SMU Mustang Band: Celebrating 100 Years

The Mustang Band will be celebrating its 100th anniversary during SMU’s Homecoming this month. Known for its school spirit, its use of jazz music, and its uniforms, the band has made an indelible contribution to our campus throughout the past 100 years.

The band’s uniforms have their own history.  On November 3, 1922, the student newspaper reported that Cullum and Borem donated $25 to start the fund to “buy suits for the boys.”  SMU Vice President Horace Whaling said, “The Band can play some mighty pretty music, now what they need is some pretty uniforms to go with it.”

By 1925, the band uniforms were already in disarray.  Student-led director Cy Barcus was not taking care of the uniforms and equipment, so SMU Business Manager Layton Bailey sent this scolding letter.

Letter to Cy Barcus about untidy uniforms
Layton Bailey gets an inventory of the uniforms.

After this youthful indiscretion, Barcus graduated but returned as the first band director. He pioneered a number of new ideas, including introducing “swing” or Jazz music to the band.  He also persuaded Coach Ray Morrison to bring in a small black pony, soon to become known as Peruna I, as a mascot. Cy Barcus also started the flutter-tongue introduction on his cornet to get the band’s attention – still used today! After his service to the Mustang Band, Barcus became a Methodist minister.

In 1956, the Student Activity fee began allocating funds to the Mustang Band for uniforms.  The Daily Campus noted that before uniforms were always funded by donations. From 1956 through 1972, the Student Activity Fee made regular allocations to the uniform fund. Often this was $1,000.

In 1959-1960, Dr. Irving Dreibolt began introducing new uniforms to the Mustang Band.  By 1968-1969, the band had a total of 20 different uniforms in its wardrobe.  Some were exceptionally traditional; others, like the horse uniform, were anything but. With a wardrobe of unique uniforms, the band became known as the “Best Dressed Band in the Land.”

The infamous horse uniform
Traditional uniform, but not a traditional–or sanctioned–location.

No matter which uniform they wore, Mustang Band members have always jazzed up Southern Methodist University.