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Purdue Band connection to Indy 500 creeps towards 90
Saturday, May 3, 2008
When the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band first performed at the Indianapolis 500, it truly was a brickyard. Trees, not people, were packed in the oval’s four turns, and a couple dozen rows of bleacher seats under a low-slung roof accommodated fans.
The parade Gilbert referred to is the Parade of Bands that occurs on the track on race day, May 25. Each year Purdue invites bands across the country to participate in that event which is dominated by high school musicians. In 2008, there are 24 bands from four states participating, with bands coming from as far away as Alabama and West Virginia.
If you’re interested in seeing Steven Tyler’s controversial performance of the National Anthem, it’s been preserved on YouTube www.youtube.com/watch?v=psi2930wuVo
Check out our Indy 500 photo album with photos dating back to 1922!
Please submit your favorite memories of the Indianapolis 500 as the band heads for its 90th checkered flag and read ones already submitted.
I was a band member and attended the Indy 500 with the band in May 1958. Prof. Wright had a rule that the bus would leave at the announced time no matter who was, or was not, on the bus. That year the announced time to leave the Speedway arrived and Prof. Wright wasn't on the bus. We pointed out that Prof. Wright wasn't on the bus but the bus driver left as he had been instructed to do. However, due to the large amount of traffic in the parking lot the bus made very slow progress getting out of the parking lot. Due to that, Prof. Wright did end up catching the bus, but those of us in the band did get a chuckle out of the situation.
Eleanor Glanville Mlynarik
I recall quite vividly the 1983 “500” when I had the chance to drive around the famous Indy oval. I had broken my left foot jumping off the back wall at Slayter Center and had to deal with a cast for the 500. I could not march but I did manage to finagle my way onto the Big Bass Drum Crew. Their job was to drive the drum all around the track in the back of a pick-up truck. My job was to stand on the rear bumper and hold the drum. I realize now that the drum was far safer then we were as we went whizzing around the track, but at the time it was the coolest thing!
Mark Maisonneuve, 1984
1985 was the last time I participated in the Indy 500 festivities, which made seven 500 Parades for me (marched twice in high school) and 6 times at the track - YES I have marched all the way around the track on race day, gives a whole new meaning to the term hotter than ****. The weekend following the race in 1985, I married another band jock, Dave Martin!
It was a beautiful day on May 24, 1987. It was the 71st running of the Indianapolis 500 and my final performance with the Purdue All-American Marching Band.
One of my favorite parts of the day was when the celebrities would get out of their cars after their parade lap around the track, and mingle with the marching bank members as we waited to perform the pre-race ceremonies. On this particular day, Chuck Yeager glanced towards me as I held my trombone and hopped out of his pace car. He was headed straight for me!! He stuck out his hand and said with a big smile, “So, you must play the trombone!” I replied, “I hear you fly airplanes!” We both got a big chuckle after we both stated the obvious. I then told him that I was a fellow aviator and had just graduated Purdue, 8 days earlier, with a BS in Aviation Technology. I told him that I had about 1,000 hours of flying time and was currently looking for a job with an airline. He said, “Fantastic! Good luck with your career in aviation!”
Two weeks later, I started reading Chuck Yeager’s autobiography, “Yeager” that I had received as a graduation gift. In one of the first chapters, I read that Chuck Yeager had played the trombone when he was in school!! I couldn’t believe it! If I had that moment in time back, I would have handed him my trombone, put my uniform hat on his head and let him play “Hail Purdue!” Regardless of an opportunity lost, it was one of my fondest, Indianapolis 500 memories. I had a chance to meet the first person to break the sound barrier.
It was 1982 and I had just finished my freshman year. I was in the front rank and we stopped right on the finish line on the bricks. All eight of us got chills from the history. When we went into the pits and we were playing, Jim Nabors walked by. Everyone was whispering and I, being the quiet person I was, yelled, "HEY GOMER!!!" Well we started playing another song, but he came up to me and we started dancing together right there in the pits. It was a blast! Of course I was looking really attractive in my uniform. We got done dancing, Mr. Nabors thanked me, and then a California radio station came up to interview on "what it felt like to dance with Jim Nabors and my reaction"!!
My favorite memory of the Indy 500 is catching Steven Tyler’s harmonica after he played/sung the Star Spangled Banner at the 2001 race. Tyler, the lead singer of Aerosmith, was the solo vocalist for the national anthem that year. He was standing on a podium that was above the band. He started out with a harmonica solo and then started singing the anthem. When he started singing he tossed his harmonica and it came right into the band. I looked up and it was coming towards me. I reach up to grab it, and it hit me in the palm and fell to the ground. Fortunately it stayed close and I was able to scoop up my fumble. I now own a piece of one of the worst national anthems in Indy 500 history; the one that ended, “… and the home of the Indianapolis 500.”
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