1950 through 1959

Roland “Red” Hiss - 1950

I learned about this from upper classmen.

TRANSITION of the MMB from SOUSA 120 to VICTORS 180

Three Weeks at Willow Run Airport in 1947

The 1947 Michigan football team was undefeated and headed to the Rose Bowl. (more about that team below.) Someone in MMB administration -- probably Jack Lee, Assistant Band Director in charge of marching, drills and formations -- decided that for its upcoming Rose Bowl performance the band needed a major change of its on field style, marching and, most of all, pace.

Beginning with Sousa’s first march (1890s), all of his subsequent marches were written to be played at 120 beats per minute and bands took 6 strides per 5 yards if they were marching. This became the standard for all bands, scholastic and military, until late November 1947. That’s when the MMB transitioned to 180 beats per minute for a march, such as the Victors, and on gridiron marching changed from 6-to-the 5 to 8-to-the 5. To accomplish this “transition”, the MMB was bused to a hanger at Willow Run Airport several days between the Ohio State game and the Holiday break. The Willow Run hanger was a former bomber plant (B-24s) during WW II. It was empty and large enough for a full size football field (with end zones) to be marked out on its concrete floor. Willow Run practices were from 4-6 PM just like in season MMB practice sessions.

Practices were all about marching 8 high steps to each 5 yard line – and playing Victors up and down the “field” at 180 beats per minute. That marching style and speed has become the standard for all scholastic marching bands -- but military bands are still at 120. (Sousa was Director of the US Marine Band for 13 years, so Sousa speed is indelibly stamped on military bands.)

Michigan’s 1947 Football Team

The ’47 team is arguably called the greatest college team ever, its only “rival” for this recognition being the 1946 Notre Dame team. Michigan’s ’47 team was undefeated, Big Ten champions, and headed to the Rose Bowl to represent the Big Ten in one of the first of the Big-Ten-Pac Ten Conference series. They were aware that Michigan played in the first Rose Bowl in 1903.

Fielding Yost coached the 1903 Michigan team, took only 16 players, two of whom didn’t play. In the middle of the 3d quarter, the Stanford coach threw a white towel onto the field indicating his surrender. The score was 49-0. The ’47 team, aware of this history, declared that they wanted to beat their Rose Bowl opponent (USC) 49-0 just as the 1903 team had done. And they did -- but had to play a full length game.

So --- On Jan. 1, 1948, Michigan beat their Rose Bowl opponent 49-0 for the second time, and the MMB sailed down the field at pregame playing the Victors at 180 beats per minute, the first time in public.

Tom Higby - 1952

I was a pre-med sophomore in the fall of '52, but in my first season with the MMB. At that time not many families had TV, and I had never seen a football game on TV. I had never seen the Michigan Stadium, although I had heard that it was big. I had no idea where it was located, but expected that the drum-major (Dick Smith) could get us there. We formed up at Ferry Field, near the baseball stadium, and marched to the stadium.

The first game of the season was with MSC (not U), a nonconference game, but always a full house. Coming out from the tunnel at our usual fast cadence to meet the pressure of so many cheering our entry was a never to be forgotten thrill, amplified greatly by my ignorance. I was sure that the playing field was much smaller than standard, as the towering seats seemed to shrink everything.

In my junior year I was a rank leader. In my rank was a skinny red-head with a peck-horn. His name was Reynolds. Through some amazing lack of fore-sight I failed to pick him as Revelli's successor.

Speaking of Revelli, has it ever been recorded how he complained on our trips about the public urinals being too high? (He was very short-legged.)

Bob Chartrand - 1956

Here is a story concerning the Symphony Band. In the spring of 1959 the Symphony Band toured Illinois and Iowa during spring vacation. Two concerts were scheduled for Muscatine, Iowa, which is located on the Mississippi River. One concert for students in the afternoon plus an evening concert.

During student concerts Dr. Revelli often like to play "name that instrument" with the kids in the audience. He would ask a member of the band to play his instrument and then ask members of the audience to name the instrument. On this particular occasion he asked Danny Smith, I believe, to play a few notes on the contrabassoon. He then turned to the audience and asked someone to name the instrument. Some kid in the balcony yelled out, "It’s an Evenrude!" The members of the band and the audience all knew that an Evenrude was an outboard motor and broke into loud laughter but the old man apparently had no idea of what an Evenrude was and had a look of pure confusion on his face. As the laughter grew louder his confusion grew more pronounced and his face got even redder. Finally he jumped back on the podium, turned to the band and gave the downbeat for next selection with the laughter of the audience still ringing in his ears!

