How It All Began…..

John Muir High School Mighty Mustang Band A.K.A the SOUL of Pasadena, the nickname was given to Muir by the class of 1971 in response to cross town rival Pasadena High School Marching Band A.K.A the Pride of Pasadena. Over the many years of the heated rivalry between the two schools, not only was the rivalry between the football teams, but the marching bands. During the half time show at the Turkey Tussle, the fans would not leave the stands. They would stay to watch and listen to both bands and cheer as their favorite band entered the field.

In the 60s and early 70s Pasadena had some of the best marching bands and music programs. Some of the most talented musicians came out of the PUSD music programs. Its proud to say that most of them came out of Muir. To name a few, Trumpeter Nolan Shaheed, Flautist Valerie King, Vocalist and UCLA Professor Juliana Gondeck, Violinist Lisa Terry, Bassist Tony Dumas, Bassist the late Albert Stinson, Vocalist the late Benjamin Brown, Vocalist David Lee Roth, and Vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson.

Very little is known about where the Muir Drum Section traditions come from. Ernest Robinson "Peppy" De Moica, Muir class of 1957, gave a brief history lesson of the section. "The style of the Muir drum section did not start at Muir. It started at Washington Junior High under the direction of David Ledbetter who came from Florida A&M. The Washington Junior High Band only had two cadences at that time, Boom Tap-Tap and Bruin Special." Later the new band director, Mr. Margrove revised Boom Tap-Tap and added a military style Jodi, the words were:

Lift your heads and hold them high
Washington is passing by, sound off 1-2, 3-4

The configuration of the Washington Junior High Drum Section consisted of three bass drums, four snare drums and cymbals. The bass drums were the heart and soul of the section. The section leader was usually one of the bass drummers.

The Washington Junior High Band and Drums were so good they were invited to all of the local parades. Such as: Hollywood Christmas Parade, the Junior Rose Bowl Parade, Altadena's Old Fashioned Days Parade, the Monrovia Day Parade and the Temple City Parade. Washington would always take first place in the parades they attended. The Washington's only competition was Eliot and McKinley Junior High Schools.

In 1955, all of the Washington band drummers graduated and went to Muir. With them, they took the cadences and the "Swing Style Drumming" with them. Mr. MacFarland told the Muir drummers that he wanted a different style of drumming other than what was currently at Muir. He liked the style of drumming they brought from Washington Junior High. Each drummer contributed their own cadences to the Muir Drum Section.

Music always had an influence on our society. For some of you this might be difficult, but try anyway to imagine the sounds and music of Fats Domino, Elvis, Little Richard, Ronnie and the Ronnettes, The Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, The Temptations, Ike and Tina Turner and the Wall of Sound Phil Spector. The music and style of all these performers had an influence on how the Muir Band marched and the type of cadences the Muir Drummers played.

In 1956 Dean Brown became the director of the Mighty Mustang Band. Under the direction of Dean Brown, the drum section configuration was seven snare drums, five tenor drums, two bass drums and five seventeen inch tenor drums and two cymbal players.

The drum section flourished especially around 1964 thru 1967 when John Beal wrote many of the cadences that are still played today. The main cadences that were played were: JB, Swing-Low, L.A., Samba, the New One, Cheri, Tahiti, Number 4 (the longest cadence which had four parts), Lancer (another long one), Slauson, Viskie, Go-Go (which was taken from a song Goin to a Go-Go), Tequila(which was taken from a Tequila commercial) and Redman. Later cadences were Dillinger by Mark Dillinger, Deb (by Kim Smock for his then girlfriend Debbie). These are just a few of them most popular cadences that were played by the drum section. Unfortunately none of the Muir cadences were written, attempts were made to write them down, but the task was never completed. All of the cadences were passed on to the drummers by memory. If you listen to the cadences, you can hear the influence the music and musicians mentioned earlier had on the style of each cadence. In the 1976 Rose Parade, the UCLA Marching Band played JB as part of their cadences used on the parade. JB was written into the UCLA drum cadence.

In 1956, the Muir Band was invited to the Junior Rose Bowl Game Sacramento State versus Grambling. Muir was then given the honor of being the official Junior Rose Bowl Marching Band.

The Washington junior high marching band participated in the last junior rose bowl game. It was an exciting day. All the local school bands participated in this event. The drummers couldn’t wait for the Muir band to march into the rose bowl. “We could hear the drums at a distance, as they entered the Rose Bowl Mr. Hoolihan’s mouth opened and his jaw dropped when he saw the Muir mighty mustang band and heard the drums. He was impressed,” said Samuel Estrada.

