Purdue AAMB Celebrates 100 Years At Indy 500

May 24, 2019

The Purdue All American Marching Band at the Indy 500
Credit Samantha Horton/IPB News

While Purdue University celebrates 150 years of Giant Leaps, this year the Purdue All American Marching Band is celebrating 100 years at the Indy 500. WBAA’s John Clare spoke with Dr. Jay Gephart, director of bands at Purdue about the performance.

Purdue All American Marching Band at the Indianapolis 500
Credit Samantha Horton/IPB News

There's more about the race here. We asked for some stories over the last 100 years about marching at the brickyard, and received the following via emails:

Ken Harmon played in the AAMB in the 1970s and sent in this memory:

Well, I was on the Big Bass Drum crew at the Indy 500 in 1974. While the rest of the crew was in the pick-up truck with the drum, I was in the pits with the band to hold the ladder for Jim Nabors.  He got there a few minutes early and started visiting with me. He asked me what key we would be playing “Back Home in Indiana” and “The Star Spangled Banner”. I replied that the arrangements were in the key of C. He replied that he sang them in A. I replied, “Sorry, MR. manors, but there’s 300 of us, and we’re all playing in C”. He replied, in his best Gomer Pyle voice, “But if y’all are playing in C and I’m singing in A it’s gonna sound like someone’s twisting me”. To hear Gomer Pyle say that almost knocked me over. Of course, he sang wonderfully.

AAMB alum Brad Bisland shared:

I marched 500's from 89-92. I saw Arie Lyendyk break the track speed record during the race. 

I was lucky enough to get my picture taken (in uniform) with David Letterman and Josele Garza (race driver).

One great story: General Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf was back from Desert Storm, he made a pace lap and the entire track gave a standing ovation then VP Dan Quayle rode around and everyone began to sit down.

I was in the pits before performing and called Gordon Johncock another drivers name (and was reminded by a fellow band member just after).

Finally, Judith Punds Sindlinger, Purdue '66 sent in this memory:

I am writing to share my experience as a Purdue majorette at the Indianapolis 500 Race.  I am not sure but I think it was 1965.  I am afraid my memory of marching in the 500 race is not all pleasant.

I remember marching in the 500 Parade and all the big crowds and having a great time.  We arrived early at the race and the whole band marched around the entire track.  The entire band with majorettes then played the National anthem on the track.  We were then dismissed and the race started and we all stood in the aisles to watch the flag go green.  

I was with my sorority sister and fellow majorette, Judy Hunt Cobb, and we started to walk outside of the track.  As we entered a tunnel under the track to leave, we all of a sudden were surrounded by black smoke and we could not see where we were but we ran forward and got out of the tunnel.

Once outside of the tunnel, we realized there had been a horrible wreck above our tunnel.  I remember drivers were injured and I believe Eddie Sachs was killed.  The race was stopped.  We were so shaken returning to the Band busses and solemnly headed home.

My memories of being in the band and marching in the Indianapolis 500 are happy memories except for this one sad event.