Tall Tales and Legendslink

The Cal Band is more than practice and performance. It is more than reading music, wearing spats, and driving out North Tunnel at 240 beats per minute. At any time, it is over a hundred diverse individuals, working-and playing- together. And that playing has led to a collection of colorful characters and stories.

Conference Callslink

Safari outfits

All-U Weekend provided the Band with inspiration. In 1953 the Band wore safari outfits at the Coliseum. Two years later it was caps and gowns to honor University President Robert Gordon Sproul, and in 1957, the first use of the mustard-yellow shorts outside of a rally took place in L.A.

In the post-war years, the Band had a healthy sense of humor, which was most frequently expressed on the field in games with the two schools to the south, USC and UCLA. For several years, the All-University Weekend celebrations, which included the UCLA Band, were a prime source of inspiration. But from time to time, the USC Band prompted a jibe or two. Bob Desky, recalls one time in particular.

“We had been down to the USC game and we had seen the USC Band put on a performance. They had herald trumpets, spear carriers, and people with horses. They marched out on the field with a chariot and each of the members carried a pouch, and at the end of the stunt [each member] lifted the pouch flap and a white pigeon flew out. Let me say that the USC band was something that was a proper object for those pigeons. I think the pigeons had indeed found their calling.”

Trojan parody

“But in any event, we were impressed. Herald trumpets played and Tommy Trojan rode around the track on his horse, and we got back up and we said, ‘That is something.’ We decided that we were going to make up our own sedan chair and get herald trumpets, so we went to everybody’s dorm and borrowed all the ‘plumber’s friends’ in town and we dressed everybody up in outlandish costumes. We went on the field with a parody of the USC Band, playing fanfares and drawing Chris Tellefsen’s nine-year-old daughter in a sedan chair with a crown on her head onto the field. And the rooting section, which had been down south to see the USC game, went wild. Chris was the inspiration of the ultimate parody-the parody of the USC Band. The blighters.”

Spinning Yarnslink

Rz Howell was equally adept at twirling in parades, on the field, or around the dance floor. The tuxedo was a part of the famous 1955 “Private Dreams” show (along with Art Robson) at a basketball half-time.

Rz Howell

Rz Howell

Rz Howell

Robson was the Cal Band’s “class clown” from the late ’40s through the mid-’50s.

1976 Spring Show

1976 Spring Show

1976 Spring Show

Though almost lost today, for forty years the Band had a tradition of using the art of twirling in its street marching and its performances. Two of the prime artists were Durward Howell and Art Robson.

The first tradition, one that lived through the thirties and forties, was of the twirling drum major. Then as now, the drum major’s entrance had a ritual to it. Tom Simonson (DM ’39) recalls, “In my four years at Berkeley, I made that march out of the tunnel for every single game, threw the baton over the [north] goal post every single time and caught it still twirling without a fall.”

The tradition of twirling drum major had a healthy life, extending into the early fifties with Tony Martinez, who continued to twirl in 1952, the year after he was drum major.

The next year, Durward “Rz” Howell entered the Band as a junior college transfer. He holds the distinction of never having been a musician; he was a pure twirler. A national- caliber twirler, he was a featured performer-twirling flags and fire batons in addition to regular baton-for football and basketball games.

In 1954, Drum Major Bill Isbell eschewed the traditional baton to perform with an English mace; the twirling baton has since come and gone according to the skills of the respective drum majors.

However, Cal Band twirling was picked up at about that time by the drum section, thanks to Art Robson, a superlative drummer and genuine eccentric.

Robson, trained in the art of the Scottish drum, joined the Band in 1948 and impressed people with his skills for nearly ten years. He was senior manager in 1952, but even his brother said, “Most of his fame probably comes from the amazing dexterity he exhibits with drum sticks, twirling and clicking the sticks and hitting the bass drum in a variety of ways-including swinging the sticks behind his back or under his legs.”