Karl Andrews - 1954

An incident that happened at the September 16, 2006 Notre Dame game got me thinking about an incident that happened to me as a MMB member in 1955.

The TV announcer at the Notre Dame game was explaining that Mario Manningham, (after catching a touchdown pass), had injured his hand because of a collision with a MMB player in the end zone.

The injury was not serious because he received the Offensive Player of the Game Award.

Tuba players like myself, were told to protect your horn from damage, and always be alert, and "BEWARE OF THE TUBA PLAY".

I was involved in "The Classic Tuba Play" during the 1955 Game at Minnesota.

Minnesota had one of the best running backs in the Big 10 at that time. His Name was McNamara and he was running wild that day.

The MMB (147 members at that time) was seated in a tight cluster on the field, well back from the sidelines. The Sousaphone players (12) were seated side by side on the front row, with the Sousaphones lined up on the ground in front of us.

Suddenly I looked up and saw Mr. McNamara running down the side of the field, heading toward the band. It happened so fast! I could not move my horn out of the way before a Michigan tackler hit McNamara very hard and knocked him out of bounds. He flew through the air and landed on his back on my Sousaphone, snapping off the "neck" in the process.

The impact knocked the wind out of poor Mr. McNamara.

He remained sprawled on his back across my Sousaphone for quite some time gasping for air. The Minnesota Trainers revived him, and he was able to walk with help back to his bench.

This guy was tough as nails, because he later re-entered the game and continued to rip off more yardage against Michigan. Michigan did prevail that day and won the game by a score of 14 to 13.

Meanwhile, Dr. Revelli went ballistic and chewed me out, because he thought I could have moved faster and pulled my horn out of danger. There was no other significant damage to my horn. Those Sousaphones were made of heavy gauge brass. I don’t think they make them like like the used to! Incidentally, George Cavender, our MMB fearless leader remained calm and did not get angry with me.

This event occurred prior to halftime, so I did the Halftime Show holding the broken neck in place. I looked cool and never missed a step: but I was unable to play a single note of music.

James Heier - 1953

The Marching Band show at Crisler Arena reminded me of Band Day around 1955. I was on the early morning bus duty, directing the school buses to their parking spots. An older gentleman in a Michigan jacket came along and asked if he could help. He brought his own flashlight, just in case. He was helping us for a while and during a break in the arrivals we begin chatting. We asked his name and he replied "Fritz Crisler, and I love this High School Band Day. I think it's one of the best events we have." Yes, it was the legendary coach, athletic director and formidable presence it the Big Ten and NCAA. A very nice guy who did a nice job directing buses.

Jerry Wright - 1954

I was a member of the band for the years 1954 and 1955. I transferred from Lawrence Tech. We had to show up a week in advance for tryouts and registration as a student and selection of classes. Very happily the band furnished a guide to get me through the process(a trumpet player) later when I was in Law school and to earn money I taught as a teaching assistant a lab course in electrical engineering that all non electricals had to take-- and in one of my classes there was my former guide!


Jerry, former prof of trombone, comedian, was a classmate in the band and is now with Disney. His best routine involved King William(Revelli) and Prince George(Cavender). I still remember the parade in Flint, Michigan commemorating GM's 50 millionth car (I think). By the way, Roger Moore's movie "Roger and Me" starts with that parade but with the Michigan State Band. We stopped in front of the reviewing stand and gave a Hats Off to Red Cole who was head of Buick(later President of GM) who sponsored the band on one away trip a year. After the parade we had lunch at the Flint Country Club with the Notre Dame Band. Jerry gave one of his routines and right in the middle of it the Notre Dame band had to leave--their last words were "do we have to; we want to hear the rest of the act".


At a game against Army, Wilbur Brucker(sic) former governor of Michigan and now secretary of the army sat on the army side the first half and was scheduled to be escorted across the field with his generals at the 50 yd line immediately after the half ended;;he delayed his crossing and the band started up from the end zone. Since I was on the left end of the rank I can only report what I saw in the film. The group started strolling across the field and no doubt saw the band approaching--the generals no doubt believed a command to Halt would be given. Little did they know that the worst faux pas a band member to commit would be to stop or turn in the wrong direction--and of course there was no such command as halt in our routine(the music determined this). On the first pass through the strolling group the tuba rank roughed up a few generals; but then in accordance with the plan they did a reverse march and again went through the generals. The governor thought it somewhat amusing; the generals did not. The Michigan Daily the next day heavily criticized the band(who they routinely hated). And Dr Revelli, who hated the Daily in return, told us not to worry about the incident.


