Jackson State Dog Days (2005)
The Jackson State University Marching Band, “The Sonic Boom the South”
A Profile of Excellence
The Jackson State University Marching Band is a direct outgrowth of the symphonic wind ensemble and concert band. The marching band provides music for athletic events, selected parades, and ceremonial occasions primarily during the Fall Semester. Also, as an academic class, the marching band provides a laboratory experience for music education majors.
For more than 68 years, the Jackson State University Marching Band, “The Sonic Boom of the South” has mystified and thrilled audiences throughout the nation. The band was first organized in the early 1940s under the direction of part-time band director Kermit Holly, Sr. (As early as the mid-1920s, the University had an organized orchestra.) In its infancy, the band consisted of college students and students from Lanier High School where Holly was employed as full-time band director. In 1948, William W. Davis of Ironton, Ohio, former arranger for Cab Calloway’s legendary big band became the first full-time band director. Davis’s concept of the marching band was greatly influenced by Cab Calloway’s big band sound and showmanship. Cab Calloway’s influence is still present today in the sound and show design of the Jackson State University Marching Band.
Serving as band director for 23 years, Davis developed a comprehensive band program–symphonic band and marching band. In 1965, under the baton of William W. Davis, the Symphonic Band reached its apex with a performance at the New York World’s Fair, becoming the first historically African-American college to perform at a world’s fair. Under his direction, the marching band became a first class musical organization known for its intricate maneuvers, precision marching and the big band sound.
Davis’s musical genius transcends the barriers of time and space. Through his leadership and teaching, Davis influenced several generations of African-American band directors, including the current Director of Bands, Dr. Lewis Liddell, Sr., and former directors, Harold Haughton (Retired Director of Bands at Virginia State University) and Dowell Taylor. Other band directors influenced by Davis, just to name a few, included: Dr. Dolly M. E. Robinson, Dean College of Liberal Arts, Dr. Jimmie James, Chair Department of Music, Dr. Michael Magruder, Director of Bands at Winston-Salem State University, Samuel Griffin, Director of Bands at Alcorn State University, Louis Lee, retired Director of Bands at Utica Junior College, and Dr. Estus Smith, former Vice President of Academic Affairs. In fact, during Davis’s tenure, Jackson State University became known as somewhat of a Mecca for the development of African-American band directors.
Jackson State University Marching Band is an original show band. The group was given the nickname, “The Sonic Boom of the South” by band members in 1971. Also, in 1971 the majorettes abandoned their batons and became a dance team. The dance team became known as the Prancing J-Settes. Baton twirling was relegated to special features by soloists and duet performers. In 1974, “Get Ready,” an old Motown favorite was selected as the band’s theme song. Also, during the mid 1970s, the “Tiger Run-On” was perfected. The “Tiger Run-On” is a fast, eye-catching shuffle step that blends an adagio step with an up tempo shuffle (200 steps per minute), then back to adagio—a “Sonic Boom” trademark that brings fans to their feet during halftime performances.
As a tribute to the legacy and mystique of the Jackson State University Marching Band, “The Sonic Boom of the South” is frequently invited to perform at athletic events and to participate in band extravaganzas nationwide. A few of the most notable performances and honors bestowed on “The Sonic Boom of the South” are listed below:
Professional Sports events (New York Jets, Houston Oilers, Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzles, Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, Cincinnati Bengals, and the NBA All-Star game
The 34th NAACP Image Awards, with a special guest performance by “Cedric the Entertainer.” The program was aired nationwide on FOX Television
Motown’s 30th Anniversary television special
Senior Bowl (1997 and 2004)
Dr. Liddell narrated a video entitled “War & Thunder BEHIND THE DRUMLINE,” produced by Donna Lawrence Productions for the NCAA
The marching band was filmed by Electronic Art Sports (EA Sports) for the2005 vision of the video game "EA Sports NCAA Football 2005
Honda Battle of Bands
2005-2007, The Award Winning dog Days: Jackson State Marching Band, CSTV Networks, Inc., 85 Tenth Ave., 23rd, New York, New York, 10011 (National Televised for more than 50 times on CSTV)
Dr. Liddell was featured on ESPN Classic (National Television) in a Symposium on the origin of Historical Black College and University
Enshrined in the NCAA Hall of Champions
“The Sonic Boom of the South,” will wake you up and make you move, whether you’re watching them steal the half-time show or practicing on the field. The Jackson State University Marching Band, “The Sonic Boom of the South” is a very diverse, competent, and a flexible musical group. The band can perform just about any type of music or show–from classical to jazz. Simply put, the Jackson State University Marching Band is a “Showtime Band,” that will “rock da house” anywhere and every time.
The Force behind the Sonic Boom and the JSU Band Program
Dr. Lewis Liddell, Sr., Director of Bands
BET's | Season of the Tiger
Season of the Tiger is a six-part docudrama that follows members of the Grambling State University (LA) marching band and football team during the 2005-2006 football season.
Produced by Daftfilms and Black Entertainment Television (BET), Season of the Tiger premiered on April 27, 2006 at 9:30 p.m. The subsequent episodes were shown at the same Thursday time slot for the following five weeks.
In documentary style, the show focuses on the lives of three band members and two football players as they try to fulfill their potential, despite the setbacks they encounter along the way. Season of the Tiger is the second BET reality show to focus on life at a historically black institution (HBCU), and the first to highlight the competitive environment of marching bands at some HBCUs.
Grambling State standout starting quarterback and NFL prospect Bruce Eugene is among the many featured in the docudrama.
Ballou: A Documentary Film
Ballou, a documentary film, follows the talented Washington, DC, Ballou Senior High School Marching Band, as they overcome a negative environment filled with guns, drugs and violence to overcome and uplift the community with music, dedication and personal sacrifice. Ballou High School is in Washington DC. They are on the way to a national band competition, but first they have to learn how to play instruments and overcome personal loses due to the United States governmental neglect of an impoverished community just 3 miles away from the US Capitol building. Political leaders and celebrities are featured in the film to show the importance of a small marching band that overcomes the negative environment and neglect to become an award winning band.