On the Roadlink

The Band loves to travel. Not every Band member is fortunate enough to have gone to a bowl game, an NCAA basketball tournament, or on a major performance tour, but almost every Band member has traveled to a football game in Los Angeles or on another road trip of some kind. Whether they leave with a straw hat or with a full uniform, for a weekend or for a summer, travel creates a common bond between younger generations and their predecessors.

Road Tripslink

The Cal Band has made a trek to southern California for the football game against UCLA or USC since its first season as an ASUC Band in 1923. In those days the student body, alumni groups, and the Band chartered a Southern Pacific train to Los Angeles. This rooter train transported Cal fans south on the night before the game on Saturday. Some rooters slept on the train, while others spent the night celebrating. Sunday, the train took them back to Berkeley.

Band alumnus Madison Devlin remembers the 1930 rooter-train trip for the USC game as a very low-key affair because of Prohibition. This is in stark contrast to some of the stories of the L.A. trips that occurred after the war. Most of the Band members on these trips were military veterans and a little rowdier than typical college students. This rowdiness set the tone for future L.A. trips. The Band last rode a rooter train in 1950; since then, the Band has taken buses down to Los Angeles.

Singing plays a major part in Cal Band travel. Cal songs are always a favorite, especially if the Band just came from a winning game. Band members also make up original songs or write original lyrics to Cal songs or popular songs. Once the Band started taking buses, they started singing to the bus driver. The more the bus drivers responded, the more the Band sang.

For the 1958 Brussels Tour, the Band needed three buses to transport the 97 members to New York for their flight to Brussels. Bus #1 carried the Executive Committee, equipment, and uniforms. Bus #2 was the quiet bus. Bus #3 was occupied by a group that had dubbed itself “The Drinking Club.” Bus #3 also had the distinction of constantly breaking down, both on the way east and on the way back.

Modern road trip lore is very similar to the past. Now the Band uses four buses, and each has its own distinct personality. For example, the “Study Bus” is the quiet bus (like Bus #2) and the “Basses Bus” is the rowdy bus (like Bus #3).


Much of the Cal Band touring tradition dates back to the late 1940s when the Concert Band traveled throughout northern California, giving concerts in cities including Sacramento, Folsom, and Modesto.

In 1958, however, the Band embarked on the first of five major performance tours that challenged its resources and talents to the extreme. Long bus rides, cramped quarters, and an intense schedule often resulted in frayed nerves, but the bonds formed during these trips last a lifetime. Students get a chance both to get away for a while and to do what they enjoyed most: perform with the best marching band in the land.

Though each tour is different, Band members share many of the same experiences from tour to tour. The following pages recall the experiences of several members of the touring Cal Band.

1958: The Brussels Tourlink

Brussels logo

The end of the bus ride was New York City, where a group of Band members went to Birdland and heard the famous trumpeter Maynard Ferguson. The Band took a charter flight out of Idylwild (now Kennedy) Airport to Europe. After several delays, they arrived in Brussels, where they were told that they could short-cut the customs process by turning in their passports to be processed overnight. Although this unnerved some Band members who had been told never to let their passports out of their possession, everyone did it.

Marching at Brussels

The Band marches into the American pavilion at the Brussels World's Fair, 1958.

At the Motel Expo, each room was identical, with two beds, a toilet, and a bidet. Most Band members had never seen a bidet anywhere before, let alone in a motel room, and had little idea what it was for. Some Band members used it to wash their socks.

Moving the Band through Europe on trains, with sousaphones, drums, and luggage, proved to be a challenge. Communication on the train was difficult, and when the train pulled into a station, Band members often were uncertain whether they were supposed to stay on or get off. Bob Desky and his shepherd’s horn provided the solution. When Bob blew his horn, train windows went down and all manner of equipment came through the windows onto the platform, much to the dismay of the other passengers.

Because Band members wanted to travel lightly, many took only one pair of shoes. After weeks of marching on rough pavement and cobblestones at the pace of the Cal Band cadence, they wore holes in the soles of their shoes clear through to their socks! Cardboard beer coasters from restaurants saved the day for most Band members. These fit nicely into the shoes and filled the holes.

At the end of the tour, as the Band’s plane crossed into the United States, the Band members spontaneously broke into a loud chorus of “God Bless America.” They arrived home in Berkeley to a hero’s welcome from families and friends, knowing that they had been a part of something they would always treasure. Band alumni from the 1958 Brussels Tour still get together for reunions to relive fond memories.

1965: The American Tourlink

World’s Fair 1965

At the World’s Fair in New York City, 1965.

The 1958 Brussels Trip launched a World’s Fair tradition, which the Band followed with a 1962 Straw Hat Band trip to the fair in Seattle and the 1965 American Tour to New York. The Cal Band left in four buses on a June afternoon with about one week of advance bookings. The generalized route included only two required destinations: Washington, D.C. and the fair in New York. One of the buses was for equipment and had a special “suite” (the back seat) for James Berdahl. The other three buses were for Band members, who crossed their fingers that the trip would continue as planned and not abort at Weed, California.

