Creating the Looklink

The precision and drive-indeed, the overall look and feel of the Cal Band-is classic, timeless. It is a canny combination of dynamic showmanship and simple elegance. But it was not always thus. The Band’s modern performance values were born of a decade of concerted effort to transform the image of the Band, both on the field and off-in pregame and half-time shows and in street parades. The 1950s were the crucible from which the steel of modern Cal Band style was forged.

A Look Backlink

During the 1920s and 1930s, Cal Band half-time shows consisted of a brief marching drill, after which the Band formed a block and played a concert on the field. This was typical of west coast marching bands of the time. From the mid-1930s through the 1940s, the Band began to create formations on the field. The Band played Cal songs and military marches during these shows.

Cal It's Time To Win

In the 1930s and 1940s the Band occasionally put down their instruments and lay on the field to spell words. This picture shows the beginning of a halftime which kept accurate time for eight minutes at the St. Mary's game, 1941.

The shows of the mid-1930s had a quirky cleverness. The Band occasionally spelled some words by leaving instruments on the field and having the musicians lie down to spell out the rest of the formation with their bodies. The apex of this technique was the formation of a clock that kept accurate time for eight minutes as the Band played a series of marches.

Pregame, 1950s

The pregame entrance with a pivot at the goal line, mid-1950s.

Herb Towler (DM ’43) recalls that the pregame performances during the war years were relatively simple: “They were nothing compared to what you see today. Our small band would generally enter from the North Tunnel. The Drum Major would do his best to twirl the baton and throw it over the goalpost (a tradition dating back to the 1920s). The Band would continue on down to the south end, where we would make a countermarch and then come back to mid-field. Normally, we’d make a left turn, face the opposing section and play their school song, and then we would turn and play ‘Fight for Cal’ and then go off the field.”

With the end of World War II, the Band reemerged, like the University, with exuberance and recklessness, as world-wise veterans returned home. The devil-may-care attitude that prevailed at the time was a cherished part of the Band’s culture. Accelerated marching tempos, clever stunts, and a high profile on campus were the Band’s trademarks and sources of great pride. By the late 1940s, the Cal Band was in its own right one of the best bands on the West Coast, and it knew it.

But circumstances changed. At the 1950 Rose Bowl game, the Bears faced off against Ohio State University, whose band was the best of the Big Ten, a conference that traditionally produced America’s great college bands. The Cal Band was completely outclassed in looks, performance, and audience appeal. The episode had a profound effect on the Cal Band, but the game itself was only one of numerous factors that, within a matter of years, transformed the Band into something very different.

The Band drastically changed its approach to field shows after that Rose Bowl and introduced popular music to its shows the next fall. The newer music lent itself to choreography beyond traditional marching drills.

Tony Martinezlink

Tony Martinez

Tony Martinez, elected Drum Major of the Cal Band in the fall of 1951, was probably the single most influential person in the Band’s move from a very good West Coast band to one of national stature.

Following the 1950 Rose Bowl, he met members of the Ohio State and Michigan bands and discussed technique and style. The Band consulted him throughout the 1950s as it struggled to improve its level of performance. After graduation, Tony continued a life-long relationship with the Cal Band, designing and charting its shows until his death in 1990. Although he was paid to chart halftime shows, his dedication came from the heart.

Pappy’s Gift
Recalling a moment that transformed the Cal Band’s Marching Stylelink

It was during the early 1950s that the rapport between “Pappy” Waldorf and the Cal Band became the strongest. As the football fortunes fell, these two entities, Pappy and the Band, supported each other to their mutual benefit and to that of the University, as it turns out. During this time, there was much turmoil about the Cal Band’s performance style, so when Cal’s team played Ohio State once again in ’52, Pappy asked his team photographer to film the half-time of the Ohio State Band.

