Univ. of Alabama
Million Dollar Band, Tuscaloosa, AL - United States
History and Facts
The Million Dollar Band began life in 1913 as a 14-member unit under Dr. Gustav Wittig, who led the group for three years. It became a military band in 1917 and was led by students until 1927, when Captain H. H. Turner assumed command. Captain Turner was succeeded in 1935 by Colonel Carleton K. Butler, who carried the band to national prominence.
The name "Million Dollar Band" was bestowed in 1922 by W. C. "Champ" Pickens, an Alabama alumnus. Accounts of how the name evolved vary. In the 1948 Alabama football media guide, it was described this way:
"At the time the band was named (1922), it was having a hard struggle. The only way they could get to Georgia Tech for a game was by soliciting funds from the merchants. They usually had to ride all night in a day coach, and we thought it was swell when we finally got a tourist sleeper and put two to a lower and two to an upper berth."
Thus, because of the band's fund raising prowess, Pickens called it the "Million Dollar Band." During that same Georgia Tech game in 1922 (won 33-7 by the Tech Yellow Jackets), an Atlanta sportswriter commented to Pickens, "You don't have much of a team; what do you have at Alabama?" Pickens replied, "A Million Dollar Band."
- 1913 - 1917: Dr. Gustav Wittig
- 1917 - 1927: The marching band was led by students
- 1927 - 1934: Captain H. H. Turner
- 1935 - 1968: Colonel Carleton K. Butler
- 1969 - 1970: Mr. Earl Dunn
- 1971 - 1983: Dr. James Ferguson
- 1984 - 2002: Ms. Kathryn B. Scott
- 2003 - Present Dr. Kenneth Ozzello
Also of historical interest . . .
The Elephant Story
The story of how Alabama became associated with the "elephant" goes back to the 1930 season when Coach Wallace Wade had assembled a great football team.
On October 8, 1930, sports writer Everett Strupper of the Atlanta Journal wrote a story of the Alabama-Mississippi game he had witnessed in Tuscaloosa four days earlier. Strupper wrote, "That Alabama team of 1930 is a typical Wade machine, powerful, big, tough, fast, aggressive, well-schooled in fundamentals, and the best blocking team for this early in the season that I have ever seen. When those big brutes hit you I mean you go down and stay down, often for an additional two minutes.
"Coach Wade started his second team that was plenty big and they went right to their knitting scoring a touchdown in the first quarter against one of the best fighting small lines that I have seen. For Ole Miss was truly battling the big boys for every inch of ground.
"At the end of the quarter, the earth started to tremble, there was a distant rumble that continued to grow. Some excited fan in the stands bellowed, 'Hold your horses, the elephants are coming,' and out stamped this Alabama varsity.
"It was the first time that I had seen it and the size of the entire eleven nearly knocked me cold, men that I had seen play last year looking like they had nearly doubled in size."
Strupper and other writers continued to refer to the Alabama linemen as "Red Elephants," the color referring to the crimson jerseys.
The 1930 team posted an overall 10-0 record. It shut out eight opponents and allowed only 13 points all season while scoring 217. The "Red Elephants" rolled over Washington State 24-0 in the Rose Bowl and were declared National Champions.
How the Crimson Tide Got its Name
In early newspaper accounts of Alabama football, the team was simply listed as the "varsity" or the "Crimson White" after the school colors.
The first nickname to become popular and used by headline writers was the "Thin Red Line." The nickname was used until 1906.
The name "Crimson Tide" is supposed to have first been used by Hugh Roberts, former sports editor of the Birmingham Age-Herald. He used "Crimson Tide" in describing an Alabama-Auburn game played in Birmingham in 1907, the last football contest between the two schools until 1948 when the series was resumed. The game was played in a sea of mud and Auburn was a heavy favorite to win.
But, evidently, the "Thin Red Line" played a great game in the red mud and held Auburn to a 6-6 tie, thus gaining the name "Crimson Tide." Zipp Newman, former sports editor of the Birmingham News, probably popularized the name more than any other writer.