Marching past Bowles Hall after the game, 1954.
After the preparation comes the day-Game Day. This is the moment that the creativity, the work, and the headaches are geared to. It is the essence of the Cal Band experience. All the traditions and all the excitement are telescoped into a day-long feast for the senses.
Let the words of Band members themselves take you on a trip through this distillation of the traditions and excitement of the Cal Band.
Gathering in Eshleman Court.
The game-day ritual began with pregame rehearsal on the field next to Hearst Gym. Afterward, lunch was served in the temporary buildings to the east that served as a cafeteria. Then the Band formed up in Eshleman Court. The ASUC store on the bottom floor of Stephens Union was on the right, and the Eshleman ticket office was on the left.
After playing a couple of songs, the Band started walking to the stadium. It started out singing the “Song of the Salvation Army” and followed that with the “S.S. Titanic.” Then it went straight up the road past Faculty Glade, up the narrow hill, across Gayley Road, around Kleeburger, and into North Tunnel.
The Band waited in the tunnel for the football team to clear the field after warm-ups. As the team came through the tunnel, Band members cleared a path for the players and made a whole lot of noise. When the Band was ready to take the field, members came to attention, yelled, “Pick up your heels! Turn your corners square! And DRIVE! DRIVE! DRIVE!” and marched double time onto the field.
The pregame show was not the standardized pregame of today. While each pregame began with “Golden Bear Fanfare,” included the national anthem and “Fight for Cal”-with the Script Cal formation-and concluded with “Hail to California,” there was a different “insert” each week, in which the Band spelled out the initials of the opposing school and played its fight song in a salute to the opponent. If the other school’s band was there, the two bands joined in playing the national anthem. Sportsmanship was big in those days.
The Band forms a top hat and cane, 1957.
In 1957, the Band did not enjoy the support of the rooting section that it does today. In fact, some Band members recall being pelted with pennies as they climbed into the stands after pregame. One of the amusements for what was then a rowdy, all-male rooting section was to see if they could land pennies inside the bells of the sousaphones. After the game, the Band played “All Hail” for the rooting section and then proceeded onto the field and out through North Tunnel. It didn’t stop and play a post-game concert directed toward the west side of the Stadium; not much was directed toward the alumni in those days. In contrast, now “All Hail” is rarely played for the students; it is normally played for the alumni.
What is now considered to be the “traditional” post-game concert was started in later years, possibly to avoid the rowdy behavior that was directed toward the Band after games: hats were considered prizes, and people tried to steal them off of Band members’ heads after each game. To make them less of a prize, members always took the plumes out and stuffed them inside their caps. In an attempt to protect the Band from rowdies, the Rally Committee formed a circle around the Band until it got off the field.
After marching off the field and through North Tunnel playing “OBR” and “One More River,” the Band stopped just outside the tunnel and called for the coach to come out on the balcony and give a speech about the game. I don’t know exactly when this activity started, or whether it even originated with the Band, but in the late ’50s the Band always started the chant. The coach that year was Pete Elliott, so the Band chanted, “We Want Pete!” until he came out and made a few comments. The tradition was to start cheering everything that the coach said before he finished a sentence. Pappy Waldorf loved this tradition, but Pete Elliott did not. In fact, he got quite upset about it at one rally, and the Band stopped cheering him altogether.
“There was a sudden, overwhelming feeling of pride. It
finally sank in that there was a purpose to the songs and
yells and that the spirit of the University and its
traditions were important. This was all to be experienced as
an important part of being a Golden Bear.”
-Bob Doud, ’63
I joined the Cal Band almost as an afterthought. I was committed to academic success and did not want to be sidetracked by an extracurricular activity that would consume a lot of time. I was convinced, however, that I should give the Band a chance.
My first day with the Band was a Tuesday before the first game. I didn’t know all the cadences, the fundamentals of marching, or the traditions and had never seen the inside of Memorial Stadium. I was fitted for my uniform quite late. I had been so preoccupied with learning the fundamentals that the preceding days did not provide time for reflecting on what this experience would be like.
Bonfire Rally in the Greek Theater.
The excitement and anticipation began to build with the Friday night rally. I wasn’t even aware that there would be such an event. But with the march to the Greek Theater that night and then coming on stage in front of the bonfire, there was a sudden, overwhelming feeling of pride. It finally sank in that there was a purpose to the songs and yells-the spirit of the University and its traditions were important. This experience was an important part of being a Golden Bear.