One of the buses ran out of diesel fuel about a hundred yards shy of the Continental Divide, forcing several Band members to hitchhike to Dubois, Wyoming for a rescue. After the Band ended each show, Abe Hankin and Bob Briggs dashed off to make sure that the next scheduled town had heard of the Cal Band before it arrived.

After performing for its largest audience, 16,000 people in a park in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the Cal Band swung into the South. Audiences there loved its rendition of “Dixie,” but were not so sure about “Battle Hymn.”

The Masonic Auditorium on Nob Hill was filled as the Band ended seven weeks and 14,000 miles with perhaps its best and most inspired performance. The American Tour showed a slice of mostly small town America the special qualities of Total Band Entertainment and the University of California Marching Band.

1965 American Tour
Monday June 14 Sacramento, CA
Tuesday June 15 Marysville, CA
Wednesday June 16 Willows, CA
Thursday June 17 Weed, CA
Saturday June 19 Yellowstone Park, WY
Monday June 21 Fort Collins, CO
Tuesday June 22 Scottsbluff, NE
Wednesday June 23 Winner, SD
Thursday June 24 Blue Earth, MN
Friday June 25 Pierre, SD
Saturday June 26 Sioux Falls, SD
Friday July 2 Grand Island, NY
Saturday July 3 Gravenhurst, Ontario
Monday July 5 Sudbury, MA
Wednesday July 7 Bethlehem, CT
Fri.-Sat. July 9-10 Rockville Centre, NY
Monday July 12 Wilmington, DE
Tuesday July 13 Washington, DC
Wednesday July 14 Lancaster, PA
Thursday July 15 Fredericksburg, VA
Friday July 16 Covington, VA
Saturday July 17 Lexington, KY
Sunday July 18 Vincennes, IN
Saturday July 24 Ontario, CA
Monday July 26 Long Beach, CA
Tuesday July 27 Pasadena, CA
Wednesday July 28 Paso Robles, CA
Thursday July 29 Modesto, CA
Friday July 30 San Francisco, CA

1968: The California Tourlink

Golden Bards, 1968.

Eric Mart, Larry Fredlund, Dave Kopf, and Scott Gillespie sang as the Golden Bards on the 1968 California Tour.

Unlike the other tours, which were summer-long trips, the 1968 California Tour was a short trip during spring vacation. Also unlike the other tours, the California Tour offered very little time for sight-seeing. The overriding memory most Band members retain from the California Tour is the blur of perpetual motion compounded by physical exhaustion. The California Tour set its tone early with a 3:00 am completion of the final Berkeley rehearsal and a 6:00 am departure for Gilroy and the first show.

For eleven nights in a row, the Cal Band performed its show. Every morning it rode the bus, and every afternoon it set up and adapted to a new location. Every evening it performed Total Band Entertainment, and every night members stayed up too late with their hosts discussing Berkeley and the politics of 1968.

Some of the more memorable images from the trip include the children at the Shriners’ Hospitals in Los Angeles and San Francisco, Charter Day at the Greek Theater honoring Earl Warren, a mass relief stop on the Grapevine, the Golden Bards folk-singing group, and the “Academic Festival Overture” finale to the show, during which the Band unfurled the University’s Centennial Banner.

1968 California Tour
Saturday March 17 Gilroy
Sunday March 18 Long Beach
Monday March 19 Santa Monica
Tuesday March 20 San Diego
Wednesday March 21 Modesto
Thursday March 22 Berkeley
Saturday March 24 Fairfield
Sunday March 25 San Jose
Monday March 26 Sacramento
Tuesday March 27 San Francisco

1970: The Japan Tourlink

Japan Tour

The Cal Band traveled to its next World’s Fair at the EXPO 70 in Osaka, Japan. Band members boarded the plane with great excitement and anticipation. After several hours in the air they got to appreciate how far away Japan was and how close together the seats were. The Band landed in Tokyo early in the morning and got right to rehearsing. Late in the afternoon, Band members were paired with Japanese students who acted as hosts. The genuine human-to-human warmth and positive interaction characterized the tour.

Band members encountered many cultural differences in Japan. For instance, lunches often came in rectangular boxes that contained cold rice and an assortment of several unfamiliar- looking items. The box lunch usually was accompanied by warm Coke. (Band members on the 1987 Coca-Cola Bowl trip to Japan remember the same type of box lunches!) Also, Japanese-style toilets caused an unpleasant form of culture shock for some Band members.

The hot and humid weather combined with the demanding schedule proved to be both mentally and physically challenging. At one point, the uniforms became moldy when the perspiration did not have time to dry between performances. All the uniforms had to be dry-cleaned in the middle of the tour.

The performance venues were varied and numerous. On one occasion, the Band performed for the United States Ambassador to Japan on his expansive lawn at the U.S. Embassy. Following the marching show, members were treated to a wonderful American dinner with all of the embassy “brass.” They also played at a Datsun auto factory. To make room for the performance, the management had welders cut huge pieces of machinery from the shop floor. The Band played one evening at a golf course and another in a swimming pool, which was broadcast on TV.

