BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA-- At the center of every NFL production, awaits halftime.
Growing up in Southern California, I played the alto saxophone in the Chino High Marching Band and every other music ensemble in the high school, including the jazz combo. I thought I knew what soul was. After four years, I graduated in the Spring of 2005 and as on my way to Louisiana to meet some cousins of mine and to audition for Southern University's Human Jukebox.
I thought I was ready. I could read music proficiently, I could improv over jazz chords and in fourth grade, my project selection for our fair about the United States was about the state of Louisiana (my booth was a hit because my mother, who was a flight attendant had gotten beignets flown down from New Orleans).
Prior to the big audition day, I stayed at my cousin Mark's house and he said he would take me up to audition for the band. It was then that I realized my deficiency of knowledge with marching "show-style." I had plenty of experience with the Corps-style bands in California but I was a fish out of water... probably some kind of California trout in a sea of redfish. Mark's dad was Dr. Isaac Greggs and after a brief sight-reading test to Earth Wind and Fire's "Getaway" and a few scales, I was allowed the dignity of "crab-status," from Dr. Greggs and future director Lawrence Jackson. I had finally made the band. Little did I know these next four years become the best years of my life. Some of the most memorable were playing the Saints Games during my time in Southern's Human Jukebox.
"Southern University's Human Jukebox is often imitated, never duplicated. Not even a copy machine could recreate it., says Kedric Taylor, Southern University's newest Director of Bands.
The brief history of the band is as follows: In 1947 is T. Leroy Davis was the director that began the tradition. In 1969 Dr. Isaac Greggs became the new band director, constructing a band built on the power of brass. He used his prowess as a showman to bring Southern into the line of vision for many a politician, president, and organization.
Kedric marched in the band along with other accomplished musicians. In describing Greggs, he says, "this man knows what he is talking about because everywhere we went, the people just screamed."
Under Greggs' direction the band became a sonic ambassador of historically black colleges and universities, performing for presidential inaugurations, to audiences over seas, rose parades, the Newport Jazz Festival and every unforgettable moment. But there's no place like the dome! The Superdome at least.
For the Saints vs. Falcons game, Southern had a lot of showmanship up their sleeve to dazzle the audiences.
"Drew Brees broke the record. We put Brees on the field and we played stand up and get crunk," says Kedric.
Southern has performed at eight Super Bowls and numerous Saints games for over 50 years. 1970 was the first time Southern had played at the Super Bowl. Tulane Stadium was the stadium to be at for the NFL games in New Orleans. In 1967 the Saints opened their regular season on September 17th, against the Los Angeles Rams as a budding new talent of "Who Dat." One year later, Tulane Stadium housed a match on January 11th, between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Minnesota Vikings for the Super Bowl; during that 1968 Super Bowl matchup, Southern played "South Rampart Street Parade," for the halftime performance.
My cousin, Mark Greggs, remembers sitting in the stands in 1968, watching Pete Fountain and the Platters in Tulane Stadium along with seeing his dad direct the Human Jukebox.
The most asked question Kedric says is how Southern is able to mystically know the half-time score and put it on the field, (it's a secret he won't explain and neither will any Juke band member, including me.)
The high ceiling and acoustics, make the Superdome the perfect stage.
"It's like our home turf. Anytime we go in there and play, we are like the Southern University Saints Band."
The Super Bowl returns to our city in two thousand 23. Hopefully the Human Jukebox will be along for the ride.