One of the great things about this campus is it’s close ties to the Arkansas community. There are great traditions and long-standing rivalries that exist at the University of Arkansas that leak over and become newsworthy to those off campus.
Case in point: This article and picture in the Arkansas Gazette from the 1967:
I imagine you’re thinking a few thing just now. To wit:
1. Wow! That’s a big bass drum.
2. Heck yeah it’s bigger that the Texas drum!
3. Why does the Yankee have this great archival newspaper clipping proving just how great the University of Arkansas Marching Razorback Band is in the first place?
Well, if you want the answer the question in #3, get comfy.
First, the clipping was found by my husband and his father while they were working on cleaning out some Grandma Doris Bailey’s house. She recently passed away. Grandma Doris was an avid genealogist- the kind of genealogist that not only looked for how deep she could get her family’s roots to go back, but how far and wide she could extend out the branches that grew from them.
So neither my husband nor his father were particularly surprised to come across this while they were cleaning, since Rick (my father-in-law) is the skinny guy 2nd from the right in the photo. Of course, I had a ton of questions when my husband showed it to me… and I started digging.
While talking to Rick Bailey, I asked him if he knew whose idea it was in the first place. He said “I know that a couple of the folks from Little Rock probably were involved in getting the music company down there to build it.”
The Rosen Music Company in Little Rock, AR is still in existence. It is owned by the same family (not just operating under the same name) and they are still big on percussion instruments. Marty Rosen, the man who built the beast, passed away in 1984, but his son David still has the company and an orchestra! Check out the Romco website:
When I emailed David Rosen about the drum, he had this to tell me: “The shell itself was 10′ in diameter and with the addition of the tension lug casings, which were 2 1/2 to 3 inches high each, the drum measured 10’6″. It was quite an item.”
So the University of Arkansas had a double-sided bass drum 10’6″ in diameter- free standing, before it was put on the cart to transport it.
They never found a U-Haul big enough to get it up to Fayetteville from Little Rock, so it was only used in War Memorial Stadium.
Since there was no way to order a drumhead that big, the students made a drumhead out of Visqueen plastic. “I know we had to paint the Arkansas ‘A’ on the drumhead.”
They didn’t want to crank up the tension on those drum heads for fear of breaking them. “It was difficult finding a way to get the rim around the plastic and tighten it down to make it somewhat tight like a drumhead… to make sure it what a functional drum. It was a very flat sounding big drum, but it was a functional drum.”
Understandably, when they played it, they played it carefully. Instead of normal bass drum mallets, the Marching Razorbacks opted for timpani mallets, since their heads are normally a little softer, but still maintain the size needed to get the drumheads to vibrate.
Rick said this when describing the sound of the drum: “Whup.”
“It wasn’t intended to be used during a halftime performance, per se, it was more a show piece, a rally piece at the start of a game and then on the sidelines, in the stands, during the game…It was because Texas had an eight-and-a-half foot drum, we had a ten foot drum.”
This is when our conversation rolled around to talking about the rivalry that existed between the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Texas Longhorns.
Rick put it very succinctly: “Anybody in Arkansas (thought) we needed something bigger than Texas.” As someone from out-of-state, this this whole idea was a little foreign to me; the idea that not just the students at a university, not just the town that the university is in, but the entire state of Arkansas would be enthusiastic and eager to see something with the University of Arkansas “A” on it outdo something with the University of Texas “T” on it.
Even though the University of Arkansas and Texas haven’t been in the Southwestern conference together since 1991, it seems that this rivalry still exists. And, of course, it was… shall we say… fantastically, fanatically active in 1967.
We’ve got news coverage of the bass drum to prove it.