We had the annual Baton Society Smoker that year, and Pappy came to this one, as he always did, as a speaker. In the spirit of the usual love affair between Pappy and the Band, the coach said to us, “I brought this film so you can see the Ohio State Band.” That was put on, and I remember Tony Martinez and Wayne Henderson looking at the screen and saying, “Wow, look at those straight lines.” Everybody was wondering how they kept those straight lines and I’m not sure, but I swear it was Tony that said, “Hey look, they’re counting!” We went back and ran that film back and forth, looking at the fact that they were indeed taking eight steps for every five yards and it was then that we said, “Hey, that’s something we ought to do.”
-Bill Colescott

This was to be the final break from the Band’s old military- style marching, which required “guiding right,” to a style in which each individual was responsible for his own activities on the field-what we call today “marching a spot.” By having a standardized eight steps for five yards, everybody could then apply this technique to the half-time stunts which from then on could be plotted using the new technical approach.

Halftime dance

A dance step is a sure-fire way to bring the Memorial Stadium crowd to its feet.

In 1954, the Band’s choreography to “Rock Around the Clock” wowed the audience in Memorial Stadium, and since then dance steps have become a regular part of Cal Band half-time shows. Even today, whether the Band members do a simple kick step while playing their horns or lay down their horns and completely “rock out,” the Band receives thunderous applause from the audience. Broadway music, television themes, jazz, and rock song arrangements have all been used over the years to create visually and musically interesting half-time shows.

As the 1950s came to a close, the Band added props to its shows. Some props were simple, like fire extinguishers to provide smoke or streamers to accent a formation. Other props were more elaborate, involving stage settings and costumes.

This trend towards theatrical elements reached its high point in the Big Game spectacle of 1961, in which the Band performed an abbreviated version of the Broadway musical Camelot. Assembling an elaborate collection of costumes and equipment, the Band planned a full coronation procession, a joust, and the rise and fall of the empire, complete with prerecorded singing and dialog. In scope, boldness, and expense, it exceeded anything previously conceived. Unfortunately, it rained the day of the performance and the show was a mixed success. Other Broadway shows later in the 1960s were more successful, featuring numbers from Porgy and Bess, Paint Your Wagon, and Mame.

By the mid-1970s, the Band’s reduced budget precluded the use of extravagant props and costumes, and the Band returned to more traditional marching shows. Presently, Cal Band half-time shows emphasize movement and flow between formations, which are usually geometric shapes. Traditional flows, such as counter-marches and pass-throughs, are supplemented by creative show charting that can sprout argyles from straight lines, shift horizontal lines into vertical lines in eight steps, and seamlessly change circles into squares and then into diamonds.

Pick Up Your Heelslink

“The quality of performance demanded of the California Band requires not only good music, good field charting, and precision, but also standardization of movement A rank of Bandsmen marking time in perfect unison, perfectly standardized is more impressive than the most intricate drill sloppily performed.”
-Dave Sheegog, (DM ’79)

Today, the Cal Band has a reputation for its refinement and precision in marching, which is distinct from the other bands of the PAC 10 . The precision rests in the marching fundamentals and standards that the Band has developed over the years, among them the high-step form, the ripple bow, and the call to attention. These techniques are so important that, along with music, prospective Band members are tested on them.

The introduction of the high step in 1954 was the most important change to the Band’s marching style. It incorporated a snappier, shorter step, bent knee, and pointed toe. By using the football yardlines to calibrate steps instead of guiding off of individual marchers, the Band achieved a more accurate step length, straighter lines, and a more impressive presentation on the field. In 1961, the Cal Band’s marching style was codified for the first time. Two volumes, the Marching Fundamentals Manual and a standardized pregame booklet, set down every detail- from the elements of each kind of step, bow, and salute to the Flying Wedge, Script Cal, and the “Star Spangled Banner” formation. A third instruction book was also published, telling how to use the first two.

Mike Flierlink

Mike Flier

Mike Flier entered the Cal Band in 1958, played the clarinet, and was elected Drum Major for the 1961 season. He played a significant role in the development of the new uniform in 1961 and in standardizing the marching fundamentals.

Mike laid the foundation of uniform style by developing the Band’s Marching Fundamentals Handbook, with photographs of properly executed technique. Each year since, the Band has been able to build on its strengths and improve its shows because it does not have to relearn new marching techniques.

High step

Showcasing its impressive high-step marching style, the California Band makes its way past Sather Gate en route to another Saturday afternoon football game.

