Dr. William P Foster once said, “every great band needs a great announcer”. I believe this is still true. Just as in the old days, having a great announcer is still the “glue” to a great show. The great bands have announcers whose voices, sayings, and patterns of delivery elevate the band’s performance. With the correct application of well timed words and phrases, announcers evoke certain emotions and reactions which can exceed the effect of instruments alone. The greatest announcers have created their own styles and approach. Their voices have become as identifiable as the look and sound of the bands whose shows they narrate.
However, too much of a good thing can also be bad… There are numerous examples of announcers destroying shows by either talking too much, displaying horrible timing, or incorrectly stating something like a song title or school name. Of these, the excessive talkers may be the worst. When the band is competing for the audience’s attention with someone screaming in a microphone, nobody wins.
Sometimes what is deemed “acceptable” from announcers can be region specific. For instance, here in the South Western Atlantic Conference it may not be out of the norm to hear an announcer rapping or singing during certain parts of the band’s performance. On the other hand, Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference audiences may not find it unusual that their band announcers never show any type of excitement in their voices what so ever. I’ve come to appreciate aspects of both approaches but I do wonder why they are so different. I guess living in South Carolina and Georgia for most of my life, then being transplanted in Houston these last two years, has really exposed these types of regional differences. They range from music and clothes to marching band styles and smoked sausage (They don’t have Rogerwood Sausage here Y’all!)
However, in the world of college bands, the great announcers have found a way to stay true to their region specific likes and dislikes while still captivating audiences around the world. As I think back to some of the “legendary” marching band performances, a few voices from the past speak out to me and are forever attached to those performances…
“Whenever you hear this voice… and whenever you see this band… remember… We are the undisputed heavyweights of black college marching bands… This is the only band in the world that’s guaranteed to show up and show out on any band… any day… any time… any where… and (Insert other band name) we’re about to show out on YOU. From the world’s most famous beach… allow me to introduce the premiere band of the new millennium… The cadillac of black college marching bands… These are The Marching Wildcats of Bethune Cookman University!” – Mr. Glenn Walker
“Ladies and gentlemen!… Fine tune your sensory apparatus!… For the upmost and the miraculous! The mirthful, the mind boggling!… The most delightful sights and sounds available to any audience!… any time!… any where!… Why its the apex of excellence!… The epitome of ostentatious variety!… A superb ensemble representing the age of electronic and computerized musical explosions! Observe the fullness, the eccentricity, and aggressive showmanship as Jackson State University proudly presents… The quintessence of contemporary sounds and maneuvers, the summa cum laude of bands!… The Sonic Boom Of The South!” – Dr. Jimmy James
“And now… your wait… is over… From the highest of 7 hills in Tallahassee, the capital of Florida… What has become known as “America’s Band”… The most imitated band… in the world… Please welcome the incomparable… the magnificent… The Florida A&M University Marching Band!… But first… The sound.” – Mr. Joe Bullard
For so many years these men have shaped and personified the sound of college marching bands. It’s amazing when I think about the fact that they have announced for bands much longer than many programs have held directors. Their voices have become synonymous with the culture surrounding the bands whose shows they’ve narrated. These men, and a few others, defined the role of the band announcer and molded the cast for generations to follow. For that and all they’ve done for their perspective programs, we owe them a toast of gratitude.
In 2001 Dr. William P. Foster was quoted in his book, The Man Behind The Baton, saying… “Mr (Joe) Bullard began serving as an announcer during his junior year (1974) at Florida A&M University. He has continued to furnish color to the script of the pregame and halftime shows on and off campus for more than three decades. During this time, Mr. Bullard has only missed a few performances. I am thankful to him for his excellence as the announcer for the world famous FAMU Marching “100” Band. One very important thing he has taught us is that a world-famous band also needs a world-famous announcer.”