His twirling set the standard for a drum section that carried on in the manner even after Robson graduated from law school in 1956. As Jonathan Elkus (SD ’52) has said, “It was a Cal Band trademark during the ’50s and ’60s.”

Big Game Caperslink

“Jamie, mustering his artistic skills and knowledge, carefully and painstakingly lettered the plaque and did an edge on it with trompe l’oeil, shading every edge lighter so it looked like it was standing up. The greatest flatteries ever paid to it was the fact that streams of people coming to look at it had to touch the plaque to make sure that it wasn’t three dimensional.”
- Rob Rawson

When dozens of college students spend the better part of a semester together, sharing good times and bad, plots both profound and profane are inevitably hatched. The Band has always loved a good surreptitious caper. Many of the tales revolve around Stanford and Big Game Week. It is a time when imaginations run wild and Band members frequently suffer an overdose of California Spirit. Herewith a pair of Big Game Week stories.

The Band’s relationship with the Daily Californian has had its ups and downs over the years. The paper has been among the Band’s most ardent supporters and severest critics, depending on the circumstances. As told in the 1961 scrapbook, the story goes like this.

Pink Daily Cal

In 1961, the November 13 issue (Monday of Big Game Week) was published on pink newsprint. In the eyes of the Band, the Daily Californian had been notably iconoclastic all season and had aroused a good deal of antipathy among spirit groups. Therefore the “ghastly pink” issue aroused the fury of the Band and Rally Committee, whereupon they rounded up 12,000 of the 20,000 copies and took them to the Berkeley dump and deposited them in “a puddle of very gooey mud.” The Daily Cal was expectably horrified and editorialized against the “irresponsibility of a few,” pointing out the financial loss to the paper.

The Berkeley Daily Gazette quoted an unnamed Band member as saying that “he didn’t mind ‘yellow journalism’ but pink was too much.”

Campus sympathies rested, for the most part, with the Band. The Daily Cal editor was hanged in effigy at Sather Gate. Even the ASUC Executive Director, Forrest Tregea, took the Band’s side.

The Band marched into the editorial offices of the paper, and were pelted with paste pots. (Adding insulting to injury, two days later Stanford students stole 16,000 copies of the Daily Cal, replacing two-thirds of them with their own parodies.

The March to Stanford, 1968link

Beat 'furd banner

In its enthusiasm to celebrate the Centennial and to show up Stanford, almost two dozen Band members undertook a plot to hang a replica of the official emblem from Hoover Tower. Over a couple of evenings, they painstakingly decorated a bed sheet. Then the group-with Bill Ellsworth high-stepping the ceremonial first fifty yards-headed south from Sather Gate after sunset the Saturday before Big Game, each member taking a shift along the way. They marched overnight, the only real incident occurring when Jim Baker (’66), walking a train bridge across the Bay at three in the morning, had to dodge an oncoming freight train.

Upon arriving at Hoover Tower, the marchers were thwarted- the observation deck was closed because of a suicidal jumper earlier in the week. The group had to settle for the picture to the left.

Almost twenty years later, the focus turned to Stanford and the Axe tradition. The tale of the fake Stanford Axe begins the day after Big Game 1977, at the Freshman/Senior Barbecue. Jay Huxman (’76) and Jamie Rawson (’77) were lamenting the loss of the Axe at the game (Stanford trounced Cal, 21-3) and wondering what they could do to get even. They hatched a plan so clever that sports fans on both sides of the Bay still talk about it.

Huxman, an excellent wood carver, got the idea to make a fake Axe, take it down to Stanford for the basketball game with Cal and then run it across the court and outrage everybody in Maples Pavilion.

Jay carefully carved a plaque and an Axe out of wood. He garnered the dimensions by taking calipers to an old photo of James Berdahl holding the Axe. Jay stained the backing mahogany and painted the Axe silver and red to match the original. The difficult part, he figured, was to recreate a realistic plaque; the original was bronze with the winners and scores inscribed. For this job he enlisted Jamie Rawson. Jamie did such a fine job painting it in the trompe l’oeil style that one had to touch it to believe that it did not have raised letters. Jay and Jamie hid the Axe in their room at TH and told no one about it except their roommates Chris “Iceman” Mosher (’75) and Eric Abrahamson (’77).

