fingers represent the spray emitting from the whale’s spout.
Indian Song“California Indian Song”-The conductor raises his hand over his mouth and pantomimes an Indian War Cry.
Sons“Sons of California”-The conductor points directly to himself (on the head), since, being a Cal student, he is a “son” of California.
Lights Out“Lights Out”-The conductor reaches up and twists as if to remove an imaginary light bulb from its socket. In other words, it’s “lights out.”
Make Way“Make Way for the Bear”-The conductor extends his right arm straight forward and places his palm into a “Stop!” position that warns others to “make way.”
Drinking Song“California Drinking Song”-The thumb and little finger are extended to represent a grasp around a beer stein. The hand is then repeatedly raised to the conductor’s lips as if he is taking a drink.
Palms“Palms of Victory”-The conductor extends an open “palm” of victory. As the conductor’s forearm is not extended, this signal is different from that for “Make Way for the Bear.”
All Hail“All Hail Blue and Gold”-The extended index and middle fingers are rapidly flipped up and down to make an “A” and an “H.”
Golden Bear“The Golden Bear”-The head and open mouth of a bear are represented by extending the palm and splitting the middle and index fingers. A “biting” effect is achieved by rapidly opening and closing the split.

Hail to Californialink

“Hail to California” was written by Brick Morse while improvising at the piano in 1907. He was asked by University President Benjamin Ide Wheeler and Professor Gayley to write songs for the rooting section, and “Hail to California” resulted. Morse’s sentiment was that “Sons of California” and “Hail to California” would be “nothing unless sung in harmony.” The fraternities began to sing “Hail to California” (though not in harmony), and its popularity subsequently spread. In fact, “Hail to California” has often threatened to supplant “All Hail Blue and Gold” as the official Alma Mater of Berkeley. Indeed, “Hail to California” is used as the Alma Mater of UC Davis, UCLA, and of the UC system as a whole. The Cal Band traditionally sings “Hail to California” in harmony after playing the “Star Spangled Banner” at every home men’s basketball game.

Cal Songs engender a deep sense of continuity and tradition, stirring great devotion and loyalty from both students and faculty. Their themes of the intangible qualities of spirit and love of the University and their evocative music make them indispensable to the University. Legendary Cal football coach Andy Smith once told Brick Morse, “Someday I wish you would lead ‘Hail to California’ just before game time. I shall throw open the doors of our quarters and tell the boys to listen. With the last note I shall say ‘Now go.’”

TOC | Previous Chapter | Next Chapter