We practiced every afternoon and Cavender ran things with Revelli making general comments and wandering about the field. His favorite technique was to stand behind a trumpet player listening and as the player snapped his instrument down Revelli (the chief) would jump in front of him and say “that was the worst trumpet playing I have ever heard". On a road trip, sponsored by Buick, we stopped at a college union ballroom for lunch and started singing(the band of this era may have been the best singing band). Of course one of our songs was "How I love to drive by Buick with my love sitting by my side etc". After finishing that there was a pause and the Chief pops out from behind a column and says "Keep it up boys, the Buick people love it". (Again the Michigan Daily thought our singing of this song at football games was crass commercialism). On another road trip to WS Or Minnesota Buick chartered a 7 car train with vista dome cars--what a trip--the young son of a Buick VP handed out silver dollars with a brass ring saying “When better cars are built Buick will build them” (thank God we weren't sponsored by Oldsmobile).


At the beginning of each year everyone had to try out. For the clarinets over a hundred or more of us would sit in the big room in the old Harris Hall and be given a march excerpt to play; Revelli would judge moving us up or down a number of chairs -- the first 44 made it and the rest GONE. (I think this is how the band first admitted woman but I don't know that story). History repeats itself. I now play in an adult group, the San Jose Wind Symphony. Our director wanted to reseat the clarinet section so we all sight read a tough piece of music and in the same way almost 50 years ago were moved up or down in the chairs.

DRUMLINE the movie

I thought this captured the mood of a college marching band beautifully. Especially the conflict between playing good music and merely putting on a flashy show. Revelli always insisted on fine playing(although I remember him telling the trumpet players, "boys play as loud as you can but with good tone)". I think the Michigan band has wavered a bit from the early standard of Revelli.


Although Buick sponsored one of our away trips we had to pay for the other. One way we did this is stopping in Newark, Ohio and giving a show in the high school stadium--in fact three half time shows back to back. At the end of the second show a fog started to come in, at the end of the third show we couldn't see the yard lines, barely the music, and the crowd could hear only the music.


Before I came to the band I heard the story of the tuba rank at Ohio making a right turn entering the field and having to march back up to the boos of the Ohio Staters. My trip there was also exciting since the winner of the game went to the rose Bowl--we lost; however we still went on the field after the game and the Ohio fans started snake dancing around us and attempted to steal our hats. They got a tuba player's hat but not for long--he ran after the culprit and came down on his head with the bell of the metal tuba; the dent was never mentioned. And then the baton twirlers used them to threaten.

Malcolm A. “Mac” Danforth - 1956

I have more stories than can possibly be written here: Marching Band Train trips to Iowa, Wisconsin Northwestern, etc. Soviet Union and Near East Tour – 15 weeks/72 concerts copying music (by hand) for the marching band after Jerry Bilik would finish arranging the shows just a few days before we were to start rehearsing it, Premiering “Hawaiian War Chant”, etc., etc., etc.

Bryan Betz - 1957

During rehearsal for St. Louis Blues March dance step (Fall ’57), I turned wrong way & bent my slide (5th position). Dr. Revelli stopped the band and looking directly at me said “Get that fixed right now.” Immediately I went to A2 music and they repaired it as I waited. Of course I told them the story which was enjoyed by all. Also Flags in 1958 I broke the 1st wooden pole. We had aluminum poles in a week. I carried the Wisconsin flag for 1958 football games.

Fred Nott - 1954

  1. In one of the early band alumni meetings, the chief quoted his father as follows: “Always be child enough to enjoy the circus and adult enough to admit you can.”
  2. In rummaging through old stencils (in search of Leaky Bugle ideas) we happened across the following rank movements from a show of several years back. We haven't been able to figure out the formations, but are sure the show was a success:
  1. Tubas march 10 yards up the 50, then flank 5 yards left to the 45, then varsity kick 10 yards to the 35, then march 8 3/4 yards backwards, and 1 1/4 yards scissors step, then left about 34 yards to original position.
  2. Drums mark time 58 bars, then march from the 50 to the 22 1/2 in remaining six bars.
  3. Trombones march 35 yards to the left, then rear march 10 yards, then leave the field since there is no assignment for you in this formation.
  4. Horns march into position on afterbeats.
  5. Clarinets flank to position on 69 yard line.
  6. Freshmen wait to see what others do, then make same errors.
  7. Seniors and grads make mistakes confidently.
  8. Cornets march from 50 to the 10 in 8 measures. (This best accomplished by leaving out the 20 yards between the 45 and the 25).
  9. Reserves march off the field; go back and diligently pick up music and plumes, etc. of other men, run off the field, stop smirking and go get the ladder that you forgot.
  10. Drum Major makes beautiful running entry to the right of the band, completes it with a marvelous kick salute, does a nine count about face, then sheepishly sneaks around to his correct position in front of Concert Formation on the 50.