Jay and Jamie checked out Stanford’s Maples Pavilion to assess the security and select a get-away route. The get- away car would be driven by Jay’s friend John Gezelius (’78) because his car was similar to those of the Palo Alto Police. Knowing there would be quite a surge to get the Axe back, they decided that Dan Blick (’77) would help Jay run the Axe across the basketball court at half-time because they were both tall and notably fast.

Before the basketball game, the trio smuggled the fake Axe, hidden in a xylophone case, into Maples Pavilion. Just before halftime, the rest of the Straw Hat Band was informed that something big was going to happen, and they needed people to be ready to create confusion and disturbances to block for them. About half the Band shed their Straw Hat Band clothes so that they would blend into the crowd. Interrupting a pee-wee basketball game at the half, they bolted across the court with the Axe, flaunting it to the Stanford section. This caused quite a commotion among the students. One Stanford student decided to make a valiant leap from the stands but landed on a Stanford police officer.

Dan and Jay ran up the steps, passing another police officer. After they passed him, the officer saw the crowd running up after them and-knowing something was wrong-he blocked the doorway saying, “No one is getting out of here. What’s going on?”

The angry mob was slowed enough so that Dan and Jay could vault the fence and get to the car. By this time the mob, which now included Stanford football players and most of the Delta Tau Chi fraternity, had done an end run around the fence, picked up a parking lot barricade, and put it right in front of the car. Gezilius made an immediate U-turn, drove over several curbs, and raced out of the parking lot ahead of the crowd.

The next morning the newspapers proclaimed that a band of Cal desperadoes swiped the Stanford Axe but were apprehended by the Palo Alto Police. Jay wrote a letter to the Daily Californian telling exactly what had happened, and Stanford’s band sent a case of champagne to the Cal Band.

Getting There is Half the Funlink

Travel photos

The lure of the road is a powerful force. There is the mystery of new and exotic locales: Brussels, Seattle, New York, and Japan; there is the camaraderie that knits a group together.

That’s what the Public Relations Director tells the prospective Band member and the parents. What he conveniently forgets to mention are the other equally compelling experiences found in Weed, Portland, Modesto, and Westwood. And that camaraderie is sometimes no more than the Band organizing around a common enemy: the weather, the food, the condition of the buses, or the non-stop schedule. Any member of the Band who has undergone a road trip has at least one story to tell-and it usually doesn’t take much prompting. It might be about the time a group sang “Mighty Oregon” two hundred times, or it might be about the fine cuisine supplied to the Band by Dogs ‘n’ Suds. Nevertheless, their stories do come out, and they vary subtly, according to the kind of trip taken.

Bus trips elicit stories about bus drivers, accidents, fuel shortages, rest stops, sleeping in the luggage racks, pantsings, reading literature over the public address system, running red lights, stolen civic signs, and mistaken arrests.

Stories about Straw Hat Band trips in private vehicles tend to revolve around long hours, accidents, weather conditions (like snow and ice), mistaken directions, lost members of the convoy, oil and gas consumption, and the lack of money to get home.

Airline trips -few but relatively eventful-engender tales about paging people in airports, crummy scheduling, attractive cabin attendants, and long flights. All trips have their stories about lodging, the hotels and motels in which Band members have had fun with keys, ice machines, swimming pools, wake-up calls, and roommates. Foreign trips have all the ingredients listed above, but they add a dollop of the exotic: the peculiar twist of novel languages and customs.

Band trips are marvelous ordeals that most Band members cherish above almost all else.

I Love a Fossil, I Always Willlink

Bill on rooter train

Bill wails away on his alto sax aboard a rooter train to L.A. in the early 1950s.

Bill cheer

Bill was always an enthusiastic supporter of the University athletic programs. Before a game, he always predicted a California victory.