The drum section traditionally scales the walls to stand between the pillars atop the proscenium, and since most drummers are not shy, we didn’t mind standing out. But the highlight was leading a serpentine through the seating section around the fire playing “Palms of Victory.” I realized that there were many traditions I was to learn in the next few hours that would be important, memorable, and sacred.
The rehearsal the following morning was held at Edwards field. This was the first time that we practiced the tunnel entrance. It became clear that I had no idea of the flow to the jog cadence, so it was quickly decided that our small drum section would form first in the end zone with the Wedge forming around us. I didn’t think this was such a big deal, as I had never seen what the tunnel entrance looked like; I had not seem any films to this point.
After lunch, we played a concert in the plaza. Granted, there was not a great deal of student excitement about the Band and the football team during that time; however, this was the first full season for Craig Morton, who was to become Cal’s first All-American quarterback, so there was a sizable crowd.
Performing on the steps of Sproul Hall.
During the pregame concert and our forming up to march, however, the entire atmosphere changed. The crowd showed excitement and appreciation for the music. And it seemed as if people really appreciated who we were and what we represented. I now truly had a sense of pride. I also had excitement and butterflies because this was more of an event than I had anticipated. I also slowly realized that there were probably going to be more people in the stands than at my high school games.
Marching through Sather Gate.
The march to the stadium got the adrenaline going. We started with the full fast cadence before the transition into military cadence. Then the singing began, and it was as if the crowd walking with us expected it. I was truly sorry I didn’t know the words or what was to follow, but it set a mood of joy that I will never forget. I remember thinking to myself how foolish I would have been to have missed out on participating in a tradition that most only get to hear, not actually do.
The walking pace soon quickened as we marched by the Bowles Hall parking lot toward the stadium. There are no words to describe the awe I experienced as we played the fast cadence into the North Tunnel. Nobody can ever truly paint the picture of emotions you feel when you enter that tunnel for the first time. You don’t realize the power of your cadences and the reverberations off the walls. There is a rush that always returns, even when you know what to expect. Entering that tunnel for the first time is like entering history. You now become a special piece of the University. Not only do you feel the pride, but you know that those who watch you march past and disappear into the tunnel feel that you are special.
I was not prepared for the spectacle of the crowd. Just like entering the tunnel for the first time, no one can prepare you to see the crowd. There are those moments of waiting, and I remember not being able to catch my breath. There is no sense of panic and no fear, but another sense of awe and appreciation that you are now a part of a most special tradition.
When we emerged from the tunnel, I remember wanting to soak up this feeling. I knew few people on campus, and I don’t think anybody I knew was aware that I was in the Band. But I continued to have the sense of pride and giddiness that attends an unbelievable experience. This experience was made even more intriguing and exciting by one small factor: no one remembered to tell me about: the Bomb. I will never know how it was that I managed to continue playing the tunnel cadence, but hearing the Bomb go off almost put me into the South tunnel. About the only comment made by the section- mate beside me, after the fact, was “Oh! I knew there was something else I should have told you.”
There is only one first time entering the North Tunnel and marching out onto the field. It is a rush that can never be recaptured. Yet, you never tire of performing. You never tire of experiencing the reverberation of cadences off the wall. You never tire of the anticipation as you wait to chant, “Pick up your heels! Turn you corners square! And DRIVE!, DRIVE! DRIVE!” before exploding into the Wedge. You never tire of performing for the cheering crowd. You never tire of being part of the University you love.
“Sometimes the very same creativity and imagination that
have produced some of the most fantastic stunt ideas in
marching band history have also produced some of the worst
-Jim French (DM ’68)
Cal Band stunt committees have been notorious for thinking on a grandiose scale. The area of props gives them an outlet for their world-conquering aspirations, producing what was known in the 1960s as “giant prop syndrome.” Sometimes the very same creativity and imagination that have produced some of the most fantastic stunt ideas in marching band history have also produced some of the worst headaches since the invention of the trumpet.
Golden Gate Bridge, 1983
The giant ice cube, 1961.
Band members in 1961 remember the giant ice cube, a 15-foot tinfoil covered cube that crawled out of the North Tunnel for the half-time finale. The cube was supposed to serve as a base from which a Statue of Liberty would rise up out of a cloud of smoke. So immense was the base, however, that the audience must have been disappointed when a diminutive Statue of Liberty appeared rather than a Jolly Green Giant. Even worse, as the girl was being lowered back into the base, the lift mechanism broke, dropping her the remaining ten feet into the cavernous depths of the prop from which she was never again seen to emerge.
