Found in the University Archives in a collection simply dated “ca. 1935-,” this hat had us scratching our heads. Especially when the only photos we could find of the UB Marching Band wearing horned busbies showed a slightly different “banded” version.
The photos were from 1999 and 2000, so we reached out to Mark Flynn, the band’s director at the time. As Flynn explains, the band had a “very small budget,” having just been reinstated following UB’s return to Division 1-A play after a 29-year hiatus, “so equipment and uniforms were whatever we could borrow.” The busbies in the photos were donated by a local high school; the band added the horns.
The band started using cavalier-style hats at halftime, but the busbies were popular as a pregame hat, so the university ordered a new batch, without the band in the middle. In 2004, under current director James Mauck, the band ordered all-new uniforms, and that was the end of the horned headwear.
Of the several iterations of the UB Marching Band, first formed shortly after World War I, the 1960s version known as the “Pride of the East” generated the most acclaim—and the most controversy. Considered one of the best marching bands on the East Coast, it represented New York State at Richard Nixon’s inaugural parade in 1969. Just one year later, the band returned to the spotlight with a contentious halftime show at Rotary Field using peace-themed music and formations to protest the Vietnam War. ABC, which was televising the game, switched its cameras to views of Bailey Avenue.
UB was without a marching band from the early ’70s through 1999, but in 1981, four years after the Bulls returned to football at Division III, the UB Pep Band formed. In 1989, it staked its own claim to fame when it was approached by NASA to record the UB “Victory March.” The recording was played on the space shuttle Atlantis to awaken crew member and UB alumna Ellen Shulman Baker (BA ’74)—part of a NASA tradition of waking up astronauts with music—and it ended with the band shouting, “Wake up, Ellen!”
Marching bands, and marching band fashions, have their roots in the military. Starting in the 19th century, in part influenced by Napoleon’s army, military uniforms took on more elaborate styles with a single-breasted “coatee,” braided epaulets, ceremonial swords and a bell crown cap with a colored feather or plant on top signifying the soldier’s branch. Due to costs, the lavish uniforms were eventually consigned to regimental bands. When the military had no more use for these bands, they found a new home at universities— and brought their sense of style with them.