Bill Ellsworth marched with the Cal Band from 1946 to 1956 and was the Cal Band’s announcer from 1957 to 1972. He devoted his life to the University and the Cal Band and served as the unofficial keeper of the California Spirit because of his vast knowledge of Cal traditions. Every fall, new Band members would gather to hear Ellsworth’s pep talk about the history of the Band and the University. He loved the students, and he loved being with the Band.

Bill served with the U.S. Army in New Guinea and the Philippines during World War II. He enrolled at Cal in the fall of 1946 and joined the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. He played the alto saxophone in the Cal Band and sang with the Senior Octet of the Men’s Glee Club.

Bill of Liberty

Bill did what he could for the Band, including posing as the Statue of Liberty for an Awards Banquet outtakes reel in 1965; he even opened the film roaring like the MGM lion.

Bill dyed hair

Bill’s hair was always a target for blue hair dye during Big Game Week. This is his response to his 1966 scalp treatment.

Bill Ellsworth absorbed all the traditions and reveled in the spirit of the campus. His treatment of his red hair prior to Stanford games illustrated the degree of Bill’s enthusiasm: one Big Game Week, his fraternity brothers dyed his hair Cal blue, and Bill continued this as a tradition for every Big Game Week afterward until his death. For his spirit, enthusiasm, and service to the Cal Band, Bill was elected to the Baton Society.

Although he graduated in 1954, he just kept on marching and marching. One day in 1957, the Band realized that this was against all reason. The Band allowed Bill’s love affair with the organization to continue by making him its announcer. Bill had been around for so long that, over time, he became affectionately, and reverently, know as the “Founder of the Cal Band.”

Grand Old Ivy

Bill’s last performance with the Band was announcing the Spring Musical Revue of 1973 and singing a mythical school song “Grand Old Ivy”.

Bill beaver

Bill’s face was expressive, but never more so than when a Band member asked him to “make like a beaver, ellsworth.”

Meanwhile, Bill’s work with the University led to a position with the ASUC store. During the ASUC’s reorganization in 1961, the need for a coordinator and advisor to the student spirit groups became clear. ASUC Executive Director Forrest Tregea realized that Bill’s dedication to school spirit made him the ideal choice for this position. Bill became the advisor to all spirit groups, including the Cal Band, the Rally Committee, the Yell Leaders, the Pom-Pon Girls, and the Oski Committee.

As announcer, Bill remained active in the Band’s activities. He rode in the buses with the Band members on all the trips to Los Angeles, and he announced for all the Band’s tours and Spring Musical Revues. He even performed with the Band in its stage shows, singing “Grand Old Ivy” with Bob Briggs during the Fifth Annual Spring Musical Revue in 1973. Bill was also famous for playing his saxophone while doing a soft-shoe routine to the tune “Tea for Two”-he performed spontaneously (at the urging of Band members) on street corners, in restaurants, and in public plazas around the nation, wherever the Cal Band appeared.

Bill with Axe

He took Cal losses very hard, particularly those against Stanford, so nothing made Bill happier than a Big Game victory.

Bill tea for two

Band members were forever asking “the Fossil” for his soft-shoe dance to “Tea for Two,” and Bill rarely was able to refuse—no matter where or when, as in an airplane in the late 1950s.

Shortly before his death in 1973, Bill learned that Tellefsen Hall had purchased a new, larger house on the north side of campus to replace the original house on the south side. The house had been owned by Bill’s old fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha. The library in Tellefsen Hall is named for and dedicated to William L. Ellsworth.

Bill Ellsworth had a childlike love of life. He was relentlessly enthusiastic yet he was gracious about all the teasing the Band gave him while he was their announcer. He accepted that his last name was always spelled with a little “e,” and he endured the endless jokes about his advanced age, red hair, and his undergraduate years-all seven of them. His retort to almost anything a Band member did that wasn’t up to his blue-hot standards was an emphatic, “The undergraduates of today aren’t what they used to be.”