Updated fundamentals manuals, published in 1966 and 1979, included many of the Band’s later embellishments to the high step that had developed over time. These publications were indispensible tools in ensuring the consistency and quality of the Band’s high-step form.

169 wedge

The wedge is one of the Band trademarks. This one is the largest the Band has marched, with 169 members, 1985.

The high step is the style most commonly used by the Band and is the style usually associated with the Band. Used in pregame and half-time drills as well as dance routines, this style can be used at tempos up to 180 beats per minute. The fundamentals manuals describe the proper execution of high step: “It is necessary to march on the toes and balls of the feet. The heels should touch the ground only to maintain balance. They should never be firmly placed on the ground during high step.”

Over the years, the Band has made embellishments. For example, Band members use up-down flash when changing direction while playing their instruments. In up-down flash, the instrument is first raised to forty-five degrees above playing angle as the marcher takes a step to pivot in a new direction and is then returned to the original playing position as the foot hits the ground on the next step. Another embellishment is the high-step arm swing, which gives the step a snappy look. When a Band member is marching but not playing, he holds his instrument in a carry position while moving his left arm on each step, snapping it first parallel to the ground and then against his side on the next beat.

But high step is not the only way to march with the Cal Band. Military Step is often performed while playing marches or wherever a smooth, gliding style is desired. In contrast to high step, marchers keep their shoulders back and their legs straight, and a slight head bounce and shoulder swagger are desirable. On the other end of the spectrum is Tunnel Step. Performed at 240 beats per minute, it is used solely when the Band explodes from the North Tunnel for its pregame performance. This style is the first impression that a football audience gets of the Band, showing off the precision, drive, and enthusiasm of the members. Tunnel Step serves as a streamlined version of the Cal Band’s high-step form.

North Tunnel Yelllink

Tunnel flow

The “Tunnel Flow” onto the field at 240 beats per minute kick-starts the Band’s pregame performance. It is something of a cross between a choreographed ballet and a cattle stampede.

“Pick up your heels! Turn your corners square! And DRIVE! DRIVE! DRIVE!” The Cal Band’s North Tunnel Yell is named for the Memorial Stadium tunnel from which the Band emerges and is shouted immediately prior to any pregame entrance. It helps all members of the Band to focus on the common goal: an excellent pregame performance with driving Tunnel Step, squarely turned corners, and pointed toes. The origin of the North Tunnel Yell can be traced directly to the 1950 Rose Bowl.

That morning, the Cal Band had self-assuredly marched the grueling Rose Bowl Parade at its usual fast street-marching tempo. The Ohio State Band, on the other hand, had taken a slower pace so that it would be rested for its pregame and half-time shows. The exhausted Cal Band chided the Ohio State Band for its diligent, slower tempo during the parade, but hushed when Ohio State’s drum major blew his whistle. Ohio State snapped to attention and let out an impressive, precise, loud yell. Cal Band members decided right then and there that the Cal Band needed a yell, too.

The Band’s original tunnel yell was lifted directly from the Ohio State yell and modified to fit Cal’s style: “Pick up your feet! Turn your corners square! And guide! Guide! Guide!” The word “guide” referred to guiding right, as was customary in the traditional military marching band style that the Band had been using. By 1954, the initial yell had been changed to emphasize the look and feel of the new style. It became, “Pick up your heels! Turn your corners square! And DRIVE! DRIVE! DRIVE!” In Driving high step, the planted foot should drive into the ground with each high step. Proper high step form also includes pointed toes, an aspect of the step that Band members at the time were not learning quickly enough. “Pick up your feet” was changed to “Pick up your heels,” a reminder that picking up the heel would cause the toe to point at the ground.

Entering the Fieldlink

Tuba strut

The Tuba Strut is one of the most popular elements of pregame. Though used in the entrance from North Tunnel, it is more commonly associated with the Script Cal.

Although the North Tunnel Yell was implemented in 1954, the entrance to the field developed over the next several years. The Band began designing a standardized entrance to eliminate the need to learn a whole new routine for each game. The original entrance consisted of forming two long lines, from sideline to sideline, and marching south after entering the field. Band members felt that this lacked distinction, so from 1954 to 1959, the Band experimented with the entrance to make it more visually interesting. A new “jerky step”-essentially high step performed at half speed-was first used in the entrance to create a pass- through effect. The front line of the entrance formation did jerky step while the second line did high step and, because of the difference in speed, the lines crossed through each other to create patterns. Later, the Band used three and four lines that crossed through each other and could be rolled out into various formations.