Charles Hall - 1953

On January 1, 1976, my wife, three daughters, and I were at the Rose Parade at the curb about a block and a half past the start of the parade. When the Michigan Band came along, I shouted ‘HEY GEORGE’ George looked straight up the street. I shouted ‘HEY GEORGE’. Still no response. Then the man behind me yelled ‘HEY GEORGE’. Cavender looked over to the side and spotted my Band Jacket. He came over and shook my hand. We saw a replay on the evening news as the Michigan Band was introduced to the TV Rose Parade audience.

Bruce Galbraith - 1959

On the infamous Russian Symphony Band tour (1961) Kay Mallory (flute) and I met Lee Harvey Oswald. After a concert in Minsk, I said “your English is really good”. He said, “I’m a former marine, I married a Russian woman, and I’m working in a radio factory” (He became famous 2 years later.)

Everywhere the ’61 Russian Tour went – there was a war within a few years! Go Blue.

Hewitt Judson - 1958

I read with regret the passing of the great George Cavender. As a naive, small-town boy, I was severely intimidated by Dr. Revelli when I arrived on campus in 1965. But George as the "good cop," knew my name right away, and pumped me up to be the best damn tuba player I could be. His teaching methods have always stayed with me, and I have used them during my stint in Vietnam, as a math teacher, and for 33 years as a basketball and baseball coach. I will always remember that great man, a great father figure. "DON'T JUST DO IT AGAIN, DO IT BETTER!!!"

Richard Gilmartin - 1950

We played a party game one time where you were supposed to tell a story as outlandish as you wanted and then the group guessed whether it was true or an outrageous lie. So, I said the biggest thrill I ever had was coming out of the right field bullpen at Yankee Stadium as the crowd went nuts. The stadium is shaped like a gigantic steel bell, so when 60,000 people all roar, it lifts the spinal cord right out of your body.

In the Fall of '50, Michigan played Army as an away game and they scheduled it in Yankee Stadium. There were a lot more Michigan fans and alumni in NYC than there were West Pointers. So when the band came out of the bullpen at halftime playing The Victors, the crowd rang that huge bell.

Theodore C. Koenig - 1952

As an Oberlin graduate I am so grateful to have had the experience to be in the Michigan Bands with Dr. Revelli and Dr. Cavender, because Oberlin did not like Marching Band and my first job was Marching Band. I did the St. Louis Blues for years, the same as the great 52 & 53 band at Michigan did. I still love Michigan better than Oberlin.

Richard Hawley - 1951

One of our best Rose Bowl trip memories was the train trip out. Buick paid for a Super Chief, and staying and practicing at Occidental College where they were filming "The Stooge" with Jerry Lewis. It was filmed then but not released until 1953.

Richard Longfield - 1953

During the 1961 tour of the USSR and Near East, the cornet/trumpet sections had a novel encore to follow Don Tison's guaranteed smash hit of "La Virgin de la Macarena." The twelve of us made four trios for each of the sections of Agostini's "The Three Trumpeteers." As we came to the finale, each trio joined in by phrase until we all stood - capped with Bernie Peason's soaring "D." It always brought great cheers - a wonderful memory of that outstanding 15 week experience. WUOM may still have a recording from the Leningrad Conservatory.

David Elliot - 1959

Revelli to horn section when moving to a formation of a Spanish Lady during a Carmen Show; "Horns, drive it into the señorita!"

During my freshman year in the MMB, Revelli had each rank march a whole half-time show by themselves. I was the only horn in the a tuba rank. The tubas spent the whole time at one side of the 50 and I joined my colleagues of the horn section on the other. Of course, during this exercise, I was alone and unprotected. The Chief walked beside me for the whole show and critiqued my every move and step. I lived to tell about it.

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