As the Band was preparing to land in Oakland, it was delirious with joy. Suddenly, over the plane’s intercom system came mechanical, robust laughter-a Band member got hold of the flight attendants’ microphone to test his new toy, a Japanese laughing box.

The final performance was a gala evening celebrating the Band’s return at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House. It was standing room only, and at the conclusion of the finale, a huge banner was unfurled from the stage rafters. With the symbol of EXPO 70, the banner proclaimed “Progress and Harmony for Mankind.”

1970 Japan Tour
Friday June 26 Tokyo
Tuesday June 30 Kyoto
Friday July 3 Osaka
Saturday July 4 Tokyo
Sunday July 5 Fukuoka
Thursday July 9 Oppama/Yokohama
Friday July 10 Kurume City
Saturday July 11 Karatsu City
Sunday July 12 Omuta
Monday July 13 Niyajima-guchi
Tuesday July 14 Hiroshima
Wednesday July 15 Ube
Saturday July 18 Takamatsu
Mon.-Thurs. July 20-23 Osaka
Saturday July 25 Sakai
Sunday July 26 San Francisco

1976: The Bicentennial Tourlink

Like the other tours, the Bicentennial Tour was an intense and ambitious undertaking. This, however, did not stop the Cal Band in 1976 as it was the official representative for the State of California and the University during our nation’s bicentennial celebration. This tour also carries the distinction of being the first and, so far, only coed Cal Band tour.

Packing equipment

Band members load the equipment trucks after a show during the Bicentennial Tour, 1976.

Preparation began two years in advance. Raising the necessary $300,000 was a major endeavor. To re-learn the logistics of travel, the Band picked up the 1975 Cal Band Spring Show and sent it to Redding by truck and bus. The tour found the Cal Band traveling across the country, making 23 performances in 42 days. It toured from California to Georgia, through Maine and Vermont, and back through the Midwest before heading home to Zellerbach Hall. Band members had to endure sleeping entire nights on a moving bus, under the seats, up in the luggage racks, locked in the bus bathroom, or anywhere they could stretch their legs after the soreness of marching, dancing, and loading and unloading props.

The schedule was grueling and the days were long. The Band advance crew of Stunt Committee members would rendezvous with alumni volunteers in each city to iron out the logistic problems before the Band arrived. Where would they rehearse? Did they have enough electricity? What time would the host families pick up the Band members? What special groups would have to perform for the news media or at a shopping mall to help the sponsors sell tickets?

All information was run off on a hand-cranked ditto machine in a portable Drum Major office in a van. This van also served as a conference room for Executive Committee meetings and sleeping quarters for the advance crews. It never stopped smelling of Kentucky Fried Chicken!

The tour show, called Spirit of America, was a smashing success. The show made the audience proud to be American and the Band members proud to be part of such a fine organization. In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 10,000 people gave standing ovations on three separate occasions. In Savannah, Georgia, the baseball field was rained out and lightning struck the light towers, but the show went on in the stands. Letters of appreciation came to the University from people all over the nation. Wherever the Cal Band performed, it changed America’s image of Berkeley students. The last tour performance was a climactic welcome home at Zellerbach Hall on July 31, 1976.

1976 Bicentennial Tour
Saturday June 19 Sacramento, CA
Sunday June 20 Stockton, CA
Monday June 21 Fresno, CA
Thursday June 24 San Diego, CA
Tuesday June 29 Hendersonville, TN
Thursday July 1 Savannah, GA
Monday July 5 Lancaster County, VA
Tuesday July 6 Washington, DC
Wednesday July 7 Lancaster, PA
Sunday July 11 Farmingdale, NY
Monday July 12 Ellenville, NY
Tuesday July 13 Bethlehem, CT
Wednesday July 14 New Haven, CT
Thursday July 15 Winchester, MA
Saturday July 17 Brunswick, ME
Sunday July 18 Montpelier, VT
Monday July 19 Montague, MA
Tuesday July 20 Ogdensburg, NY
Thursday July 22 Tonawanda, NY
Saturday July 24 Muskegon, MI
Monday July 26 Middletown, OH
Friday July 30 South Lake Tahoe, CA
Saturday July 31 Berkeley, CA

Bowl Gameslink

Bowl games are, unfortunately, a rare sight for the Cal Band. While tours are planned by the Band ahead of time, the Band has no influence over bowl games. They are a treat because funding usually is provided by the Bowl Committee. The Band first marched in the Rose Bowl in 1938, the last Rose Bowl that Cal won. The Band traveled to Pasadena to watch the Bears lose Rose Bowl games in 1949, 1950, 1951, and 1959.

The Band traveled to New Jersey for the now-defunct Garden State Bowl game in 1979, but unfortunately, the Bears lost again. In 1987, Coca-Cola sponsored Washington State and Cal to play their final season game against each other in Japan.

The game was a tie.

As the football team began to improve during the 1990 season, the Band was able to follow it down to Tucson, Arizona, for the Copper Bowl on December 31, 1990. The next season proved to be even better than the one before it. The team was invited to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida, on January 1, 1992. In honor of the event, Briggs donned his middle name, Orlando.

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