The long-lines entrance was used until 1961, when the Flying Wedge formation was introduced. Designed to grab and hold audience attention during the pregame entrance, the Flying Wedge began with a high-speed entrance from the tunnel-to the sound of the “Tunnel Flow” drum cadence-into the Wedge formation. Once the Wedge had formed, the Band performed a snappy bow and proceeded down the field playing a Cal song (currently “Big C”).

The “point of the Wedge,” the forward-most marching position, is a highly-coveted spot, bestowed on an alto or tenor saxophone player each year after a competition among senior members of the two sections.

The Bomblink

“We’re starting our broadcast and somewhere after the first few minutes here comes the Band massing in the tunnel. They’ve got the high step, the bomb goes off, they come out and you can see the crowd immediately react to that. That to me really kicks off the day.”
-Joe Starky, Sports Announcer

Bomb entrance

The elements of the standardized pregame show have become the Band’s trandemarks. The Bomb is the most exciting and the most controversial of them.

Pyrotechnicians

Pyrotechnician Tom Kellogg (on right) makes the electrical connection [that] sets off the charge, mid-1970s.

Pregame bomb

From any angle, the Bomb makes an impression.

The most exciting and controversial addition to the pregame show was the Bomb. The Bomb is not actually a weapon, but rather a pyrotechnic device made of flash power that produces a loud boom and a lot of smoke.

Oddly enough, when the Bomb actually made its debut-during a half-time show in 1953-it failed to work. The show included an “atomic bomb” finale, in which a formation of electrons moved around its nucleus. The climax was to be an explosion played out by the Band members in the formation while the “bomb” went off. Props manager Bill Colescott built a primitive flash device, consisting of a Model T auto coil, wire, switch and flash powder. Although it worked during rehearsal, it did not detonate during the performance. Colescott remembers running up to director James Berdahl and yelling “boom” in its place. Despite difficulties with this first Bomb, the idea was later added to pregame to attract complete audience attention. The Band experimented with the Bomb from 1953 through 1960, and it became a standard part of the pregame show in 1961.

Bill Colescottlink

Bill Colescott

Bill Colescott was in the Cal Band from 1951 through 1961, and served as Senior Manager in 1954. The fallout from the 1950 Ohio State performance was still fresh in the minds of Band members. He helped design the 1954 cross-belt uniform. He instituted policies for the Straw Hat Band to ensure proper instrumentation for SHB performances. Colescott’s electrical-engineering major was used to invent the Cal Band’s first Bomb. After serving in the Army, Bill returned in the mid-1960s as a member of the Camera Crew and the Alumni Tour Council.

The Drum Majorlink

Linda Vogelsberg

Linda Vogelsberg (DM ’88).

While developing the pregame entrance, the Band experimented with various drum major entrances and analyzed the audience response, trying to assess how it could make it most striking. The “drum major strut,” borrowed from the Ohio State Band, made its debut in the fall of 1950. In the early 1950s, as the Band re-examined and changed its style, the drum major’s performance also changed. Bill Isbel (DM ’54) created a new style by studying his counterparts in the Big Ten. A Life magazine article showed a strutting Michigan drum major with legs extended, back arched and head thrown back so that the busby reached towards the ground. Films of the Ohio State Band showed an acrobatic drum major’s performance.

Camelot, 1950s

The ambitious 1961 half-time spectacular, “The Cal Band in King Arthur’s Court.” While a rain-soaked audience tries to attend, Mike Flier tells “guest star” Tina Nooitgedagt that in Camelot, “It’s true, it’s true, the Crowd has made it clear, the climate must be perfect all the year.”