A large radio was featured during the Big Game show, 1972.
Timpani and a gong supplemented the percussion section in this half-time show, early 1970s.
Other creations never even made it onto the field. One of these was the “living birthday cake,” a huge, layered structure upon which Band members would march to form a three-dimensional birthday cake. Fortunately, one stunt committee member calculated the weight of all the Band members standing on this prop cake and realized that with the necessary supporting structure, the prop would weigh several tons and probably sink several feet into the Memorial Stadium turf.
Also doomed was the giant gazebo and fountain designed to be the focal point of a Mexican fiesta stunt. The prop looked beautiful when assembled in the ASUC garage but could not be fit through the doorway for half-time and had to spend Saturday afternoon in the parking lot.
Cannons punctuate the “1812 Overture,” 1979.
The giant teepee, 1969.
Band members of 1969 remember the giant eight-sided teepee. Its sides lowered like a blossoming flower to form an abstract sunburst 20 yards in diameter, while a rock band inside played “Let the Sunshine In.” Although Randy Brown (’68), the props manager, resigned twice during its construction, the prop finally was assembled according to the desired specifications.
The Saturday football audience was startled to see it shining in the Memorial Stadium sunlight, 30 feet tall and a full five yards wide at the base. It also looked somewhat damp, having been drenched by the automatic sprinkler system at Edwards Stadium on the night that the Band had assembled it. Fully loaded with rock band, the prop weighed 1800 pounds and required 12 water boys to pull it on and off the field. Despite overwhelming odds against success, the prop worked to perfection and the half-time show was successful. Reflections from Jim French (DM ’68)
It began early in the Band quarters, as members grabbed their instruments, hats, and plumes and hustled to the practice field. Being a tenor sax player, I arrived at the stadium early for the “tenor brunch,” an early morning buffet of Fruit Loops, Pop Tarts, coffee cake and orange juice.
By 8 am, however, we stood in our places for the director’s downbeat. Although our horns, lips, and fingers were cold from the morning mist, we managed to squeeze out a few scales. We then rehearsed the post-game routine, marching from center field to the north end zone. High step wasn’t very high that early in the morning. Once in the tunnel, we lined up for a run-through of pre-game. As we burst forth and marched down the field, sweat began to percolate on my face.
Albert Locher predicts a Cal victory after the Saturday morning rehearsal.
The last part of rehearsal was reserved for half-time. The Drum Major observed from the stands, and as I saw some mistakes around me, I knew he’d stop the rehearsal at any moment. Sure enough, he gave a whistle. High step was “lazy,” the dance step was “unenthusiastically executed,” and “some people missed notes. Back to the beginning.” After a while, we made it through the show satisfactorily. Rehearsal ended with the traditional prediction-always of a California victory-and “Fight for California.”
Rubbing the bear’s nose brings good luck and victory to the Cal football team.
Back at BRH, I remember running around frantically, putting on my uniform, grabbing a sandwich, cinching my vest buckle, adjusting my hat, swigging a Coke, reattaching an errant button, and reviewing the day’s musical menu. I always ended the routine alongside Strawberry Creek with a rub of the bear’s nose-winning the game is dependent upon all Band members performing this act.
We congregated in the breezeway to lower Sproul Plaza for a few words of inspiration. Then, in a flurry of spirit, we burst up to the Sproul Steps, where loyal fans awaited our concert.
After the concert and a final cheer for Cal, we followed the Drum Major’s cue and, in a second burst of energy, regrouped in the parade block at Sather Gate. A blast of the whistle and a twirl of the baton set us into high-stepping motion. Our blue and gold block wound its way through campus as we sang of the virtuous Salvation Army and the ill-fated Titanic with its beer-swigging survivors. And, of course, the salute to Stanford.
Marching up to Memorial Stadium, 1954.
As the Band neared the Stadium, I heard a hearty “Cal Band to the Rose Bowl!” from one of the band’s most loyal fans. We gained momentum as we made the transition from street marching into high-stepping mode. As we marched into the Tunnel, the thunderous echo of drums surrounded us.
We had a short break before pre-game. We relaxed, sitting along the walls of the tunnel, talking to friends or reviewing our marching continuity. We made a hole as the team came through the tunnel on their way to the field, urging them on and chanting “Go! Go! Go!” and giving them high five’s. The last football player passed through-our cue to line up. The adrenaline started up, and that last trip to the rest room felt like it happened days earlier. I kept checking my hat every few seconds; having it fall on the field would be the ultimate sin.