The Perfect Year
By Larry Anderson (SD ’58)link

In looking back over the years, I believe my first real awareness of Cal and the Cal Band came as a pre-teen. My father and mother took me to a Cal football game one fall Saturday. Before I ever played an instrument, I announced to my parents that “I wanted to be in that band someday.” What started on that crisp early fall Saturday afternoon turned into a lifelong affair and involvement with the Cal Band and the great University which became my alma mater. I recall my very first day in the Band. I was going to my locker in the Band’s old quarters in Number 5 Eshleman Hall. A few of the older Band members told me many things, but the one that stood out in my mind was, “Larry, you are joining the best Band in the land.” I’ll never forget that. I believed it then, I believed it when I was in the Band, and I believe it now!

Rose Bowl

NCAA Champs

I did not realize it at the time I was elected [Student Director], but the 1958 season turned out to be momentous for the Band. It was one of the high points of my young life. Three major events occurred that year which will always stand out in my memories of the Cal Band. First, the Band was invited to play at the World’s Fair in Brussels, Belgium. This was the first time that the Band went abroad. Second, the football team went to the Rose Bowl, and I not only marched with the Band in the Rose Parade, but I also conducted in front of 101,000 people at the football game. Third, the Cal basketball team won the NCAA Championship in Louisville, Kentucky. The Straw Hat Band performed throughout the playoffs, and it was my privilege to conduct on those occasions as well. Any one of these events would have made a spectacular year to be in the Band, but all three in one year was almost too good to be true! It was the culmination of my undergraduate days in the Band.

World's Fair

Cal to me was so much more than a place to go to school, to study, and to learn. I’m so proud to be a graduate of one of the greatest universities in the world. I wouldn’t have traded my experience as a member and student director of the Band for anything. The Band helped shape my life and certainly my lifelong career as a music educator. I treasure and cherish what the University has given me. The Band truly “made” Cal for me. It gave me lifelong friends and acquaintances with whom I share a special bond and the unique feeling of what it means to be a Cal Bandsman. I have been accused on many occasions of having blue and gold blood in my veins. Yes, it is true-I am an “Old Blue,” and I make no bones about it.

The Band was, and still is, an important and vital part of my life. It afforded me some of the best and most remembered times anyone could ever have in their college years.

A Wardrobe Notelink

Over the years, many a freshman has been stunned when a group of Band members charged someone and stripped him of his pants during a rehearsal. Pantsing has been a part of the Band for over a half century, usually frowned upon by Directors but tolerated by most everyone else. While the drum major has represented the official authority at rehearsals, the Band’s own social mechanisms have played an important role in Band rehearsal. Herb Towler (’41) comments on the phenomenon of “pantsing”:

Rehearsal pantsing

A rehearsal ritual on Union Field—now the site of Zellerbach Hall and Playhouse, 1961.

“From time to time, someone wasn’t in the mood to rehearse and would be disruptive. That’s when it became necessary for the rest of the Band members to pants the individual. Part of the routine was to make his pants hard to retrieve, such as running them up a nearby flag pole or throwing them very high in a tree or on top of a fence. This served the effective purpose of annoying the recipient to the point where he was less likely to misbehave.”

When women were first accepted into the Band in 1973, male members were worried that customs like pantsing were unsuitable. But women were very capable of making the most of a good pantsing. It occurred during rehearsals and for the same reasons that it had for the all-male Band. Stories of pantsing could probably fill a volume, but one incident, told here by Chris Bailey (SD ’73), shall serve as representative.

“In 1971, Archie Lachner was a freshman with an attitude. His personality demanded that he be pantsed often. For his first L.A. trip, Archie climbed onto the Bass bus and declared that he was not going to be pantsed on that trip. He had a bicycle chain through the belt loops of his jeans and a large lock holding it in place.”

“However, he made the fatal mistake of using a padlock with a key rather than one with a combination lock. The Basses simply held him down, removed the key from his pocket, unlocked the lock, pantsed him, and locked his pants to the overhead rail of the bus. Archie rode all the way from Berkeley to Fresno in his underwear. His pants were returned there long enough for him to play the rally downtown, and when we got back on the bus, his pants were again locked up and he rode the rest of the way to L.A. in his underwear.”