Isbel noted these elements and created a performance of his own. Instead of leading the Band onto the field in performance as his predecessors had done, Isbel came from behind, breaking through the ranks. While the Band marched down the field, the drum major strutted in a zig-zag fashion down the field. Isbel also charted himself into the half- time performance. This gave the drum major a chance to showcase his mace twirling and marching skills on the field. When the Flying Wedge formation appeared on the scene in 1961, the drum major continued the pattern of bursting out from within the Band, emerging from the point of the Wedge with a high kick, flourish, or other distinctive maneuver. The drum major spent fewer and fewer half-times on the field. With more administrative duties, he had less time to concentrate on this aspect of his performance. Also during this era, performances became more complex with greater use of props, costumes, and special choreography, and the role of a stage director became a larger part of the Drum Major’s responsibilities; finally, Bob Satterford (DM ’67) put himself in the press box to observe the Band’s half-time performances.

Dave Tanabe

The quintessential “crotchgrabber,” performed here by Dave Tanabe, 1989.

In 1968, Jim French applied a decidedly acrobatic slant to the Drum Major’s performance. Upon emerging through the tip of the Wedge, he shot up in the air with a “crotchgrabber”: his legs were extended in a splits position while the baton was thrust underneath them. After landing, he arched himself into a backbend, busby touching the ground, and then recovered to a standing position. He strutted straight down the field to the south end zone in the straight-legged fashion of the Big Ten drum majors. Instead of using a mace, French carried a twirling baton which he tossed over the south goal post.

Banana uniform

1958 Drum Major Dan Cheatham wearing what Band members called the “Banana” uniform.

The next year, Eric Mart strutted to the middle of the field and flung the baton in a high aerial toss. After several years of tosses, the crowd began to see this as an important event, even placing wagers on the height of the toss and the success of the catch. Common lore has maintained that the outcome of the game is predicted by the aerial toss: if the Drum Major catches the baton, the team will win; if not, the team will lose. Often, the Drum Major has had greater success than the team.

Until the early 1970s, the individual components varied from year to year, although the acrobatic element and high toss became a standard part of the Drum Major’s pregame performance. High kicks, mid-air splits, backbends, baton flourishes, and leaps found their way into different performances. In 1972, Drum Major Mitch Jones brought back the crotchgrabber, followed by a backbend, a strut down the field, and the high toss. Although this format has remained relatively unchanged since then, change has been an integral part of the Drum Major’s performance over the Band’s history, and the position lends itself to invention.

Up Close and Personal: The Uniformlink

uniforms

Early Uniforms, from left to right: Cadet Band, 1917; the first ASUC Band uniform, 1923; the first blue cape, 1925; white duck pants added, 1926; the first Sam Browne belt, 1931; finally, the kneeling Drum Major, and a uniform without a high, military collar, 1935.

While it is the marching style that attracts the regular spectator sitting somewhere in the thirtieth or fiftieth row at football games, there is another level at which the Cal Band makes a good impression. At rest and at close quarters, the Band presents a stately, dignified cadre of impressive carriage. One could almost mistake the group for a military honor guard-which would be appropriate considering the Band’s inception as a unit of the University Cadets (later the ROTC), at which time Band members wore their cadet uniforms during drills and performances.

The First ASUC Uniformslink

When the new ASUC Band was formed in 1923, it had little budget and would not have had uniforms if not for the efforts of Chris Tellefsen, a clerk and wardrobe custodian for the ASUC. Aware that the Band had no uniforms, Tellefsen searched hard and finally found some second-hand uniforms for the twenty-or-so musicians. The student body praised the Band for their hard efforts, but criticized the uniforms for looking too much like Boy Scouts. As a result, the ASUC purchased new band uniforms the next season for the growing (now 36-member) Cal Band. These uniforms, similar in appearance to the original cadet uniforms, featured light- blue pants and a royal-blue tunic coat with a block “UC” on the collar. A blue military hat and black shoes completed the outfit.

Horse Blankets and Duckslink

1933 uniform

1933 uniform.

Even the new ASUC Band uniform didn’t halt the criticism; it still looked very much like that of a nineteenth-century army band rather than one belonging to a twentieth-century university band. The Band attempted to modernize its old- fashioned look several times over the next ten years, trying a long, blue cape (sometimes known as “the horse blanket”) in 1925, white duck pants and white hats in 1926, white flannel pants with a blue and gold stripe on the leg and Sam Browne belts in 1931, and finally replacing the hats with blue and gold ones with a blue block “C” on the crest.

