Well it’s certainly more than just the same uniform colors! It all began with one man… Dr. Clifford Edward Watkins. Dr. Watkins, Cliff as he was known, was the band director of both The South Carolina State College Garnet and Blue Marching 101 Band and The Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands (AOB). Dr. Watkins, with the help of Reginald R. Thomasson, directed The Marching 101 from 1967-1972. He left SC State College and accepted the Director of Bands position at Tennessee State University in 1972 and held that position until 1979. Upon leaving Tenn. State He was followed by a former Tenn. State student, Prof. Edward L. Graves, who directed the AOB from 1979–2014. Dr. Watkins was known for being a musical genius who consistently pushed for excellence. He was an innovator that pushed his students to achieve success at heights they had never dreamed of. Under his leadership The Marching 101 accepted the performance opportunity of a lifetime. The band traveled to Pasadena, California to participate in the 1970 Rose Bowl Parade. Also performing at that parade was the University of Michigan band under the direction of world-renown director, Dr. William D. Revelli. After the band had warmed up Dr. Watkins instructed the drum majors to blow off the “up-two-kick-step” maneuver. At that point the band played “Old Happy Day” and the musicianship was so impressive that the Michigan band and staff, including Dr. Revelli, gathered around in amazement. Dr. Watkins took great pride in the comments The 101 received from Revelli and the other directors. The Ohio State Band was also in attendance… Wow, what a gathering of musical heavyweights!

SC State band of ’70 reunites to remember Rose Bowl Parade – Oct.27 2007

While at Tennessee State University Dr. Watkins directed the Aristocrat Of Bands in what was hailed as a “fabulous half-time performance”  at the 1973 Atlanta Falcons vs. St. Louis Cardinals game. This game was held in Atlanta at the old Fulton County Stadium. The Aristocrats, under the leadership of Dr. Watkins, put on quite a show in front of what was a sellout crowd! The game, and the halftime performance, was televised nationally. In 1978 Dr. Watkins lead the Aristocrats in another nationally televised NFL Game ( Cincinnati Bengals vs. New England Patriots in Cincinnati). The Aristocrats performed at many NFL games throughout the 60’s and 70’s. Reportedly, it was during one of those half-time performances that a sportscaster called the marching band from Tennessee State “The Aristocrat of Bands” and as they say… The rest is history.

Tennessee State Univ. Aristocrat of Bands

Under the Direction of Dr. Clifford Watkins

(Marching 101 Members: check up on our “kick-down-out-in”maneuver throughout.)


  1. He was something else. I lived across the street from him in Nashville and I was his babysitter. He always expected excellence, even from a 12 year old babysitter. LOL!! I was lucky to have a front row seat to many of the performances of the Aristocrat of Bands, TSU!!!! Eternal peace Dr. Watkins.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ive heard so much about his legacy at TSU. I’ve also spoken with a few SC directors who had nothing but admoration for him. Truly a legend. Thanks for sharing your story!


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