The films and tapes taken by the Cal Band Camera Crew are used primarily for public relations and stunt planning, but it has put the films to other interesting uses over the years. In 1965, the Stanford Band spelled out the words HI FOLKS and used a rank drill whereby the “O” became a “U” and the “L” became a “C” for a brief period of time. The camera crew captured this moment on film and still pictures were sent to many Stanford University officials. During Big Game 1970 a riot occurred during the Stanford half-time show when members of their band attacked a demonstrator who was running through their ranks carrying a flag. The camera crew filmed the action, including appropriate close-ups. The film was later subpoenaed by the campus police to use as a record of the disturbance.

Alumni Band Daylink

Walt Grady and grandfather

The Alumni Band Day is a family affair. Walt Grady poses with his grandfather, 1968. Grady later joined the Alumni Band.

General Douglas MacArthur said, “Old soldiers never die; they merely fade away.” Some former Band members can’t even fade away. For them there is Alumni Band Day. Alumni Band Day has been an annual tradition since 1952. Every fall, Band alumni check their mail boxes for the North Tunnel Echo, a quarterly newsletter edited by Band alumni, and make arrangements for the trip to Berkeley. They rummage through their closets for instruments and squawk out a few notes before deciding that it just isn’t worth practicing and that it just doesn’t matter anyway, because the whole point of Alumni Band Day is to have fun.

It all began as an idea one evening in late October of 1952, as three alumni, Herb Towler, Dave Wenrich, and Dick Auslen, were having martinis at Wenrich’s house. The trio was very resourceful in contacting local Band alumni, and-three weeks later-on a rainy November 15, approximately 75 former Cal Band members gathered in the stands at Memorial Stadium for the first-ever Alumni Band Day.

Dean Hickman and son

Dean Hickman marches the morning rehearsal with his son Kip. For its first two decades, children were allowed to march with the Alumni Band at the game.

Within its first few years, the Alumni Band acquired its own “Alumni Band Fanfare.” Written by Jon Elkus (SD ’52), this piece combines melodies from “The Old Gray Mare,” “Happy Days are Here Again,” and “Hail to California.” It is the traditional opening of the Alumni Band half-time show. Alumni Band Day occurs annually at a home football game when there is no visiting band. Alumni Band members arrive wearing a white shirt, navy blue Alumni Band baseball cap, dark blue pants, and white shoes.

Sproul Alumni DM

Robert Gordon Sproul as Alumni Drum Major, 1959.

After the early morning check-in and a quick musical rehearsal, the Alumni Band walks up to Memorial Stadium for a joint field rehearsal with the Cal Band. After the Cal Band completes its rehearsal, the alumni begin learning the continuity to their show. One of the most remarkable features of Alumni Band Day is that Alumni Band members learn the entire show on the morning of the game.

As kick-off time approaches, the Alumni Band gathers in the north tunnel and enters the stadium to a military cadence. After a quick trip around the field, the Alumni Band joins the crowd cheering on the Cal Band as it takes the field. Following the pregame show, the two bands take turns playing Cal songs in the stands until it is time to gather on the sidelines for the half-time show.

Gilson and helicon

Older Alumni have a thing or two to show the younger ones. Dan Gilson (’20) plays his helicon among the sousaphones at Alumni Band Day, 1954.

Script California

Until the early 1980s, the Alumni Band called the opposing team’s band director and had him send the music for their fight songs. As a matter of courtesy, the Alumni Band played the fight songs when the opposing team scored. This practice was very popular with the opposing schools’ fans, and many wrote letters of appreciation and praise to the Alumni Band. Prior to 1983, the Alumni Band performed at pregame; since then, it has performed a joint half-time show with the Cal Band. The Cal Band first performs its own short half-time show and exits to the side lines to watch the start of the Alumni Band show, which begins with the performance of the “Alumni Band Fanfare” and then adds one or two other tunes.