When Cal played St. Mary’s College in 1933, twenty Band members entered the field from the sidelines in the familiar old, dilapidated, militaristic uniforms. However, they hastily retreated to North Tunnel. The startled audience then watched as the Band, 150 members strong, burst into the stadium with a new navy-blue, four-button military jacket that transformed the Band’s appearance.

By 1941, the Band’s uniforms were starting to show wear. Students and alumni wrote letters to the Daily Californian complaining about the Band’s deteriorating appearance: “Our own boys continue to wear frayed Sam Browne belts, patched trousers, and shiny coats.” That year, the ASUC authorized the purchase of new uniforms of the same style, with a few minor changes. The University of California seal appeared on a shoulder patch. The new pants were gray with a blue stripe on the leg, and leather belts replaced the cloth Sam Browne belts.

Anatomy of a Pot-Bellied Bear
By Aaron Katzmanlink

uniforms

The origins of the Cal Band’s potbellied bear are still shrouded in mystery-however, some archeological evidence finds potbellied bears in primitive cave paintings, amid the ruins of the ancient library of Alexandria, and in the noted sketchbooks of Leonardo Da Vinci (Tenor, 1470).

Some 500 years later, the Cal Band was looking around for an official logo, and, as percussionist Art Robson (SM ’52) recalls, “We had a brochure with a picture of a chubby bear banging on a bass drum at the base of the Campanile. The Executive Committee adopted it as an insignia temporarily until we got a better one.” Robson credits Wayne Henderson (SM ’51) with designing the now-familiar potbellied bear, which made its debut on Cal Band drum heads in 1952. This bear, often referred to as the “Cal Band Weasel” is still largely preserved in his original form, with a Band hat on his head and a mace in his hand, standing in front of a block “C.” Previously, Band bass drums had been decorated with portraits of Oski, block “C”’s, or abstract diamond patterns around the rim.

Weasels

The logo bear quickly gained popularity with Band members. Before long, he started to change appearance to suit a variety of contexts. Programs, poop sheets, flyers, stickers, and brochures produced from 1953 to the present show the bear singing, playing different instruments, leading parades, and conducting the Band. Many of the earlier variations were the work of Don Dean (’60) and Bud Spindt (’62).

Soon committees and groups within the band were adapting him to create their own graphics for t-shirts and publications. Though the potbellied bear is by far the Band’s most prominent logo, many other emblems endure. The Cal Band seal, based on the University Seal, bears the motto: “Outstanding Service Through Excellent Performance.” The script “Cal Band” has adorned the sweatshirts that Band members frequently wear in rehearsals and at rallies and informal band performances around campus.

Additionally, Band publicity has produced several pieces of artwork. Cartoonist and longtime Band supporter Jay Ward (of “Rocky and Bullwinkle” fame) donated his talents to the Bicentennial Tour’s promotional ads. Another well-known 1976 tour poster was designed by Michael Murakami, showing familiar moments from Cal Band performances. In 1981, Steve Schuman, a UC Davis Band member, was inspired by the Star Wars films, and created a futuristic poster featuring the Band’s very own interplanetary transport, the “Highstepper.”

Weasels

Almost every year, original works of art have appeared on the covers of Spring Show programs. Although the Band’s earliest logos were adaptations of the University’s mascot-Oski-the Cal Band’s Weasel is something unique and special to the Cal Band. One might expect that the Band, in recent years, would have adopted the football team’s more fashionable emblems, such as the “claw” logo, or the “charging bear” seal. However, the Cal Band prides itself on maintaining an identity distinct from that of the University and its athletic department. Without a doubt, the familiar potbellied bear is an integral part of that identity-a unique and endearing figure that represents the Band everywhere it goes.

[Errata: Several of the graphics originally published were actually designed by Don Dean ’60, SD ’63: Singing Straw-hatter, Drum Major, Director with music stand, Twirling cane under spotlight, Three “Total Band Entertainment” bears (waving straw hat, playing cello on wagon, and drum major pulling wagon), Tympanist.]

