Alum recalls band adventures that colored 1967 Rose Bowl trip
Purdue Band alums lucky enough to be in the "All-American" Band when it made its initial Rose Bowl appearance in 1967 are telling all kinds of stories these days. They range from the Golden Girl coming down with pneumonia to marching the strip in Las Vegas to watching the Big Bass Drum try to escape in an uncoupled train car - and they’re all true!
Don Daniel, a saxophone player in 1967 and now a Lafayette attorney, agreed to share some of his favorite memories on the web site for everyone to enjoy.
"Frankly after 34 years, it’s all kind of blurry. But with only a little of the added color that comes with the passage of time, this is what I remember," Daniel says.
"A special train to carry just the band, directors, majorettes and all of our gear was provided by the Union Pacific. But Union Pacific didn’t have a boxcar big enough for the Big Bass Drum, so another railroad line provided as extra-large car. It was added to the end of the train and we began our two-day journey west.
"After about 20 hours, we reached the foothills of the Rockies. As the train started up the slope, the coupling device on the extra boxcar failed to hold, and the Big Bass Drum started coasting back down the hill towards the Mississippi.
"Our train stopped, backed up and caught the run-away boxcar. The device was repaired and we again headed west. Thirty-two minutes later the same thing happened again.
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"Al Wright, the director of bands, was a brilliant publicist, and he used every opportunity to show just how good the band was. So we stopped the train in Denver and had a short parade through downtown.
"Unfortunately, it was 14 degrees. The Golden Girl, Val Brown, caught pneumonia. And on the first swing of the beater, the head on the right side of the Big Bass Drum burst. We didn’t have a replacement head available, so the Big Bass Drum had only one working head for the rest of the trip. After we left Denver, the slope increased and we lost the Big Bass Drum boxcar again.
"We also did short parades in Slat Lake City and Las Vegas. In Las Vegas, it was a warm day and the casinos had their doors wide open. The strains of ‘Hail Purdue’ reached every dark and smoky corner, and we saw gamblers come out of the casinos and blink in the bright sunlight as this unending and noisy apparition passed by.
"It was reported that the Purdue Band accomplished what neither nuclear blasts, fire or earthquake had done - lured gamblers out of casinos.
"When we arrived in Los Angeles, our schedule called for rehearsals every day but Sunday, and bed checks every night. Our band was huge (we marched over 300), proud (we knew we were the best damn band in the land), and smart (the band’s grade index was higher than the university average for the 13th year in a row).
"We were also very disciplined. We stood at attention, we spit-shined our shoes and polished our horns, and we had short haircuts. To say that the USC Band had a different approach is an understatement.
"In the late 1960s, in California, many college musicians were, well, hippies. We had heard about hippies, and had seen pictures, but most of us had no real personal experiences.
"Our band and theirs were going to play together during the pre-game. At the rehearsal, as the bands stood 10 yards apart, the contrast could not have been more striking. Both bands were sure that the other was from a different planet.
"Later, the rumor was spread that the USC Band had hired 75 musicians, at $50 a day, to swell their ranks. Not only were they hippies, but they were hired hippies! Of course, most of us Purdue bandsmen became hippies as soon thereafter as we could.
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"On Rose Bowl day, breakfast was at 5 a.m. We then marched 5.5 miles in the parade which, with our energetic marching style, was a good day’s work by itself. Al Wright had us walk into the Rose Bowl in single file. I was in rank 18, and people were staring in disbelief by the time I got there, but there were still another 100 bandsmen behind me.
"That season was the first for the ‘I Am An American’ part of the pregame show. At the Roses Bowl, as elsewhere, it received a tremendous ovation. After the Rose Bowl victory, we were bused to the train station. We collapsed on the train, still in our now very fragrant uniforms. Of course, there were no showers on the train, so were followed for the next two days by a large malodorous cloud.
"The train did make a brief tourist stop at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, and another stop at Albuquerque where we had to put our uniforms back on for the last performance of the trip. Having completed our assignments, we got back to Lafayette about 5 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 4, 1967, more proud than smelly, and more happy than tired."
Editor’s note: Don Daniel and his 1967 Rose Bowl band buddies – Gary Hendricks, John Cooper and Ed Pessara – will return to Pasadena to relive old memories and make ones at the 2001 Rose Bowl