What were most striking and memorable about the band back then was their uniforms. At a distance you could see the gold plumes on the band hats, the navy blue uniforms trimmed in gold with JM embroidered on the front of the uniform jacket with tails that would sway as the band members marched. All band members wore white gloves (even the drummers) and white bucks. When the drummers played, you could see the white gloves move in unison. Bringing up the rear of the band were eight Sousaphones that had covers on the bell that spelled out John Muir. The sousaphone players had a routine they danced as they marched to the cadences of the drum section.

Mark Dillinger, a graduate from Muir, explained what it was like playing the drums. Mark explained the role of the drums to the school and band. First he said without the band there were no drums. The drums were not the band, the drums were part of the band, it just so happened that the Muir drums had a style of playing like no other drum section around. He added that the drums although they were part of the band not the band being part of the drums, the band represented the school. The drums were an attention getter.

After Mark graduated, the Head Drummer was Harry Hardy, a very talented musician. Not only did Harry play in the drum section, he was an excellent oboe player.

Harry once said that one of the most important things about the Muir drums was the tuning. He said that the Head Drummer was the only one that should have a key because if each drummer had one, they would be constantly changing the sound of the drum. At that time the Muir drum section used 18’’ tenor drums. You also have to find the tallest guys to play bass, because the bass drummers were on the ends and they made the section look and sound impressive.

Harry Hardy and Samuel Estrada began the Blast from the Past Drum Section. The purpose was for some of the alumni drummers to play at the Muir reunions. Currently JMADA is keeping the Muir Drum Section's tradition alive.

In 1969, Kim Shock was the Head Drummer of the section. There were a few drummers that were left over from the 68 section but most of them were alternates and were subjected to some of the most brutal and funny hazing that was lead by Kim. Kim was a funny character with a good sense of humor.

1969 was the year that established who the section was, the 70/71 Muir Drum Section. I don’t know the full story but most of the 11th and 12th grade drummers were kicked out of the band, including Kim (Head Drummer). The only drummers left were the 10th graders. They had very little playing experience because the 11th and 12th graders had seniority.

The band was scheduled to participate in the USC Band Day at the Los Angeles Coliseum along with high school bands throughout Los Angeles. The Muir Band’s reputation and Drum Section was well known.

The cheer leaders from USC announced that there was a band from Pasadena that was well known for their drum section. The drummers were asked to play but they had little experience and didn’t know how to be in tune with each other.

They stood up, gave four sticks, and played Swing Low. After that they just fell apart completely. The section was ashamed and embarrassed. The 10th grade drummers vowed and made a pact never to embarrass the band or Muir again.

The following weekend they checked out the drums and went to Eliot Junior High School and practiced the entire day. Word got back to Dean Brown that they were practicing at Eliot. Mr. Brown asked why and they said they never wanted to be embarrassed again like they were at USC.

That event set the tone of the section. Everyone knew how each other played, everyone had the right tempo and there was dynamics used in all of the cadences. Before the practice of dancing and twirling, the cadences had to be perfect. The section always practiced in the band room and rarely outside because they didn’t want the fellow students to get tired of the music.

The Turkey Tussle in 1970 was very interesting. There was a snare drummer, Ray Demarjian, tenth grader. Ray spent the summer at PHS Band camp, he thought he was attending PHS but ended up becoming a Mustang. He taught the PHS drum cadence “The down Fall of Paris.” The PHS band and drummers was surprised when their cadence was played that night.

The Blair Drummers had little bragging rights around the city. Sometimes when the drummers would practice outside, some of the Blair drummers would come and mock them. The section put their “mocking” to the test. The section asked their Band Director Al Lyles and the Blair Band Director Mr. Newman if they could go up against each other before the end of halftime and they agreed.

After the half time show of the next game, the section stayed in the middle of the field and they were suppose to have a challenge. Blair marched to the south end of the Rose Bowl to the Muir side instead. The Referee told the section to get off the field because the game had to begin. They silently marched off the field to the sideline in front of the stands. The students of Muir were yelling, “Why don’t you guys play?!”

By the time the Blair drummers made it to the Muir side, the section let them play their fullest. The Head Drummer of Muir gave his four sticks, the sticks clicked in unison, and the head drummer yelled SWING LOW! Another four sticks was given and they began to play, then the spanking of Blair began. After playing Swing Low, JB was called. The section drowned out Blair; they were so loud Blair had to stop playing. The Muir students were cheering the section on. Thanks to Eddie Williams, Blair wasn’t any competition.

Playing the drums for Muir is one of the best memorable experiences. It’s a true honor to maintain one of the most important traditions at Muir. If there is a bad football season, the drums uplift the student body and made them proud to be a Mustang. The sound of the drums represents the school and band.

To the local community the Muir Band represented their community with pride. Muir is probably one of the only high schools around that had traditions that would rival some colleges. During band practice and at games it wouldn’t be uncommon to see people from the surrounding community cheering on the band.