Then comes the impressive finale: while playing “Fight for California” under the direction of Bob Briggs, the Alumni Band forms a script “Cal,” and the Cal Band forms the “ifornia” in an end zone-to-end zone formation, similar to the Script Cal performed by the Cal Band in the pregame show. The drill concludes with the requisite ripple bow, and both bands perform “Hail to California,” usually under the direction of former Band Director James Berdahl. Following the game, both bands assemble on the field for a short postgame performance. The day ends as the Cal Band marches energetically out of the stadium and the Alumni Band casually strolls back to BRH, sore of lip and limb but refreshed in spirit.

In Their Own Wordslink

The Band has for decades loved to sing. It sings the first verse of “Fight for Cal” on the field. It often will raise a glass and sing “Toast to California.” Any time of the year, the Band will spot someone wearing the cardinal of Stanford (or any shade close to it) and break into “The Lady in Red,” a song that flirts with the risqu but is redeemed by its glorious harmony. It is in this latter vein that Band members through the years have sung parodies to express themselves.

After the wildly successful Brussels Trip, which had many carpetbaggers, the Band broke out with a song containing the barbed lyrics (sung to “Colonel Bogey March” from the movie Bridge on the River Kwai: “Cal Band has really got some class/But it has far too many brass/It’s gay to/Attempt to play to/Sixteen directors who sit on their ass.” There were additional lyrics referring to the attributes of individuals, lyrics adapted in Stunt Comm workshops to each successive Ex Comm for a decade.

This idea of Stunt Committee song writing became a 1960s tradition of taking music from the marching shows and adapting them to the personalities within the Band. The 1962 Stunt Committee, fresh from a spectacular season and its plentiful alumni support, rebelled and wrote a ditty to the show tune “It’s Gonna Be a Great Day” that included “Grab your hat and shout/We kicked Bill Colescott out/It’s gonna be a great day.”

In the mid-1960s a group of energetic Band members known as “The Skinnies” took it upon themselves to present a new song each week at the Band’s Thursday training table. Their targets included the senior manager, Dick George, and the uniform manager, Steve Whitgob. The latter, parodying “The Pink Panther Theme,” was titled “Whitgob the Mouth” and ended with the falling jazz riff, “Our white kits have no spats or gloooooooves.”

Their crowning achievement was probably the song aimed at the player who lead the wedge during the 1966 season (sung to “76 Trombones”):

Leading the wedge down field, Willard Alloway. You must march eight-per-five all the way, Cuz if you don’t the band will get all screwed up And we’ll kick your ass ’til Labor Day. The Band’s staff wasn’t exempt from these masterpieces. To the tune of “I, Don Quixote” from Man of La Mancha began “I am I, David Tucker/The Cal Band arranger.” These songs stayed within the Band until the 1968 California Tour. The Stunt Committee wrote its own parody and included it in the show. In an interlude explaining the frantic tour logistics, the Band sang (to the tune of “Hello My Baby”)

Jim French arranges
Quick costume changes
You really have to move
It seems to take an age,
To find your place backstage.
And when you get there,
It’s a safe bet there
Isn’t much room for you...etc.

Song parodies went from underground lyrics to a Spring Show feature in just a decade.

Incidentally, the Band continues to write pointed parodies as the situation arises.

A Cal Band Sonnetlink

Outside it is November afternoon,
But inside, cool and dark, there is no time,
Until at last we hear the stirring tune:
A single note from Campanile’s chime,
A tunnel yell, a whistle blast, and then
We burst in pounding waves upon the turf.
The drums drive forth a hundred twenty men
who kick the lime to foam in rumbling surf.
And there they are in every single seat
A thousand they for every Bandsman one,
They rise at stirring fanfare to their feet,
And cheer each California Fav’rite Son.
’Tis sad that nary one amongst us knows
The squish of Pasadena ’twixt his toes.
-Jef Feldman (’65)

(written his junior year and published in the 1968 Blue and Gold)

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