Meet the infamous and humorous Stanford Band

Meeting (and running with) the Stanford Band

Last week, I met with the writers of the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band. We had a great talk about the band’s use of humor. The meeting happened to be on the first Wednesday of the Spring quarter, which is one of two days a year that the band does its “band run.” The band run is just that –  a hundred plus members of the band (literally) run around campus and performs songs at the residence halls. The writers invited me along, and I agreed. I was handed a recorder, a Hawaiian shirt, and a beat-up cowboy hat — and off we went.

I asked a member of the band (and one of its writers, @WebbKevin) to talk about the band’s history and the run. Next week, I will post (and respond) to his perceptions of our humor meeting.

Ladies and Gentlemen…Kevin Webb…

Thanks for that introduction, Pete. I’d like to begin by commenting on your rally for the Band Run. Pete went with what most rookies wear—namely, “rally.”


His clothes were a little odd for temperate California, but it’s conceivable that, somewhere, he could blend in. Not so with normal rally, which runs from full samurai attire to body paint to wearing some thrown-together assembly of every piece of clothing someone was only too happy to give to Goodwill.

Some people have signature pieces—backpacks, sequined, monogrammed jackets, or just never wearing a shirt. Rally is a chance to express yourself creatively but without any of the artistic merit.

………………………..A typical rally

Stanford Band History

The Stanford Band has been around since 1893, which is almost as old as the University itself, but back then it was much more traditional—that is, it was like almost every marching band and/or military unit on the planet. In 1963, the music department reorganized, fired Band’s beloved conductor, and the Band went on strike. To get them to play again, Arthur P. Barnes, the new director, struck a deal—if they played again for football games, he’d let them be student-run.

And it was all downhill from there. Band quickly replaced uniforms with button-adorned fishing hats and tacky red jackets, tightly choreographed marching routines with scattering, and a respect for authority with the opposite of that. I like to think of Band as what would happen if five year olds were into swearing and drinking (not that we are): kind of a joyous celebration of whatever needs to be celebrated, taking pleasure from everything and anything we come across.

That applies to writing. The formations our band scatters to form are linked by words, which hopefully we writers have formed into jokes. We’ve gotten some undeserved flack for shows before. In the midst of a major logging controversy in Oregon, we put on the “Spotted Owl Show” which the governor of Oregon disliked so much he tried (and failed) to ban us from the state. We generally reserve critical shows for people who probably should take themselves a little less seriously—the problem is that those are exactly the kinds of people who take themselves too seriously. It’s why we can’t go back to BYU anytime soon (we married our AssMan [Assistant Manager] to a woman. And a woman. And a woman…), and it’s why after two shows filled with sacrilege, Notre Dame is not our hugest fan (but seriously, how could they not love a show titled “These Irish, Why Must They Fight?”) For a more thorough look at our alleged infamy, check out wikipedia, though as with all Wikipedia articles, there are lies, half-truths, and damned lies. Another article is this front page story from the Miami Herald, which helped start a false (but hilarious) rumor that because we were doing a show about Lebron James, the Orange Bowl had banned us from halftime.

……………………………………….The Band in action…

As seen on The Today Show

Learn more about the Solo Movement