“Bellhops”link

“I love the spats because you can see them move; the uniform is right-on. Everything about the Band works. It’s a classic band and I am living for the moment when I can see them on television in the Rose Bowl.”
-Rose Falanga (wife of Cy Silver DM ’53)

1954 cape

Satin uniform capes from 1954 (above) and 1961 (below).

1961 cape

1954 cap

Detail from the cap, 1954 (above). Same detail from the 1961 uniform (below).

1933 uniform

In the 1949 fall season, the Cal Band proudly showed off another new look, featuring a royal-blue, double-breasted jacket with a white shirt and gold necktie, gold pants, a blue and gold hat, and a return to black shoes. Unfortunately at season’s end in Pasadena this uniform appeared woefully inadequate next to that of Ohio State and better suited for hotel employees.

The next season, while the Band began planning many significant changes to its style and appearance, a few quick fixes were employed to update the uniform’s appearance. Blue pants replaced the gold ones, and blue hats decorated with the Great Seal of California were added. White gloves appeared for the first time as the final touch to sharpen the Band’s image, and the white shoes returned. This uniform was deemed “respectable” when compared against the University of Michigan in the 1951 Rose Bowl.

A “Big Ten” Uniformlink

In the lingering aftermath of the Band’s 1950 Rose Bowl embarrassment, Band members began to consider radical changes to the Band’s appearance. When a magazine article thoroughly describing the University of Michigan marching band, its style, and its uniform appeared in Life, the Cal Band finally had the blueprint of a Big Ten marching band that it hoped to eventually resemble.

Uniform assortment

An assortment of uniforms from the past and present. Front, left to right: Brussels Drum Major, 1958; replacement uniform, 1979; “Big Ten” uniform, 1954; first uniform with “California Vest,” 1961; Drum Major, 1961. Back: the “Bellhop,” 1949; Rose Bowl Band, 1951.

In 1954, an entirely redesigned Cal Band uniform appeared. Very similar to the Michigan Band uniform, it included white cloth spats, the first worn by any band on the West Coast. The new uniform also included special rain gear, which consisted of a blue, double-breasted raincoat with matching West Point-style cape and hat cover.

The Band continued to wear its old (1949) blue-and-gold uniform to rallies in the Greek Theater, but the rally attire changed for the 1957 All-University game, held at UCLA. The Cal Band had a reputation for bizarre antics at the Cal/UCLA game, such as wearing jungle safari outfits in 1953, and caps and gowns in honor of President Robert Gordon Sproul’s retirement in 1955. For the 1957 game, the Band surprised the audience by wearing yellow Bermuda shorts with the regular uniform jacket, black socks, and a black bow tie. The shorts were the reincarnation of the 1949 yellow uniform pants, cut off at the knees, and hemmed by the wife of Assistant Director Larry Austin. The Band continued to wear this outfit to pep rallies and alumni appearances. To this day, the Band occasionally wears these rally shorts to bonfire rallies in the Greek Theater.

Setting the Standardlink

“The uniform, like the Band which created it, combines all the best of Cal Band tradition with all the makings of a brilliant new era. For this reason, the history of the uniform is in reality the history of the Cal Band itself.”
-from Your Uniform, and How It Came About, 1961

Through the latter half of the 1950s, a panel of Band members and alumni explored ways to improve the uniform in ways that would accentuate the Band’s performance style, particularly when seen from a great distance as in a stadium.

The updated uniform premiered in 1961. It was a classic: the white vest and gold cape highlighted the “color flash” of an about face or reverse pivot, while the spats and gloves drew attention to the crisp precision that was one of the Band’s hallmarks. It was so well designed that the Cal Band wears essentially the same uniform today.

When new uniforms were purchased in 1979, they were basically the 1961 design, although pants with adjustable waists were a necessary change for the then-coed Cal Band. In 1981, the Band began wearing cleated athletic shoes to provide traction on the new Astroturf field in Memorial Stadium.

In 1992, the Cal Band uniforms again needed replacement. Members discussed options for improving the Band’s appearance, but again decided to retain the Cal Band’s distinctive appearance, which has served so well for over thirty years. The replacement uniforms are of the same design with minor improvements in construction.

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