“Ladies and gentlemen.” The announcement brought a roar from the audience and a quickened heart beat; it had begun. “Sticks up! Pick up your heels! Turn your corners square! And DRIVE! DRIVE! DRIVE!” The whistles sounded, and we exploded from the tunnel, our hearts beating faster than the beat of the drums. With a mighty up-down flash, we took off, high-stepping down the field in the Flying Wedge. At the “GRR-RAH’s” of “Big C,” the Wedge, I had to pivot away, but I was anxious to know if the Drum Major had caught his baton toss. I got my confirmation from the cheer of the fans. The crowd roared, the sweat poured.
We moved on to the hat salute, “Sons of California” and the California spell-out, when the fans joined in to make it echo off the hills. We transformed into a “CAL,” dissolved it, and regrouped into concentric squares, waiting to hear the announcement of “The Traditional Script Cal and ‘Fight for California.’” The trumpets sounded, our cue to move, and the square unwound and serpentined into the Script Cal. The bow started at the tip of the “C” and rippled through to the tip of the “L”. We basked in the luxury of that quick moment to catch our breaths. The students yelled, “Cal Band Great!”
The whistle sounded, and we were off again. To the cadence of the drums, we jogged off the field, the Script Cal disappearing with five lines of Band members beginning to pierce through it from the sidelines. The lines progressed, finally stretching from sideline to sideline.
Briggs directs the “Star Spangled Banner.”
With a pop, the five lines became seven. To the music of “America the Beautiful,” we marched majestically, making the lines move outward towards the end zones, spreading ourselves across the expanse of the field. We finished the performance with a drum roll and the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner.” At the director’s signal and Drum Major’s whistle, we snapped our instruments down and jogged off the field. All I could think about was the thirst-quenching “gak” in the stands.
The game and our cheering antics began as we joined the student section in supporting our team and unnerving our rivals. Depending on the game, we shook our keys at UCLA, kept a tally of exactly how many times USC played “Tribute to Troy” and “Fight On,” or reminded Stanford that they could kiss our Axe.
We performed our half-time show toward the students. They applauded as we counter-marched to Sousa. They sang along to the rock tune. As we put our instruments on the ground-a sure sign that a dance step was to come-they leapt out of their seats. A roar came from the students as we performed kicks, gyrations, ripple bows and other assorted choreography. We left the field to repeated cheers of “Cal Band Great!” from the students.
“Love is Blue,” 1968.
Half-time show formation, 1980.
At the end of the game, we ran onto the field and played “Palms of Victory”-if the Bears had won-and paid tribute to our alma mater with “All Hail.” Our fans in the west stands awaited a concert, and we entertained them with selections from half-time and other pieces in our repertoire. As a farewell, we played the “Lights Out March” and high-stepped out of the stadium to “Cal Band March” and “One More River.” The traditional stop at Bowles Hall brought together two groups of loyal Californians in song.
The parade continued, and the drums and piccolos dueled as we made our way down Piedmont Avenue and Bancroft Way. We played for crowds on the lawns of fraternities and in front of George J. Good’s store under the “GO BEARS!” banner. No matter the score, no matter the weather, no matter that it was the end of the day, we finished the day with the spirit and enthusiasm, high-stepping the final fifty yards back home to Sproul Plaza. A final farewell with “Fight For California” ended the day.
That was a Saturday morning, Bears.
I remember the many warm Saturday afternoons of September, October and November, and that dark wool uniform. Sometimes the surface of Memorial Stadium shimmered. The dry, clean smell of the heat mixed with the green powder we kicked up. It covered us as we knelt there on the sidelines waiting. Waiting.
I remember the moment of hesitation, of silence before the shrill of the whistle. The first surge of adrenaline carried us onto the field. The crowd’s noise increased and filled our ears. They told us, “This is It.” I remember that first breath we all took right before the down beat.
I remember the whirlwind of sound and motion-controlled chaos-and the waves of colors, the blues and golds of the Cal faithful, behind Bob. I remember the marches, the ballads and the rock songs, and how we made the students clap, sing and dance in the stands. I remember the dance steps and funky continuity.
I remember how the last song of the show ended and how the crowd jumped to its feet and roared. The sound thundered and rang in our ears, it was so loud. The adrenaline kicked in and erased the fatigue.
We kept our happiness in as we trotted off the field. The students chanted “Cal Band Great.” We thought we would burst. When the whistle sounded again, we stamped, whooped, jumped, hollered and embraced.
I remember our perfect show. Years have passed and I remember it like yesterday.